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Review: Wan Pipe (1976)

Director: Pim de la Parra | 111 minutes | drama | Actors: Willeke van Ammelrooy, , Borger Breeveld, , Paragh Chotkan, , Genti, Steven Gill, Emanuel van Gonter, Henk Gopali, Ro Jackson-Breeveld, Irène Jitan-Harpal, Ruben Jitan, , , , José Mungroo, Juan Mungroo, Joyce Mungroo-OOft, , , Diana Gangaron Panday, , Etwarie Ramdin-Jhawnie, , , Sieuwpal Soekhlall, Otto Sterman, ,

“Wan Pipel” is a special, somewhat underrated, film by director Pim de la Parra. The director, who had many successes with his partner in , deviates with this film from the crazy, sexually charged films of previous years. Interesting Dutch film with a lot of depth and symbolism and good leading roles by both Borger Breeveld and Willeke Van Ammelrooy. The beginning of “Pipel” looks rather careless and rushed: we learn that Roy’s mother, an Amsterdam native of Surinamese descent, is dying in Paramaribo. In between we meet his girlfriend, Karina, and before you know it Roy is already on the plane to his native country. Once in Suriname, the whole thing takes a nice turn. That’s where an interesting story emerges in which close ties, budding love, conflicting feelings and a realistic view of Surinamese society fight for priority.

None of the storylines loses its power, leaving “Wan Pipel” strangely attractive. The inner struggle Roy endures when he sets foot in his native country is one of the most compelling aspects of the film. Roy, who has lived in Amsterdam for years and apparently adapted to the Netherlands, is introduced to the history of him and his parents and ancestors in Suriname. Gradually he feels more and more connected with the country that has such a “special” relationship with the Netherlands. But anyone who believes that Suriname is an ideal country, with bounty beaches and a carefree existence, is very wrong. Director De la Parra shows us a country with an enormous diversity of population groups; “Wan pipel” stands for “one people”, which should be Suriname, but the mutual differences are nevertheless great. It is striking that Roy’s father, a man who adheres to traditions, likes Roy’s white girlfriend from Amsterdam and does not like Rubia, the Hindu girl Roy also likes. Roy’s father may see Karina (Van Ammelrooy) as the “highest attainable” factor for his son and the family; in “Pipel” many Surinamese see the Netherlands as the promised land to which you should go, if you get the chance.

At the same time, De la Parra takes us into the world of the Hindu community, which is steeped in ancient customs and rituals and focused on itself. The fact that Rubia associates with a Negro, a Creole, is a shame in their circles, proving that discrimination is common among all nations. Borger Breeveld impresses as Roy. His acting is sometimes a bit wooden, but the doubt he radiates about his origins and about love is convincing. Van Ammelrooy is good as always, both sensual and spirited and for once she doesn’t take her clothes off, as in many of her earlier films, including ‘Frank & Eva’ from 1973. Also Emanuel van Gonter’s role, as Roy’s traditional, overprotective father, is worth mentioning. He wants the best for his son, but cannot stand his capriciousness and unfamiliarity with the old Surinamese customs. The rest of the cast is largely of Surinamese descent, which is refreshing for the credibility of the story. A beautiful and fascinating Dutch film that deserves more attention.

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