English Reviews

Review: Shooom’s Adventure – L’odyssée de choum (2019)

Shooom’s adventure – L’odyssée de choum (2019)

Directed by: Julien Bisaro | 26 minutes | animation, adventure, short film | Dutch voice cast: Meghna Kumar, Murth Mossel, Daysha Ligeon, Peggy Sandaal, Daphne Flint, Davian Mardjoeki, Juneoer Mers

‘Shooom’s Adventure’ is a 26-minute gem of an animated film. The film is made for children between the ages of 4 and 7, but it is guaranteed that many adults will count this beautiful work as one of their favorites after seeing it.

The video is set in Louisiana. An ideal setting because the variety in the landscape provides a lot of variation in colour, shape and sound. The adventure begins in a small coastal town, where the harbor master sounds the alarm for the approaching hurricane. People, but also animals, quickly seek the safety of their homes. We follow a small squirrel who suddenly spots a nest in a hollow tree from a high tree. He takes a look worried. It turns out that there are two eggs – the parents are nowhere to be seen. The squirrel takes them out of the danger zone. Not long after, one of the eggs hatches: it turns out to be a baby snowy owl. This little one sees the squirrel as his mother of course, but the squirrel doesn’t want to know about that and runs away. The little snowy owl stands alone, but hey, there is sound coming from the other egg!

What follows is a nail-biting, but above all oh so moving adventure in which ‘Shooom’ (the eldest owl) does everything to save his brother or sister. Danger lurks everywhere and such an egg easily rolls away. Shooom is then also opposed by Walter and Rosie, two children, who of course don’t mean so bad, but in their innocence they separate the family owl, because they want to keep ‘Piep’, the unhatched egg, for themselves. .

The 2D animation is phenomenal, the use of color and the application of light and shadow is perfect and the attention to even the smallest details makes ‘Shooom’s adventure’ a feast for the eyes. The animation is not realistic, but still quite natural. The expressive faces of the animals, especially the owls, are very endearing. But also the ‘body language’, the funny movements and the different sounds they make to communicate, provide a unique viewing experience. So clever how the makers seem to have created their own owl language. Whether Shooom “says” ‘beep’, ‘beep’ or ‘beep’, you understand exactly what she means.

Besides the fact that these animals will irrevocably conquer your heart, ‘Shooom’s adventure’ also has an ecological message, but it is very subtle. This impressive film has already won several awards (including best animated short at the Césars, the French Oscars) and puts all the checks in the right places. This is perfection.

English Reviews

Review: Ainbo: Heroine of the Amazon – AINBO: Spirit of the Amazon (2021)

Ainbo: Heroine of the Amazon – AINBO: Spirit of the Amazon (2021)

Review Ainbo: Heroine of the Amazon CinemagazineDirected by: Richard Claus, Jose Zelada | 84 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Tara Hetharia, Leo Richardson, Nordin de Moor, Tess van de Hoef, Paula Majoor

The Amazon region in South America is not only a wonderful paradise full of hidden treasures in terms of flora and fauna; the (natural) peoples who live there also carry hundreds of special habits, customs and stories with them. Unfortunately, the Amazon and everything and everyone that lives in it is under serious threat from deforestation, degradation of its fragile ecosystems and human rights violations. All eyes are on the current Brazilian president Bolsonaro, but he seems to want to earn a lot of money from the nature in his country than to protect the Amazon. The inexperienced Peruvian filmmaker Jose Zelada thought it was high time to show the youth the threat deforestation poses to the Amazon region – and with it the world – and dived in with the Dutch-based German film-maker Richard Claus, an old hand in the field who has already earned his spurs, especially as a producer – entered the studio for an animation film on this theme.

The result is ‘Ainbo: Heroine of the Amazon’ (2021), marketed by the filmmakers themselves with the slogan ‘Vaiana meets Brave’, which immediately and unmistakably shows that Zelada and Claus were inspired by the Disney catalog. The heroine of the story is Ainbo from the village of Candamo in the depths of the Amazon, an orphaned girl who dreams of becoming the best archer of her tribe. Her best friend Zumi has a different fate. With a mysterious, malevolent force gripping the village, her chieftain father has fallen ill and is forced to hand over his duties to her. When Ainbo discovers that it is the ancient evil spirit Yacuruna who keeps Candamo in his mind, she decides to search for Motelo Mama, the mighty giant tortoise who is the patroness of the area. Like a true warrior, she defies all dangers to save her village, aided by two self-proclaimed ‘nature guides’, the chatty and smart armadillo Dillo and the slightly less savvy tapir Vaca who have to provide the comic relief.

Richard Claus previously made the animation film ‘De kleine vampire’ (2017) and, like that film, ‘Ainbo: Heroine of the Amazon’ also excels in mediocrity. The film scores a satisfactory score in all respects (although it is sometimes a tight six), but ‘Ainbo’ never rises above the ground level. The story has a beautiful, important message, but is presented in a rather messy way. Because is the evil force behind the events in Candamo well the evil nature spirit Yacuruna or the (white) humanity, personified by the Dutch (!) gold prospector Cornell DeWitt (voiced by none other than Thom in both the Dutch and English versions? Hoffman) who smashes the woods to find a mine where a fortune would be waiting for him? If it is already complicated for adult viewers, how can the young target group (6+) ever understand what the fork is? The fact that no less than five different writers have worked on the story, including Zelada and Claus himself, will not have contributed to the clarity.

In terms of animation, the film deserves more than satisfactory, especially when it comes to the lush nature that is vividly and colorfully designed here. The human and animal figures are sketched in a more variable manner and in some cases look wooden or generic, without a personality of their own. Most out of the ordinary is DeWitt, who looks very unnatural in his appearance and movements. As if the makers believed that the bad guy didn’t deserve careful elaboration. The figures that do meet, are very showy inspired by Disney colleagues. This applies not only to heroine Ainbo herself, who is strongly reminiscent of Moana, but also to her sidekicks Dillo and Vaca who are almost literally copies of the illustrious duo Timon and Pumbaa from ‘The Lion King’ (1994), but less well. success.

So there is quite a bit to criticize about ‘Ainbo: Heroine of the Amazon’. Does that automatically mean that this movie is not good? Not directly. Because despite all the snags, this animated film that lasts less than an hour and a half easily looks away, we empathize with the title heroine and some scenes – especially those in which the dark Yacuruna plays a role – are quite exciting. Moreover, it is clear that the makers made their film with the best intentions. It’s just a pity that after the show very little stays with you, because ‘Ainbo’ will be forgotten in no time after watching it.

English Reviews

Review: Never Gonna Snow Again – Sniegu juz nigdy nie bedzie (2020)

Never Gonna Snow Again – Sniegu juz nigdy nie bedzie (2020)

Directed by: Malgorzata Szumowska, Michal Englert | 113 minutes | drama | Actors: Alec Utgoff, Maja Ostaszewska, Agata Kulesza, Weronika Rosati, Katarzyna Figura, Lukasz Simlat, Andrzej Chyra, Krzysztof Czeczot, Maciej Drosio, Olaf Marchwicki, Astrid Nanowska, Wojciech Starosteckiier, Konzystantins Solowiow

Where the Netherlands sometimes complains about a Polish invasion of labor migrants, Poland in turn complains about its eastern neighbours. Main character Zhenia in ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ belongs to that accused group. He is from Ukraine and sells massages door to door. Lately, Zhenia has mostly been working in a gated community that resembles a decadent performance of a Dutch Vinex neighborhood. He slowly builds up his clientele there until Zhenia serves a small cult of mostly lonely housewives.

‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ starts off a bit messy, but once the film picks up its pace, this mishmash of comedy and drama is captivating and at times quite eerie. The story focuses on the new prosperity in Poland and the uniformity of civilian life in a Vinex-like residential island. The gated community, where Zhenia does his work, consists of countless shielded virgin white houses that are guarded day and night, probably also by migrants. Moreover, in this paradise for the upper middle class, there is no bakery, community center or anything else that facilitates a sense of community.

Zhenia’s perspective makes you understand how ugly life in the gated community can be. There is suffering behind every front door. Adultery, illness, jealousy, greed and trauma seem to be the most normal course of events. Through the Ukrainian masseur, customers gossip about their neighbors around the corner. For example, Zhenia is almost the only connection between the residents of the gated community and society outside it.

Moreover, the residents of the luxurious Vinex neighborhood are more dependent on the poorer outside world than they would like to admit. And not only to support the hectic combination of career and family life in their spacious villas, but also for small happiness. With its massages, Zhenia relieves the residents of daily stress and further pain among the members. In addition, he gives some customers extra attention because of often absent partners.

In addition, ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ attributes mysterious powers to Zhenia. Zhenia himself believes that this is because he grew up near the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl. The film does not consider whether Zhenia actually has supernatural abilities and embraces forms of spirituality that you will not easily find in comparable satires on the Western European middle class. ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ is a kind of ‘Charlatan’ (Agnieszka Holland, 2020), but on a smaller scale.

Actor Alec Utgoff who plays Zhenia comes across as both soothing and unsettling. This is a pretty thin line to walk. However, Utgoff passes with flying colors and this achievement certainly makes him someone to keep an eye on. This also applies to director Malgorzata Szumowksa, because there is not a much more surprising film about today’s Polish middle class than this one. Her film ‘Cialo’ (2015), which won Szumowksa the Silver Bear for best director at the Berlinale, also shares her fascination with the sick body and the supernatural.

All in all, ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ slowly grabs the viewer with its arcane tone and leaves you slyly confused. Nevertheless, some things go a bit flat, for example the dream sequences are cliché and the language jokes between the Ukrainian immigrant and the Poles do not work here. However, this is a minor blemish on the film. ‘Never Gonna Snow Again’ is ultimately a wonderful mishmash of tones and genres. Magic realism and satire don’t usually go hand in hand, but here they do.

English Reviews

Review: Oddbods Candy or Ghosts (2021)

Oddbods Candy or Ghosts (2021)

Directed by: Simon Pike, S’ Cephas | 55 minutes | animation | Dutch voice cast: Gert-Jan van den Ende, Erik van Trommel

The Oddbods are seven furry/plush characters that star in their own series. Bubbles, Slick, Newt, Fuse, Pogo, Jeff and Zee each have their quirks. They have their own recognizable color à la the Teletubbies. One Animation in Singapore released this internationally highly successful series in 2013 and since then the Oddbods have only grown in popularity.

‘Oddbods Candy or Ghosts’ is a compilation of three ‘Oddbods’ specials: ‘Halloween heroes’ (‘Halloween Heroes’) (first released in October 2021); “Party Monsters” (“Party Monsters”, an October 2018 special) and “The Curse of Oddbaard” (“Oddbeard’s Curse”) (an October 2020 special). Ernst and Bobbie (Gert-Jan van den Ende and Erik van Trommel) joined forces especially for the Dutch adaptation; in their familiar way they comment on the otherwise dialogueless films (the Oddbods do make noise, but those are universal slogans, a bit comparable to ‘Shaun the Sheep’).

In ‘Halloween Heroes’, the seven Oddbods visit a museum, where they plan a Halloween party. In a museum you have to behave naturally, look with your eyes, not with your hands, otherwise precious things will break. But something much worse happens to the Oddbods: a ghostly curse is unleashed, bringing all kinds of exhibits to life on his ‘Night at the Museums’. Of course the Oddbods manage to restore this, but kids who don’t like mummies, witches and ghosts will find this quite exciting.

That is perhaps even more true for the second part: ‘Party Monsters’. Jeff throws a costume party, but not everyone turns out to be in costume. Or is it? When a real magician comes to the party, something goes wrong: everyone turns into what they are dressed up as. That means, among other things, a werewolf, a vampire, a mummy and a witch, but luckily there is also someone dressed as Sherlock Holmes. That says enough, but there is enough to be creepy in this episode.

Finally, ‘The Curse of Oddbaard’ is included in this compilation film. Oddbaard is a pirate captain who didn’t have such a happy ending. When a treasure chest is fished out by one of the Oddbods, it unleashes a thrilling adventure, in which the Oddbods are chased by pirate skeletons and end up on Oddbaard’s ship.

‘Oddbods Candy or Ghosts’ is great fun for the little Oddbods fans. Thanks to the overarching Halloween theme, the film is a bit exciting for the very little ones, the viewing pointer of six is ​​certainly appropriate. To get in the Halloween mood, ‘Candy of ghosts’ is in any case extremely suitable.

English Reviews

Review: Cocoon (2021)

Cocoon (2021)

Directed by: Lisette Vlassak | 21 minutes | drama | Actors: Noël van Kruysdijk, Bart Slegers, Kris Hutten, Darryl Amankwah, Reinier Saenen, Pauline Bas, Coen Bril, Henry van Loon, Friedl de Nyn

‘Cocon’ is one of the graduation films from the Lichting 2021 of the Dutch Film Academy, which can be seen during the Keep an Eye Film Academy Festival for a short period in October 2021 in Eye Filmmuseum and online on Picl. Based on an idea by the director Lisette Vlassak, ‘Cocon’ is about the budding sexuality of a fourteen-year-old boy, Sonny. What makes ‘Cocon’ so special are the parallels that the young protagonist himself draws with the fauna – Sonny is extremely interested in nature – and the way in which this is portrayed on the silver screen.

After his first wet dream, Sonny is shocked to death. Just as he realizes what may have happened, his older sister Kim stands in the doorway and inquires if he has “any laundry left.” Sonny just barely has the presence of mind to answer that question in the negative, but does take his stained pajama bottoms to school to show them to his friend Ferdi. He confirms Sonny’s suspicions: he is sexually mature.

Now that Sonny knows this, his brain is working overtime. Although biology is his favorite subject, he has never been so concerned with human nature. He does know everything about the animal kingdom. He now applies that knowledge to his situation. Classmate Coco is suddenly very interesting, but how does he get her to see him?

The events in ‘Cocon’ seem to be slightly out of touch with reality. The overly tough, incomprehensible father; the attractive, yet caring sister and the bully Nigel, are magnified characters in a somewhat surreal world. ‘Cocoon’ is set in a bygone era; the cars in Sonny’s father’s garage certainly don’t have a catalytic converter yet, there are no digital blackboards and cell phones are nowhere to be seen.

‘Cocon’ is an original and successful short, which is somewhat reminiscent of the work of Wes Anderson. The music of Max Abel should not remain unnamed, for this the film won the Keep an Eye Filmscore Award 2021. Cinematographer Evert Bazuin also received the Geoff Boyle NSC Student Award Best Fiction Cinematography 2021.

English Reviews

Review: My mother is a gorilla – Apstjärnan (2021)

My mother is a gorilla – Apstjärnan (2021)

Directed by: Linda Hambäck | 74 minutes | animation, family | Dutch voice cast: Melise de Winter, Wiebe-Pier Cnossen, Ayana Visser, Edna Kalb, Teun Batenburg, Marloes van den Heuvel, Simon Zwiers, Trevor Reekers, Beatrijs Sluijter, Huub Dikstaal, Romy Winters, Mathijs Stoop, Tara Gijsbers, Sandra Kwint, Vivian Andriese van Huiden

Mowgli, the main character from Disney’s ‘The Jungle Book’ (1967), was abandoned by his parents and then raised in the bush by a pack of wolves. Tarzan, who made his first appearance in 1918’s ‘Tarzan of the Apes’ (!), was taken in as a baby after his parents died by the ape Kala, who had just lost her own child. And in ‘Batman Returns’ (1992), we discover that Oswald Cobblepot was such a deformed baby that his parents threw him into the sewer, after which he ended up through the sewer into the penguin colony of Gotham Zoo and was taken care of there. As a result, he became ‘Penguin’, the most memorable villain in the series after The Joker. Human characters raised by animals are not so strange in the movie world. Yet you are always surprised when you are confronted with such a special human-animal relationship.

The Swedish children’s author Frida Nilsson’s work is known for its playfulness and sincerity. In her homeland, she is mentioned in the same breath as master storyteller Roald Dahl. In 2005 she wrote the book ‘Apstjärnan’, which was published in the Netherlands and Belgium under the title ‘My mother is a gorilla (and then what)’. She gives her own twist to this phenomenon. She created an endearing gorilla with a pressing desire to have children who just one day walks into an orphanage to take one of the children with her. Although she does not look threatening, the children are terrified. The gorilla has her eye on eight-year-old Jonna. The mousy leader of the orphanage, Gertie, prefers not to give the girl to the gorilla, but feels pushed against the wall by the overambitious civil servant Tjeerd Volleman. It demands that children are finally adopted. Otherwise, the orphanage will collapse, so that he can set up a lucrative wave pool at that location. So Jonna goes home with the gorilla in her rusty cart.

Gorilla lives on a scrap heap in a clearing on the edge of the forest. It turns out she has transformed that place into a flea market, where she holds sales a few times a week. Jonna is initially wary. She is even shocked when she finds out that the gorilla can talk. However, she soon thaws when it turns out that behind that ‘wild beast’ is a loving, funny and warm personality, with whom she has the best adventures. But can she also take care of Jonna? Especially ‘bad guy’ Volleman and the concerned teacher Gertie from the orphanage have their doubts about this.

‘My mother is a gorilla’ was praised by the press in the homeland of writer Nilsson (Sweden). Thanks to the ‘star power’ of top actors Pernilla August and Stellan Skarsgård, who provided the voices of the gorilla and Tjeerd respectively, the film also did well in the cinema in Scandinavia. In the Netherlands, ‘My mother is a gorilla’ has been included in the program of Cinekid 2021. We know director Linda Hambäck from ‘Gordon & Paddy’ (2017); just like that film, ‘Gorilla’ is a charming and authentic-looking animated film that does not hide its message. Because it is undeniable that the young viewers are being taught a lesson in prejudice, stereotypes and discrimination. But don’t these prejudices mainly live with their parents and not so much with themselves? Because Gorilla, with her ramshackle little car, sweet voice and cheerful yellow dress, doesn’t look that threatening, does it? Why couldn’t she be a good foster mother for Jonna? Kids probably don’t see the problem. That is why there are moments in the film where the gorilla is taunted and laughed at. But whether the animal is frightening or not, the film underlines that in principle it doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s about whether you have a good heart. And that includes the very little ones undeniably.

The animations in ‘My mother is a gorilla’ are decent; not spectacular, but charming in all their simplicity. A bigger obstacle is the narrative pace, which is a bit on the slow side here and there. But for a film that only lasts 75 minutes, it is not such a disaster that sometimes unnecessary time is taken. The fact that Hambäck’s authentic style is popular with many people is evident from the nominations that ‘My mother is a gorilla’ earned at the (animation) film festivals in Annecy and Zurich. The easy pace, the sweet characters Gorilla and Jonna and the good-natured message; it all adds to the charm of this movie. ‘Gordon & Paddy’ was slightly better, but ‘My mother is a gorilla’ is well worth watching.

English Reviews

Review: No. 10 (2021)

No. 10 (2021)

Directed by: Alex van Warmerdam | 100 minutes | thriller, comedy | Actors: Tom Dewispelaere, Frieda Barnhard, Hans Kesting, Anniek Pheifer, Pierre Bokma, Dirk Böhling, Mandela Wee Wee, Richard Gonlag, Gene Bervoets, Liz Snoyink, Alexander ElMecky, Kim Karssen, Jan Bijvoet, Tobias Nierop, Stijn Van Opstal, Harriet Stroet, Bert Geurkink, Harpert Michielsen, Vic de Wachter, Aat Ceelen, Marieke Dilles, Geert de Jong, Sem Klarenbeek, Egbert Jan Weeber

Quentin Tarantino once suggested that he should not make more than ten films, because history shows that most directors, including the greats, are past their peak around that number. Tarantino has since arrived there with ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’ (2019). A fitting closing piece, isn’t it? But more importantly, Alex van Warmerdam also comes with his tenth film, ‘Nr. 10’. Does Van Warmerdam follow Tarantino’s rule of thumb with this?

Although you wouldn’t say it at the beginning of the film, the lead role in ‘Nr. 10’ for Günter (Tom Dewispelaere). He was found in a German forest at the age of four and grew up in a foster family. Forty years later he lives a fairly average life, perfect for all the drabness around him. Günter has a one-lung daughter, Lizzy (Frieda Barnhard), is a stage actor by trade and has an affair with a married woman. When a complete stranger on a bridge whispers a word in Günter’s ear, it is the start of the search for his origin. A very ordinary day in Van Warmerdam’s universe, but then again not.

With ‘No. 10 ‘Van Warmerdam is throwing a party in his own backyard. The actors, veterans and talented grut, come from every crack on his set. A more gritty ensemble could not be gathered and most of the characters have already been seen in variations in Van Warmerdam’s earlier work. In ‘No. 10’ Pierre Bokma plays the old schlemiel Marius with a bedridden woman. Gene Bervoets as Reichenbach shows up as an imperturbable creep similar to Chirurgh from ‘No Country for Old Men’ (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007). Hans Kesting grumbles through the script as stage director Karl. Jan Bijvoet is again almost silent and wordless, a mysterious eyesore as in ‘Borgman’. As Lisa, Anniek Pfeifer feels exactly what her director wants, so anything but human warmth, not even during an affair. Finally, ‘No. 10’ a strong newcomer in the guise of Barnhard. She takes on the role of daughter Lizzy, who alternates without winking between a distant or empathetic attitude.

The characters and their environment are in ‘No. 10’ is not quite as dull and dead as that of the Swedish director Roy Andersson (including ‘You, the Living’, 2007), but it makes little difference. Occasionally the actors in ‘Nr. 10’ are automated people. The text from their mouths is interchangeable language in which empty shells of words, such as “almost” and “always”, dominate. Like character Marius, you would develop amnesia from it.

The art direction and locations are also carefully boned. For example, the rehearsal room for Karl’s new play is located in a disused industrial estate. Blue and gray dominate the film, from the underpants to the interior in Günter’s apartment. The film style and tone of ‘No. 10’ sucks the life out of everything. In short, the Netherlands as weak tea. The colorless style does not completely flatten the film, but makes it deeply absurd and sometimes hilarious. It also holds up a mirror to us of what kind of soft our society can be.

In addition, ‘No. 10’ likes to mislead the viewer. Almost every character is spying on or making fun of another, no one is completely telling the truth or lying. The film pretends to be about making a stage performance, but this film is one big theatre. Van Warmerdam plays horse-trading with his own hobbyhorses, from the decor to the characters. After all, you have an expectation with everything, even with a Van Warmerdam. Nevertheless, ‘No. 10’ just take another exit. And hopefully this is all more than comical spielerei, because every now and then it seems that dry ass Van Warmerdam doesn’t take anything seriously at all. Maybe he fears too many emotional states?

In ‘No. 10’ Van Warmerdam visibly taunts his own craft, the game of stories and all kinds of hobbyhorses of the Dutch film and theater world. To make fun of something that is Dutch, he has idiosyncratically elevated it to an art in film and theatre, see also the international appreciation from the Cannes Film Festival for ‘Borgman’ (2013). In addition, ‘No. 10’ is, as it were, an encyclopedia of Van Warmerdam’s unique oeuvre and as an encore he gives the church another knee in the cross. And although the title seems bland, this fits exactly with how the film industry always comes up with a cheap sales trick. If it produces this kind of absurdism from the low countries, then we can only clap our hands.

English Reviews

Review: Crazy Days (2021)

Crazy Days (2021)

Directed by: Sanne Rovers | 67 minutes | documentary

In November 2020, Dutch National Opera would stage a performance of the opera buffa (comedy opera) ‘Le nozze di Figaro’ (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1786). As is the case with major opera productions, it had already been worked on for a few years and the performances were practically sold out in advance. But when the orchestra and international star cast come together in Amsterdam in the autumn of 2020 to rehearse for real, there is of course a pandemic and it is by no means certain that the performances could actually take place. At that time, documentary maker Sanne Rovers joined in. To paint a picture of the bizarre days up to the least certain premiere.

The unease and hecticness is immediately apparent. There is fumbling with mouth caps, players are immediately warned if they come within one and a half meters of each other and are turned on their heads if they forget to disinfect their hands. The corona measures imposed by the Dutch government must be followed as strictly as possible, so that things cannot fall into the water in any case. But behind the scenes there is a lot of unrest, because every new press conference can throw a spanner in the works. Of course, this also has repercussions on the cast.

For example, 26-year-old Polly Leech enthusiastically tells that Cherubino is the role she has always wanted to play and that he comes at the perfect time. “Then you have to think about the pandemic for a while, but if it continues in 2020, then it’s the perfect moment,” she says hopefully, straight into the camera. Rovers deliberately lets the image rest on Leech’s face just a little too long, whereupon the despair and uncertainty begin to show itself more clearly with every second. After all, her potential breakthrough is in doubt. Because of her apparent open-mindedness and candor, Leech is a grateful subject and frequently returns to the picture.

Who also gets a lot of screen time, but is a little less well understood, is the Italian baritone Davide Luciona, who plays de Graaf. He is regularly portrayed on the phone (presumably with the home front, but it is never made explicit) or smoking outside with fellow Italian Riccardo Minasi, who conducts the orchestra. While he initially seems to deal with the situation fairly phlegmatically, it gradually becomes clear that even for an experienced rotten like him, the uncertainty is physically and mentally debilitating. Minasi, in turn, mainly speaks about the unimaginable corona policy in the Netherlands towards other countries, as if the country is a “happy oasis”. A welcome context, which is rarely offered.

The documentary remains tight with this one opera company, so the discussion about how the Dutch government deals with the culture sector as a whole is not stimulated either. The way in which the company is in any case still able to make a video registration through a direct line with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, while performances are otherwise prohibited, is not denounced, only presented ‘as is’. This makes ‘Crazy Days’ primarily a documentary about a hectic period at Dutch National Opera and nothing more than that. An interesting time frame for a very specific club.

Within that framework, Rovers has delivered a beautiful document. The documentary is interspersed not only with images of an empty opera house, but also with specially staged pieces of singing behind the scenes, for example at the bar or in the wings between the set pieces. It creates an alienating atmosphere and makes the loneliness palpable that the players already experience in such large productions, far from home, isolated from family and friends, and which comes in even harder because of corona. When towards the end the champagne glasses are raised to an almost empty room, the disappointment drips from it. Is an opera without an audience really an opera?

English Reviews

Review: Quicksand (2021)

Quicksand (2021)

Directed by: Margot Schaap | 113 minutes | drama | Actors: Hanna van Vliet, Elsie de Brauw, Elin Koleci, Simeoni Sundja, Jade Olieberg, Siem Smit, Aus Greidanus, Wieger Windhorst, Eran Ben-Michael, Manoushka Zeegelaar Breeveld, Cheyenne Haatrecht, Rits Sixma

Margot Schaap’s second feature film begins in calm waters, somewhere on idyllic Texel. Suze (Hanna van Vliet) and Luukas (Simeoni Sundja) are well organized and provide a safe home for their daughter Juul. But there also turns out to be quicksand on their island, something you can just swallow. Suze’s mother Helena (Elsie de Brauw) arrives on Texel, quite unexpectedly. She hasn’t seen her granddaughter Juul for a long time. Helena comes from the big city where she is a stage actress. On this visit, out of nowhere, she confides in her daughter that she may be seriously ill. Despite warnings from Luukas, Suze decides to support her mother. That will cost her dearly. Behind this paradise-like family picture lies a very difficult relationship with Helena. In this way Suze slowly loses control of herself and the cozy family life.

Quicksand is concentrate for actors. Two great actresses engage in a fascinating fight in this film, like gladiators to the death. Van Vliet is an up-and-coming talent and De Brauw a grande dame of the Dutch stage. Van Vliet, previously disarming in the TV series “Anne+” (Valerie Bisscheroux, 2018 -), plays meticulous, sensitive and ambiguous. At first you feel her strength and independence, but as soon as she ends up in her mother’s carousel of life out of goodwill, she slowly falls apart. In it, Suze also threatens to drag her partner and child along. De Brauw also contributes quite a bit for the stormy dynamics between mother and daughter. You can feel Helena’s pain seeping through every pore of De Brauw. Occasionally she is on the verge of overacting, but De Brauw likes to keep it raw and challenges the audience with that little bit more. The intense way she portrays Helena also makes you understand better how complex her mother’s attraction must be for Suze.

However, it’s not just about acting in Quicksand. In terms of editing and soundtrack, the film is indebted to psychological thrillers, such as the classic ‘Repulsion’ (Roman Polanski, 1965). When Helena leans more and more on Suze because of her serious illness, the daughter suffers from compulsive disorders. Van Vliet not only plays this beautifully, but the film is also subtly supported technically with elliptical montages and a soundtrack that swells according to Suze’s mental state. As a result, the image of ‘Quicksand’ almost literally shows cracks.

It is a pity that Simeoni Sundja as partner Luukas has little to do in the film. His character is especially contrasted with the swirling storms around him. He is the mainstay of Suze, the resting point of the film, but Juul seems to have to carry more than he can actually handle. In addition, the conclusion that there is a family trauma among these people and that has repercussions not only on daughter, but also on granddaughter Juul, is unsparing. This leaves little room for some light-heartedness, despite a few forced attempts.

‘Drijfzand’ is therefore a Dutch drama with a capital ‘D’. Schaap sincerely investigates the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters. Her ambition is reminiscent of that of Ingmar Bergman, who once withdrew to the island of Fårö where he produced his most soul-wrenching films. Like Bergman’s productions, Schaap’s film sometimes wallows in its own heaviness and melancholy. However, in general ‘Quicksand’ is an excellent drama with two authentic and penetrating performances and a strong eye for everyday detail. Can Texel become the Fårö of the Netherlands?

English Reviews

Review: My Name Is Pauli Murray (2021)

My Name Is Pauli Murray (2021)

Directed by: Julie Cohen, Betsy West | 91 minutes | documentary | Starring: Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Patricia Bell-Scott, Dolores Chandler, Brittney Cooper, Sonia Pressman Fuentes, Tina Lu, Marghretta McBean, Ernest R. Myers, Mary Norris, Rosalind Rosenberg, Karen Rouse Ross, Reggie Sapp, Inez Smith Reid, Chase Strangio, Raquel Willis

When it comes to human rights activists, Pauli Murray (1910-1985) is often overlooked. Wrongly, we learn from the documentary ‘My Name is Pauli Murray’ (2021) by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, who open their film with the statement ‘You can’t teach American history without talking about Pauli Murray’. Already at the age of five, Pauli made herself heard for the first time, when she protested that her grandfather got three pancakes from her grandmother and she only one. Fifteen years before Rosa Parks, Murray was arrested for sitting in the whites-only section of the bus. And ten years before the United States Supreme Court overturned inequality legislation, Murray was a champion of social justice. A pioneering lawyer, activist, priest and writer, she shaped historic lawsuits and awareness of race and gender equality. Because in addition to the rights of blacks, she also fought for the equal treatment of women and she was a pioneer in what we now call LGBTI, but which was hardly noticed in the time in which Murray lived. She herself struggled with her own gender identity, which made her understand better than anyone what it was like to live outside previously accepted categories and cultural norms.

Murray tells her impressive life story largely in her own words; after all, she was a devoted memoir writer. With her progressive thinking, she was a major influence on many law students, activists and even Supreme Court justices in the US, notably Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall. With her wealth of personal life experience and clear insight, she was an inexhaustible source of information that has inspired people for generations. West and Cohen delicately point out that even years after her death, Murray’s vision is still relevant, especially in the area of ​​LGBTI rights. In 2020, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) applied its ideas in this area. Today it is becoming more and more common for someone to be ‘non-binary’, but Murray has spent her life searching and fighting for her place. In her early years she often pretended to be a teenage boy for safety reasons; thanks to her slender build and short hair, she got away with it. At a later stage, she even wanted to undergo a medical examination to discover whether male genitalia were present internally and in letters to close friends she indicated that she felt she was living in the wrong body. Incidentally, we do not use the designation ‘she/her’ and not ‘them/she’ out of disrespect, but to improve readability in this review; normally, the preference of the person in question is examined for this, but in this case it is no longer possible to determine that.

An illustrative anecdote of how straightforward and headstrong Murray was is that explaining that she preferred to talk about ‘Negro’ to her students over ‘black’, while for the younger generation that was a reference to ‘Uncle Tom’. But her reason for still preferring ‘Negro’ is that the word ‘black’ is never capitalized and is therefore demoralizing and denigrating. Also telling are the letters that the fierce Murray wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the then president of the US, in which she fulminated that ‘FDR’ had far too cowardly policy on the rights of African Americans. The two women continued to write, recognized each other and formed a close friendship that lasted for decades, which also brought Murray into contact with other political leaders such as John F. Kennedy, whom she also tried to influence. But the struggle was always there. Whether it was her skin color or her gender. ‘People talk about Jim Crow, well I’m dealing with Jane Crow’, she described the sexism she regularly faced. She wasn’t even allowed to speak during her first year of law at Howard University, and her Harvard education was canceled because only men were allowed to do so, even though she had the best grades of anyone. What would the gentlemen in charge then think if they heard that Murray got her own ‘Pauli Murray College’ at Harvard University in 2016!

The candid documentary ‘My Name is Pauli Murray’ offers a fairly complete and impressive overview of what Murray has accomplished. Especially for us Dutch and Belgians, who barely know Murray, a whole new world opens up. Murray was miles ahead of her time and it is beyond words how important her role has been for the rights of blacks, women and especially the LGBTI community. But the film also tells a kind of love story between Murray and Irene ‘Renee’ Barlow, her colleague at law firm Paul, Weiss, with whom she never lived but who is known as her great love. We hear snippets of letters going back and forth and sweet words Murray spoke while recording her second book of memoirs. It gives this documentary a slightly more personal touch.

Patricia Smagge

Rating: 3.5

VOD Release: October 1, 2021 (Prime Video)