Dir: Johan van der Keuken
245 min., 35mm, 1:1.37, Color
Produktion: Pieter van Huystee Film & TV. Kamera: Johan van der Keuken. Ton: Noshka van der Lely. Musik: Dionys Breukers. Schnitt: Barbara Hin, Johan van der Keuken.
Uraufführung: 29.9.1996, Dutch Film Festival, Utrecht
Weltvertrieb: Ideale Audience, 6, rue de L'agent Bailly, 75009 Paris, Tel: (33-1) 49700810, Fax: (33-1) 49700811.
Mon 17.02. 11:00 Kino 7 im Zoo Palast Mon 17.02. 14:00 Delphi Tue 18.02. 20:00 Arsenal Wed 19.02. 17:00 Akademie der Künste
The film is also a musical journey, from DJ 100% Isis and her House music to a Ghanian funeral party to Riccardo Chailly in the Concertgebouw. Johan van der Keuken has pieced together major global issues with very personal tales into a beautiful and colourful patchwork quilt. A loving portrait of the city of Amsterdam which has for centuries been a refuge for so many while maintaining its village charm.
In Johan van der Keuken's oeuvre we seldom encounter Amsterdam, even though the cineaste has spent most of his life there. Johan van der Keuken has travelled through the whole world with his camera. Only once did his home town play a prominent role, i.e. in Even Stilte (Amsterdam, a City's Face, 1963). There are a number of reasons why he chose his home town as a subject after thirty years.
"The idea first came to me when I looked out of my window one morning, seeing how beautiful the morning light reflected in the water and on the boat located directly opposite my house in the canal. I wanted to do something with this. Secondly, I went and cycled in neighbourhoods where I normally don't go and I realized that most people on the street were not white. I had the feeling I had entered a different city, another country. I realized that one is ready to go along any path, take any side street when one is on vacation, but one is less likely to deviate from one's routine in one's home town."
At first glance, AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE is about the city of Amsterdam as a melting pot where representatives of different cultures live next to each other. We travel through the town for four hours, from the centre to the suburbs and further beyond. On the road, we meet many citizens. We linger with some of the people or we return to them, others fade back into the crowd very quickly. The film isn't structured around the protagonists and their life stories, but, typically for Van der Keuken, is based on an idea.
"In June 1993 I wrote the first treatment, receiving a subsidy to develop it further. Here I already included the central idea of a roving movement. I wanted to create a kind of tour of the town's magical circle, that is, on water, in the air and on land, thus achieving not only a horizontal but also a vertical movement. I was consequently able to structure the encounters into these movements.
The cyclical structure - which is emphasized by the passing of the seasons - makes it possible to follow different protagonists in the film in one single movement. It is a diverse group of people coming from different ethnic and social backgrounds and age groups. Locations are not limited to Amsterdam. We travel to Chechnya with Borz-Ali and his son to his native, war-torn village. We ,fly' with the Bolivian Roberto from his high-rise flat in the Bijlmer to a small Indian society in the Andes where he visits his mother. There are journeys within the Netherlands, too. The story of Jewish lady Henny leads from her house where she spent the first years of the war with her husband and her little son to Zeeland where her son Adri was placed when his father was deported to Westerbork and she went underground. A fourth journey leads to Thailand - a boxer-in-training is portrayed and later contrasted with the Amsterdam Thai-boxing scene.
The viewer mustn't get the impression that this approach to Amsterdam turns into an intellectual exercise. "There is a general misunderstanding in that people assume they have to understand everything. It's about the relationship between physical existence and dreaming, but in film you can think about this without having to make everything in the story fit verbally. I am absolutely not of the opinion that in order to see the film the viewer should work hard. In the end, you want to seduce viewers with a film. As a viewer you are offered to go on a journey, so come and join us!"
(Annelotte Verhagen, in: Nederlands Film Festival, September 11th, 1996)
(...) I nestle myself into a comfortable chair in the cinema while the film ,goes outside'. Back to where I just came from - the city. Back to the skaters and the bicycle couriers. Here the filmmaker demonstrates his virtuousity. It has been said elsewhere, rightly so, that he plays his camera like a musical instrument and that he is able to capture visually a situation like a jazz solo. The camera as a saxophone. Back to the Vondelpark (...). Back to the meeting into which bicycle courier Khalid walks (...), looking like an astronaut. Tirelessly and with a burning curiosity the film takes in the city surrounding the cinema (...).
(Gertjan Zuilhof, in: De Groene Amsterdammer, October 16th, 1996)
AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE really isn't a film which overruns or takes over the viewer. Foremost, it is a film which feeds the mind, and, despite its "free form" connects with Van der Keuken's earlier work. He is a director who, as few other filmmakers in the Netherlands, is inspired by esthetic and political ideas. In AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE, the ideas originate more than ever in the filmmaker's mind and his capabilities.
Nothing in Van der Keuken's world is what is seems. An old Jewish lady visits the house in which she lived before going underground. The episode re-awakens her bad conscience because she had abandoned her husband on the way to Westerbork all that time ago. The Indian from Bolivia has to face his mother's uneasiness upon seeing him when he visits his native village. Van der Keuken is always pursuing alternative paths, positing questions which give meaning and content to the images. He is successful: whoever views this film will never look at Amsterdam in quite the same way. p> (Raymond van den Boogaard, in: NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam October 9th, 1996)
Towards the end of AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE Johan van der Keuken's voice can be heard for the first time: "I have untertaken a long journey in my home town. I know that life is but a dream." For nearly four hours Van der Keuken has taken us along the canals of Amsterdam and much further beyond. It is an exciting experience, a kind of feverish fantasy.
Van der Keuken has always enjoyed going on a journey. In this case he didn't travel to his project, but with it. Van der Keuken-Travels joins a cleaner from Bijlmer on a trip to a mountain village in Bolivia where the latter visits his mother who hasn't seen him in a very long time. Or van der Keuken accompanies a cunning business man to war-torn Grozny in Chechnya, who fears that his brother has been killed alongside Dudajev. Ditto Sarajevo and Thailand.
These journeys are impressive, mini-documentaries within a framework story. Connections and meanings were created on the editing table afterwards, although in some sense they already took shape when Van der Keuken walked, cycled and drove through the city. Van der Keuken films everything himself, a major advantage over other directors who are dependent on hiring camera people.
Van der Keuken shows the multicultural life of Amsterdam, where the authorities don't seem to figure prominently. He penetrates the Ghanaese and the bicycle courier's community easily but ignores the official life of the city. AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE thus does not offer a touristic image of the city. Impressionistic and sociological approaches fight for dominance, not only in this film (...). The artistic starting point of the film is continuous movement. Such decisions regarding form are sacrosanct to Van der Keuken, also in his 46 other films. It doesn't make a difference whether audiences will realize the conscious spirit behind the formal aspects of the film. Van der Keuken is one of those artists who are convinced that one picks up certain things without necessarily realizing it (...). Van der Keuken is like a hospitable citizen who welcomes his guests graciously and then lets them roam the city (...).
(Huib Stam, in: Volkskrant, October 10th, 1996)
"I always thought that life was 777 simultaneous stories" - a quotation by Bert Schierbeek which Johan van der Keuken chose as a motto for his four-hour long documentary AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE. It isn't only an extraordinary portrait, an excellent hommage to his hometown Amsterdam, but at the same time a travel adventure with a camera going to faraway places where emigrant Amsterdam citizens originally came from. (...) The quotation is characteristic for 58 year old Van Der Keuken, who also tried to convince audiences in previous films that 777 alternative films are possible, apart from the one that he had just made. "Reality is not something that can be captured in images," he said in a recent interview, "but you can create a kind of structure, and claim: within this structure I can have a notion of what reality could be. In this sense, this Amsterdam is my reality."
Johan van der Keuken, one of the Netherlands most important and original documentary filmmakers, does not tell stories with an ending. He searches for unexpected, visual poetry in people and places, often inviting the viewer to let the imagination roam freely. In his previous film Face Value the filmmaker edited a great number of close-ups of faces into a kind of group portrait of the many citizens of Europe. His visual narratives were called "photographer's films" because Van der Keuken originally trained as a photographer and his approach to his projects is predominantly photographic. (...) He was less interested in the feature films of the precursors to the Nouvelle Vague, but instead in Jean Rouch and Nanook of the North by the American Robert Flaherty, which confronted him with a very different reality, not manipulated like traditional cinema. "What I find interesting about documentaries is that the characters have a life outside the film, while this is not the case with feature films." For more than thirty years he used his "spontaneous camera" in his search for the poetry of the unexpected moment. The camera was for him a kind of extension of his body, the camera itself became a kind of character. For a while this led to rather abstract, inaccessible films which attracted small audiences and were appreciated mostly by connoisseurs. With AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE Johan van der Keuken has renewed his work, no longer avoiding lyricism and drama. (...)
(Marjan Mes, in: De Stem, Amsterdam, October 10th, 1996)
Johan van der Keuken was born in Amsterdam in 1938. He began experimenting with photography at the age of twelve and published his first book of photographs in 1955, ,We are 17'. In 1956 he won a scholarship to IDHEC (Institut des Hautes Etudes Cinématographiques) in Paris. From then on, his career as filmmaker and photographer developed around the theme of ,the perception of reality'. He has been a film critic for several newspapers and since 1977 has contributed regularly to the column ,From the World of the Self-Employed' in the Dutch magazine ,Skrien'.
1957-60: Paris à l'aube. 1960: Sunday. 1960-63: A Moment's Silence. 1962: Yrrah; Tajiri; Opland; Lucebert; Poet-Painter. 1963: The Old Lady. 1964: Indonesian Boy; Blind Child. 1965: Beppie; Four Walls. 1966: Herman Slobbe/Blind Child 2. 1967: A Film for Lucebert; Big Ben/Ben Webster in Europe. 1968: The Spirit of the Time; The Cat. 1970: Velocity 40-70; Beauty. 1972: Diary. 1973: Bert Schierbeek / The Door; The White Castle; Vietnam Opera; The Wall; The Reading Lesson. 1974: The New Ice Age; Filmmaker's Holiday. 1975: The Palestinians. 1976: Springtime. 1978: Flat Jungle. 1980: The Master and the Giant. 1980-81: The Way South. 1982: De Beeldenstorm (Forum 1982); Iconoclasm / A Storm of Images. 1984: Toys; Time; De Tijd (Forum 1984). 1986: I Love $; Wet Feet in Hongkong; The Unanswered Question. 1988: The Eye Above the Well. 1989/90: The Mask (Forum 1990). 1990: Face Value. 1992/93: Brass Unbound. 1993: Sarajevo Film Festival Film. 1994: Toni's Birthday; On Animal Locomotion; Lucebert, Time and Farewell. 1996: AMSTERDAM GLOBAL VILLAGE.
© 1997 by International Forum of New Cinema. All rights reserved.