The Dutch Film Festival goes English: blockbusters with subtitles galore

Carice van Houten on the red carpet in 2017. Photo:
Carice van Houten on the red carpet in 2017. Photo:

The annual Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht, which culminates in country’s most prestigious film awards, is making a big drive to attract an international audience this year, by subtitling many of the film screenings, including several box office hits.

Here’s what you should know about the upcoming festival and a selection of what’s on offer.

1 The Nederlands Film Festival is a Dutch institution and has been around since 1981. Cocking a snook at Amsterdam, Utrecht has traditionally been the venue for the film fest. This year the dates to save are September 27 to October 5.

2  The film festival is taking the English speaking contingent seriously: there are over 50 subtitled film screenings – including a number of blockbusters, prize-winning documentaries and festival premieres. Here’s the complete programme.

3 One of the must-sees is De Bankier van het Verzet  (The resistance banker, 2018) directed by Joram Lürsen, which follows a long tradition of Dutch wartime films, such as Paul Verhoeven’s Zwartboek and Fons Rademaker’s De Aanslag. It tells the true story of resistance hero Walraven van Hall who financed the resistance by ‘robbing’ the central bank with the approval of the Dutch government in exile. The film is the Netherlands’ entry for next year’s Oscars for best foreign film.

4 Talking of statues, the film festival’s ultimate prize is a Gouden Kalf, or Golden Calf. ‘Berlin has bears, Venice has lions. Why don’t we have calves,’ said film director Wim Verstappen, perhaps half-jokingly, when pondering a suitable prize. It is actually a charming statue, made by sculptor Theo Mackaay.

4 People who live in Amsterdam will have already had the opportunity to see a subtitled version of Wild Amsterdam (directed by Mark Verkerk), about the wild creatures living in the capital. But for those who have not this is a rare treat. Keep an eye out for the wily yet dignified herons who stalk the fish stalls on Dappermarkt come five o’clock.

Carice van Houten on the red carpet in 2017. Photo: Desiree Schippers

5 Among the festival premieres is My Foolish Heart, a fanciful account of a detective who while investigating the circumstances of jazz musician Chet Baker’s death in Amsterdam in 1988 embarks on a personal journey as well. Directed by Rolf van Eijk.

6 The Dutch are good at documentary making and Hoop & Heimwee (Hope & Homesickness, directed by Eline Flipse) promises to live up to that reputation. It tells the timely story of Polish migrant workers in the villages of the Noordoostpolder, their hopes, aspirations and life in a frequently hostile environment.

7 Apart from films, documentaries and tv programmes, the festival also organises talks in English about a variety of subjects, such as virtual reality and other new technologies while the Brave New World Sessions present new interactive work. There is also a programme for film industry professionals.

8 And for those who are mastering Dutch or are already fluent, here’s one we did earlier.

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