Director: Jeroen Leinders | 102 minutes | drama, history, war | Obi Abili, Danny Glover, Natalie Simpson, Derek de Lint, Jeroen Krabbé, Jeroen Willems, Henriëtte Tol, Paul Bazely, Aden Gillett, Curtis Holt Hawkins, Doña Croll, DeObia Oparei, Christaan van de Wal, Martijn Hartemink, Hazel Sparen, Giovanni Abath, Germain Pardo, Albert Schoobaar, Stephany Francisca
When you think of slavery, you don’t often think of the Netherlands. Yet the Netherlands was also guilty of this for years. With ‘Tula: The Revolt’ it becomes painfully clear for a moment that there are enough black pages in our national history books. The name Tula will not ring many bells in the Netherlands, but in Curaçao, his native country, he is revered every year. In 1795, the slave Tula revolted against his oppressors. In a peaceful way and together with many other slaves he went into battle. The historian will now realize that slavery was only abolished many years ago, but that doesn’t make the Tula rebellion any less important. Debuting director Jeroen Leinders (who spent his childhood on the island) has turned ‘Tula: The Revolt’ into a large-scale and international production. The cast consists of Dutch, American (Danny Glover!) British and Curaçao actors. English is spoken in the film.
Tula (Obi Abili) is a slave in Curaçao who increasingly realizes that there is great inequality among the slaves and the whites on the island. When he learns through his wife Speranza (Natalie Simpson) that the French have power in the Netherlands and have abolished slavery, he also demands abolition in Curaçao. His plantation master Van Uytrecht (Jeroen Willems) laughs him straight in the face and says that he should try to get it right from the governor (Jeroen Krabbé). A long journey follows in which more and more slaves leave their plantations and join Tula. In the meantime they are opposed by the troops of the governor and it appears that there is also division among the slaves.
‘Tula: The Revolt’ follows both Tula and the Dutch oppressors and tries to make it clear that not everyone on both sides is good or bad. Yet the characters are very standard. Even the slave who betrays friends and the few white people who (secretly) help the slaves in their struggle. The characters around Tula are also by the book. Speranza is the beautiful ‘stand by your man’ woman and Louis the combative right-hand man of Tula. Tula herself also comes off poorly. Obi Abili has a powerful appearance but is not given enough to make something of his character. Tula always stays at a distance and it never becomes clear what really drives him. Everything also largely remains on the surface in the roles of the Dutch actors. Derek de Lint and Jeroen Krabbé play on automatic pilot, but Jeroen Willems, who passed away much too early, does add something to his role. Willems Van Uytrecht is initially a huge jerk who exploits his slaves. However, when he finds out in a painful way that the slaves are not to be trifled with, he makes clear, purely by his facial expressions, that a very small insecure man is hiding behind his fascist facade. The film is dedicated to Willems.
Dat er in een internationale productie met acteurs uit veel landen Engels wordt gesproken is niet heel gek. Toch is het te vaak een stoorzender dat je verschillende accenten in het gesproken Engels hoort. Leinders heeft in een interview aangegeven dat hij zijn film voor een zo breed mogelijk publiek wilde maken en dat het gebrek aan Nederlands en Papiamento in de film tot gevolg had dat de film geen steun kreeg van Nederlandse fondsen. De film is opgenomen in Curaçao maar is vaak zelden herkenbaar door beelden van dorre vlaktes. Een pluspunt, want het benadrukt dat het eiland niet alleen maar tropisch en mooi is.
‘Tula: The Revolt’ vertelt over een nooit eerder op film vertoonde periode uit de Nederlandse geschiedenis. Een belangrijk verhaal dat jammer genoeg ondanks de grootse opzet te vaak in clichés vervalt.