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17 min. Dutch.

Shot in a single uncut sequence, Cinema Olanda Film connects an architectural location, a number of individuals, and past and present events through a momentary filmic reality. Situated in one of the Netherland's exemplary modernist postwar districts designed by the Bauhaus trained Lotte Stam-Beese, who became one of Rotterdam’s main urban planners in the 1950s, the film alludes to the presence of multiple voices behind the screen of Dutch postwar society, which was reimagining itself as a uniform modern state.
Filmed in a single day with live production of script and music, by a contemporary cast of individuals with a personal or professional relationship to the questions raised, references range from the Dutch Caribbean revolutionary Otto Huiswoud, who from his base in Amsterdam in the 1950s formed an impressive link with Black intellectual, political, and cultural life in Paris, London, and New York, to the popular 1950s Indo-rock music associated with the massive post-independence immigration from Indonesia.

Wendelien van Oldenborgh was born in 1962 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where she is based as an artist. She develops works in which the cinematic format is used as a methodology for production and as the basic language for various forms of presentation. She often uses the format of a public film shoot, collaborating with participants in different scenarios to co-produce a script and orientate the work towards its final outcome. She has participated in various large biennials, and in smaller dedicated shows. With Cinema Olanda she represented the Netherlands at the 57th Venice Biennale. She has participated in Forum Expanded with Pertinho de Alphaville (2010), La Javanaise (2012), and Beauty and the Right to the Ugly (2014).

Cinema Diaspora

At a moment when neonationalist and neofascist tendencies seek to forge a re-homogenized white nation, CINEMA OLANDA FILM not only represents a different kind of collective subject but also actively seeks to constitute it. Here the film shoots are crucial. The spatial and social configurations created by Wendelien van Oldenborgh are not that bogeyman of the alt-right, the “safe space” populated by namby-pamby privileged students unwilling to face the challenges of real life (such as racism and sexism, presumably). While they’re blissfully free of alt-right trolls, they’re not homogeneous. These are impure spaces in which processes of (trans)subjectivation can take place. The locations bring their own histories to the table. The setting for the film CINEMA OLANDA FILM is provided by architect Harry Nefkens’s modernist Saint Bavo Church in Pendrecht, the postwar neighborhood in Rotterdam planned by Lotte Stam-Beese, which is such a location. That the leftist architect Stam-Beese gave a prominent place to a Catholic church in her modernist extension of Rotterdam is part of the historic compromise of the “wederopbouw” (reconstruction) years, in which the religious (Protestant and Catholic) “zuilen” (columns or pillars) enjoyed a last hurrah before entering into decline in the 1960s. Many of the postwar modernist churches across Holland have now been demolished or repurposed. That Saint Bavo still functions as a church is also due to immigrants, including immigrants from the (former) Dutch colonies in the Caribbean. In 2003 banlieu-type problems with young migrants in Pendrecht occasioned a debate in Rotterdam about a “spreidingsbeleid voor kansarme allochtonen”—a “distribution policy for disadvantaged migrants” to prevent “ghettoization.”* In a bizarre historical return, spreidingsbeleid is the exact same term that was used in Amsterdam in the late 1970s to scatter the Surinamese immigrants across the city and across hostels.

CINEMA OLANDA FILM deals with historical events and the historical figures of Lotte Stam-Beese and Otto Huiswoud, the latter being a Surinam-born, New York-based communist with many contacts in the arts, especially poetry; like Stam-Beese, he spent time in the Soviet Union in the early 1930s. The film consists of a single sequence shot that goes from a gliding crane movement to a bumpier hand-held-camera that moves from the square in front of the church inside. The camera moves from timelines being read out past conversations and scuffles, past young guitarists playing “Indo rock” (a Dutch postwar movement created by immigrants from former Dutch East India/Indonesia), more spoken exchanges, a reading of Langston Hughes’s poem “Democracy,” and a final performance by a young band. Among the readers and speakers are the publicist Lizzy van Leeuwen, the artist Patricia Kaersenhout, and Mitchell Esajas of the New Urban Collective, which houses part of Otto and Hermina Huiswoud’s papers. Archival documents such as old copies of “The Negro Worker” or a copy of Roy De Carava and Langston Hughes’s photo essay “The Sweet Flypaper of Life,” dedicated by Hughes to Hermine Huiswoud, inform the conversation.

As in previous works such as MAURITS SCRIPT, CINEMA OLANDA FILM is marked by a dialectic of reading out written documents and having conversations that are shaped by them. In PROLOGUE: SQUAT / ANTI-SQUAT,** which focuses on the more recent past and on living memory, informal conversation is more dominant. While many of Van Oldenborgh’s works—including CINEMA OLANDA FILM —contain scenes with people reading from published texts or archival documents, the prologue shows Roel Griffioen and Khadija al Mourabit reading books titled “De stad is van ons” (a manifesto by the Belgian-Lebanese activist Dyab Abou Jahjah) and “The City is Ours” (a multi-author volume on squatting). However, they discuss their content rather than declaiming from them.

Modern emancipatory projects were enabled by print. That goes for Marxism as well as for anti-colonial movements—and of course many protagonists of anti-colonialism embraced Marxism, including Otto Huiswoud. For Huiswoud, the formative experience was not that of industrial production in the heartlands of capitalism, but of colonial exploitation.*** While the original impetus comes from the daily and visceral experience of exploitation and oppression, patient study— reading and discussion—is required to make sense of this experience and develop a critical and active stance. In an age in which the manufacturing of neo-illiteracy is one biopolitical tool among others, it is tempting to wax nostalgically about a lost print culture. Van Oldenborgh’s work takes a less melancholic position, incorporating the written and the printed word in a post-Gutenbergian acoustic and social space, in which texts are excerpted, quoted, de- and recontextualized, and debated.

(Sven Lütticken: “Cinema Diaspora,” in: Lucy Cotter (ed.): Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Berlin 2017, pp.102–104.)

*In these debates, Pendrecht was often used as an example of the kind of inner-city hell that a “spreidingsbeleid” would serve to prevent: see www.mario-bosch.nl/pendrecht-vitaal.htm.
**Also part of the installation “Cinema Olanda” in the Dutch pavilion of the 57th Venice Biennale 2017.
***See Régis Debray, “Socialism: A Life-Cycle,” in New Left Review (July-August 2007), pp. 5–28

Production Fabian Altenried, Sophie Ahrens. Production company Schuldenberg Films (Berlin, Germany). Written and directed by Wendelien van Oldenborgh. Director of photography Smina Bluth. Editing Wendelien van Oldenborgh. Music Addiction. Sound design Titus Maderlechner. Sound Titus Maderlechner. Make-up Viola Sarkodee. Assistant director Fabian Altenried. Production manager Sophie Ahrens. With Maria van Enckevort Cijntje, Hanneke Oosterhof, Lizzy van Leeuwen, Patricia Kaersenhout, Mitchell Esajas.


1996: St Anna (Super-8 loop, film installation). 1997: Horizontal (Super-8 loop, film installation). 1998: Splitising (Super-8 loop, film installation). 1999: It's full of holes, it's full of holes (24 min. and 16 min.). 2001: Stadtluft (34 min. and 23 min.). 2002: Studio. Rotterdam. (14 min.). 2005: The Basis for a Song (24 min.). 2006: Maurits Script (67 min.). 2008: Sound Track Stage (23 min.), No False Echoes (30 min.), Lecture/Audience/Camera (28 min.), Maurits Film (45 min.). 2009: Après la reprise, la prise (15 min.), Instruction (31 min.). 2010: Pertinho de Alphaville (20 min., forum expanded 2011). 2011: Supposing I love you. And you also love me (13 min.). 2012: Bete & Deise (41 min.), La Javanaise (Videoinstallation, 25 Min., Forum Expanded 2013). 2014: Beauty and the Right to the Ugly (56 min., forum expanded 2015). 2015: From Left to Night (32 min.). 2016: Prologue: Squat/Anti-Squat (37 min.). 2018: Cinema Olanda Film.

Photo: © Schuldenberg Films

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