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                                                             THE INTERNATIONAL VOICE OF IDFA, NO. 6                                                                                         TIO

                                                             WEDNESDAY                                                                                                                              25 nov 09

                                                     PAGE 3                                                      PAGE 5                                                         PAGE 7
                                                     The inventive Dr Nakamats                                   Views on Vermeer                                               White Poverty
                                                     Cross media at the FORUM                                    Lou Biou                                                       Enemies of the People
                                                     New web platform for docs                                   Seed Warriors                                                  Higgs

                                IDFA Daily: Mark Baker, Nick Cunningham, Melanie Goodfellow, Geoffrey Macnab. Mail: idfa@nickcunningham.com

Ben Steinbauer’s Winnebago Man – The An-               his budget. Rather than abandon The Chameleon,
griest Man In The World is set to be launched          Steinbauer is now looking to approach his mate-
theatrically in the US in April 2010 – the fifth       rial from a new angle.
anniversary of the launch of YouTube.
                                                       Get even
By Geoffrey Macnab                                     “Now, we’re going out in search of the conman
                                                       to turn the tables and get even”, the director
The doc (screening in Reflecting Images – Best         explains. “This is another project that I didn’t set
of Fests) has already achieved cult status. It is      out to be a character in or be personally involved
about Jack Rebney, the Winnebago salesman              in, but like Winnebago Man, it is drawing me
whose furious outbursts caught on camera during        into the story.” Producer, writer and editor Joel
the shooting of a 1989 marketing video, have           Heller (the producer of Winnebago Man) is also
become the stuff of internet legend. In the film,      set to work with Steinbauer on The Chameleon.
Austin-based director Steinbauer sets out to track     As he did with Winnebago Man, Steinbauer will
down Rebney.                                           hire a private investigator to help him track down
Now, Steinbauer is embarking on The Chameleon,         Bourdin. “When that happened [the theft of the
a new film that promises to be just as challenging     money], I thought, oh my God, this is the worst         Ben Steinbauer                                                                    photo: Bram Belloni
and provocative as Winnebago Man. The subject          thing ever. But then after thinking about it and
of the new film is confidence trickster Frédéric       talking about it, I thought this is the best thing     joke. He is seemingly a buffoon and audiences          philosophical. However, Steinbauer soon discov-
Bourdin, notorious for impersonating kidnapped         that could have happened – this is the greatest        enjoy his expletive-laden rage at his inability to     ers that much of his original rage was still there.
or runaway teens. There is a twist, though. Bour-      angle to tell the story from.”                         remember his own lines. On the other, many             He was initially skeptical about Steinbauer’s plans
din originally agreed to participate in the film:                                                             clearly identify with Rebney’s sense of frustration    to make a film about him.
but then conned the director. Steinbauer had met       F*ck!                                                  at a world that seems stacked against him. Reb-        “If I sit back and put myself in Jack’s shoes, his
Bourdin at a Hitchcock-style rendezvous at a rail-     Winnebago Man started as a graduate film for           ney (whom they found living hermit-like in the         position was quite reasonable”, suggests producer
way station and had handed over money (several         Steinbauer. As the director discovered, the reasons    woods) was fired as a result of his outbursts. He is   Heller. “How crazy is it that we are at the largest,
thousand dollars) to the Frenchman in return           for Rebney’s notoriety and cult status are far more    not quite the figure than his image as YouTube’s       most important documentary festival in the
for the rights to his life story. However, Bourdin     complicated than they first appear. On the one         favourite Mr Angry suggests. At first, Rebney (a       world and people are celebrating a film about a
scarpered, leaving the director with a big hole in     hand, the Winnebago salesman is the butt of the        former broadcast journalist) seems placid, even        guy swearing!”

   DEBATE GREEN                                        BANNED IRANIAN DoC pICkED up
   SCREAMS                                             Spanish pay-TV operator Multicanal has ac-                                                                    In another shot, the camera pans on a woman’s
                                                       quired the banned Iranian film We Are Half                                                                    face destroyed by an acid attack. Bani-Etemad
   Two teams will debate this cheeky proposi-          the Iranian Population, tackling the issue of                                                                 invited the presidential candidates to come
   tion: “Be it resolved that Mother Earth is          women’s rights in Iran, for broadcast on its                                                                  for a screening of the film. All came except
   fu*ked and the end of the world is near!”           Spanish and Portuguese documentary chan-                                                                      Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – including Mehdi
   Followed by audience discussion and vot-            nel Odissea, it announced on Tuesday.                                                                         Karroubi and his advisor Mohammad Ali
   ing. The gladiators will be Suzanne Raes                                                                                                                          Abtahi, who is now in prison, Mohsen Rezai
   (The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island),           By Melanie Goodfellow                                                                                         and reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi. Their
   Sylvie van Brabant (Earth Keepers), Em-                                                                     We Are Half the Iranian Population
                                                                                                                                                                     reactions were added to the final cut.
   manuelle Schick Garcia (The Idiot Cycle),           “We’ve acquired it for a series we’re preparing
   Adam Stafford (The Shutdown), Louie                 on Iran. It’s an extremely important film. It          as separate interviews with the participants –
   Psihoyos (The Cove) and Dutch scientists
   and writers Theo Richel, Hans Labohm
                                                       shows an aspect of Iran that is rarely tackled”,       including lawyer Shadi Sadr and journalist Jila            LuCkY ThIRTEEN
                                                       says Roberto Blatt, director of content at             Bani-Yaqub, who were both arrested and later
   and Hans Erren. Hosted by Nick Fraser.              Multicanal. It is the latest work by respected         released during the popular protest. Sadr is cur-          Last night, the €125,000 Media Fund
   Escape Club | 13:30-15:30 | Free admission
                                                       Iranian filmmaker Rakhshan Bani-Etemad,                rently living in exile.                                    Documentary Award went to Martijn
                                                       who has won critical acclaim for her fiction           The director intercuts this material with vi-              Blekendaal for his project De dertiende
   TALK OF                                             films such as The Blue Veiled, a love story be-
                                                       tween a wealthy widower and a young factory
                                                                                                              gnettes illustrating women’s lives in Iran today
                                                                                                              – these scenes are perhaps the most interesting
                                                                                                                                                                         man (The Thirteenth Man). The award
                                                                                                                                                                         marks the culmination of seven months’
   THE DAY                                             worker, and Mainline about a young female
                                                       heroin addict.
                                                                                                              aspect of the film – giving a rare insight into
                                                                                                              life for women in Iran. In one scene, school-
                                                                                                                                                                         hard work at the 2009 IDFA Docu-
                                                                                                                                                                         mentary Workshop; an initiative of the
   The live broadcast VPRO IDFA Report                 “I wanted to show this film to be shown                girls describe how they were stopped from                  festival and the Dutch Cultural Media
   with Capitalism: a Love Story, The Yes Men          ahead of the elections on 12th June, but it            playing ping-pong as the camera pans onto                  Fund, during which seven projects were
   Fix the World and The Shock Doctrine.               was not granted a permit so I’ve copied it and         boys freely playing football. In another, the              developed. In the past an average of
   (Please note that part of the report will be        distributed it among the people instead”, says         case of a woman who was executed for murder-               40% have been completed for Dutch
   in Dutch.) Then at 20.20 it’s NOMINA-               Bani-Etemad in the film. Prior to the Iranian          ing her second husband when he tried to rape               broadcast.
   TIONS NIGHT at the IDFA talkshow:                   elections, Bani-Etemad gathered together a             her daughter is highlighted.                               The jury’s winning citation noted
   IDFA’s various juries will announce their           number of women’s groups and activists repre-          “Every day, I read of cases of men who kill to             among other points how “the plan is ex-
   shortlists of nominees.                             senting a cross-section of female Iran society, to     defend their wives or daughters’ honour, and               tremely well detailed and well researched
   Escape Club | 19:45-21:15 (doors open at            make a film expressing their demands for Iran’s        they get away with it – are almost applauded               and, looking at the presentation, it is
   19:30) | Free admission                             female population.                                     for it – why is it different for women?” asks the          clear that the maker has a great eye.” NC
                                                       Bani-Etemad filmed the discussions as well             tearful daughter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                             IDFA – 1
FAther oF InventIon
He may be eighty-one years old but the sprightly, eponymous subject of Kaspar Schröder’s The
Invention of Dr. Nakamats maintained yesterday that he is in healthy middle age. “I now have
more than 3,300 patents, which compares with Thomas Edison’s 1,093 patents. My target is
to live until I am 144, so I think that this number of inventions will increase further.”

By Nick Cunningham                                     through this invention. Now I am doing inven-
                                                       tions for everybody in the world to help make
In the film, Nakamats takes centre stage as he         them happy.” These include the extraordinary
presents the full panoply of his inventiveness,        jump shoes, designed to get you from A to B
and is never deflected from his claim to be one        more quickly – as well as remove stress – and
of the greatest five scientists of all time, in good   a hormone spray to increase sexual potency,
company with Marie Curie, Farraday, Archi-             improve skin and extend life.
mides and Tesla. “Kaspar called to tell me he
was interested in shooting me after seeing me          six
on the BBC”, Nakamats told the IDFA Daily.             Nakamats attributes his future 144-year lifes-
“He stayed for a month in Japan very close to          pan to a number of factors: healthy living, the
my house. I just showed him my natural way             ingestion of his vitamin-packed Brain Drink
of living. He shot every day for a total of 100        and food supplement Rebody 85, plenty of sex
hours and then he shrinks it to 55 minutes,            and a belief in the numerological significance
which is just one per cent!”                           of the number 6. “We have sixty seconds, sixty
                                                       minutes, 24 hours – everything is divisible by
love                                                   six. Therefore my life should be a multiple of
Claiming to derive his genius for inven-               six,” he insisted. “My research into this subject
tion from the dna passed down through his              started when I was 42. Why 42? Our peak age
mother’s line, Nakamats explained how he               is 24 when you are young and at your most
made his first invention at the age of five: a         powerful. Forty-two is the starting point for
device for aeronautical gravity control. But he        becoming old. For a woman this age is 39, the
stressed that his most significant inventions          number 13 being the common divisor.”
were, not surprisingly, the floppy disc (licensed
to IBM), and the kerosene pump. “My spirit of          children
invention is different to that of other inven-         When asked what he felt to be the greatest
tors”, he pointed out. “Other inventors make           invention throughout the history of mankind,
inventions to make money. Doctor Nakamats’             he didn’t claim one of his own. Instead he
spirit of invention is love. I invented the            responded with a question of his own. “Do you
kerosene pump to make my mother’s work in              have children?” he asked. “Yes,” I responded.
                                                                                                             Dr. Nakamats                                                                  photo: Bram Belloni
the kitchen easier. I wanted to give her my love       “Then children is my answer”, he concluded.

                                                                                                           SmArt AnD SelectIve
                                                                                                           During IDFA, Zurich-based First Hand                  commented. The First Hand boss is sharply
                                                                                                           Films has been tub-thumping on behalf of its          critical of the way that doc makers have been
                                                                                                           new web platform, filmsbazaar.com.                    using the internet in indiscriminate fashion,
                                                                                                                                                                 placing docs online and hoping that they will
                                                                                                           The platform, launched earlier this year, is          therefore somehow find an audience.
                                                                                                           looking to provide international producers            The idea is that producers and rights holders
                                                                                                           with a way of reaching distributors and poten-        place their films on filmsbazaar.com for a small
                                                                                                           tial financing partners. The aim is to provide “a     fee. Once it is there, First Hand has nothing
                                                                                                           space for every project, film or series, with a di-   further to do with it commercially. The link
                                                                                         Prison Valley     rect link to the filmmakers, for more visibility,     from the film goes directly to the rights holder.
                                                                                                           viral marketing, and for international sales.”        Van Messel’s long-term ambition is for filmsba-
                                                                                                           Here in Amsterdam, Esther van Messel, CEO             zaar.com to function in a way akin to blinxtv,
croSSeD WIreS At the ForUm                                                                                 of First Hand Films, has been explaining the          where surfers can find information about
                                                                                                           thinking behind the new platform. “What I             thousands of shows and links to where they can
The growing importance of cross media con-             Visitors to the Prison Valley site will construct   am trying to do is make a very selective, smart       watch them. “If I see that the traffic is rising
tent was evident at the FORUM on Tuesday               their own narrative. Reaction to the project        catalogue online”, Van Messel stated. Her idea        and that different interest groups find the dif-
with the presentation of two projects with a           was mixed. Most commissioning editors loved         is that programmers and buyers will have easy         ferent films that are actually targeted at them, I
strong multimedia component: Prison Valley             the interactivity of the site, but questioned       access on the site, which is carefully curated by     will make it possible to offer streaming facilities
and Farewell Comrades.                                 whether the topic of the US prison system           the First Hand team, to detailed information          on this server”, Van Messel commented.
                                                       would prompt interest among European audi-          about every kind of film – and about docu-            First Hand has an enviable record of handling
By Melanie Goodfellow                                  ences. “Rather than going to the U.S., why          mentaries in particular.                              IDFA winners. In recent years, the company
                                                       didn’t you tackle the situation in the French       First Hand’s move comes as documentary                has represented such titles as Burma VJ –
“Prison Valley is a sort of interactive road mov-      banlieue for example”, said the BBC’s Nick          makes are engaged in a fierce debate about how        Reporting from a Closed Country, The Monastery
ie where the visitor can follow the journalist         Fraser.                                             they can best use the internet to boost profits       and To See If I Am Smiling. Burma VJ was
in a small city in Colorado where everybody is         The interactive project attached to Ukrainian       and visibility of their wares. “The internet is       recently included in the long list for this year’s
part of the prison system. This is an innova-          director Sergey Bukovsky’s epic 6-part series       now and it’s everywhere… it has to be the             Oscar contenders and has been sold worldwide.
tive, previously unseen way of doing web               Farewell Comrades, about the collapse of the        gateway to the documentary”, Van Messel               GM
documentary – mixing a story and interaction           Soviet Union, also prompted interest with one
tools”, said Joel Ronez, head of new media             commissioning editor asking whether he could                                                                                                   Burma VJ
commissioning at Arte France.                          take the website, but not the series. Billed as
The web-doc is the latest collaboration be-            a European Media Event, the website is due
tween Paris-based Alexandre Brachet’s internet         to go live in 2011. “I am really interested in
company Upian.com and Arte France. Last                the interactive site, which would be great for
year, the companies – together with Israeli and        my audience – is there any way we can break
Palestinian producers – made the interactive           this out,” said Knowledge Network’s Murray
Gaza-Sderot, capturing the lives of ordinary           Battle.
Palestinians in the Gaza strip and their coun-         Other projects drumming up interest at
terparts in the Israeli border town of Sderot.         Tuesday’s session included Yoav Shamir’s latest
Their new project revolves around Fremont              documentary, 10%, following the psychology
County in Colorado, the site of 14 prisons             studies of Dr Philip Zimbardo and Dr Rony
holding some 7,500 prisoners. The makers               Berger into what makes somebody heroic. “I
have shot a central, stand-alone narrative, but        think if anyone has the ability to examine this
at certain points in the story the user will be        challenging question about human behaviour
offered access to different interactive zones.         it is Yoav”, commented Arte’s Nathalie Verdier.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        IDFA – 3
The pAInTer wITh The unFAThomAble AppeAl
Here is the question: why is Vermeer so                                                                                                                        film is meant to work by “association” and
popular? The 17th-century Dutch painter                                                                                                                        inference.
hasn’t always enjoyed the glowing reputa-                                                                                                                      Early on during shooting, Pool kept his cam-
tion he has today. A century ago, he wasn’t                                                                                                                    era on a tripod and tried to imitate the look
mentioned in lists of the great Dutch paint-                                                                                                                   of Vermeer’s paintings. Soon, though, he
ers. As Koos de Wilt, writer of the screen-                                                                                                                    decided this was a clumsy conceit. Instead,
play for Hans Pool’s Views on Vermeer,                                                                                                                         90% of the time he kept the camera on his
points out, something has happened in the                                                                                                                      shoulder, creating movement in deliber-
last 15 years that has convinced the world of                                                                                                                  ate contrast to the stillness in Vermeer’s
Vermeer’s genius.                                                                                                                                              paintings. However, like Vermeer, he tries to
                                                                                                                                                               capture his subjects in everyday settings. For
By Geoffrey Macnab                                                                                                                                             example, we see novelist Tracy Chevalier in
                                                                                                                                                               her kitchen, struggling with the dishes.
Docs about great artists are often didactic
affairs, but this is not Pool’s approach. There is                                                                                                             mondrIan
no narrator and, at the end of the doc, Vermeer                                                                                                                Pool and de Wilt have already collaborated
remains as mysterious as at the beginning.                                                                                                                     on a film about Rembrandt. Now, they are
Various Vermeer lovers (most from outside the                                                                                                                  planning another art-based doc together.
Netherlands) describe what about the artist so                                                                                                                 This time, their subject will be Mondrian.
inspires them. These include Tracy Chevalier,                                                                                                                  “There is a mystery about him that we like
author of The Girl with the Pearl Earring,                                                                                                                     too”, De Wilt suggests. Mondrian doesn’t
American photojournalist Steve McCurry and                                                                                                                     have quite the popular reach of Vermeer.
British writer/philosopher Alain De Botton.                                                                                                                    His stark modernism continues to provoke
“When Pele says that Johan Cruyff is the stron-                                                                                                                controversy. However, as De Wilt puts it,
gest player who ever lived, it is stronger than                                                                                                                “he is everywhere – in design, in thinking, in
if a Dutch football player says it”, De Wilt                                                                                                                   architecture and in fashion. Everybody who
notes of why the Dutch set greater store by the                                                                                                                makes culture today knows about Mon-
opinion of respected foreigners than they do of       ordinary people as his subjects. For Hans Pool        ImagInatIon                                        drian.”
their own experts.                                    himself, the most resonant Vermeer painting is        It’s a testament to the richness and mystery
                                                      View of Delft. Pool elicits plenty of passionate      of Vermeer that he can appeal to so many           IDFA Competition for
Secret                                                opinions about Vermeer in his documentary             different admirers – and that he continues         Mid-Length Documentary
Relatively little is known about Vermeer’s pri-       but struggles to put into words his own feelings      to tantalise them. As Pool puts it, “Vermeer
vate life. Academics still debate the secret of his   about this picture. “It is so strange because it is   leaves everything to the imagination.” That        Views on Vermeer
technique and try to work out how he achieved         just an ordinary landscape – a view of a town.        is the documentary’s intention too. It doesn’t     Hans Pool
the near-photographic effect in his paintings.        That’s it.” Pool first saw the picture, which         peddle a point of view but leaves it to the
Many of the interviewees in Views on Vermeer          hangs in The Hague, five years ago. “It was so        spectators to define the artist themselves. “I     Tuschinski 3; Wed 25-11, 13:45
talk about the extraordinary stillness of his         strange, because I liked it so much and I didn’t      don’t want to make a documentary with a            Tuschinski 5; Thu 26-11, 20:00
subjects, his use of light and his choice of          know why I liked it… I still don’t know why!”         story-driven line,” Pool declares. Instead, his    Munt 11; Sat 28-11, 19:30

DAncIng wITh bulls
Filmmaker Jascha De Wilde is a regular attendee at IDFA.                of the twentieth century when a poet and bull breeder called         Lou Biou was made without support from broadcasters or
She has been here with previous docs, among them Starkiss;              Folco de Baroncelli met the famous cowboy Buffalo Bill, who          financiers. “It wasn’t easy. We did it all by ourselves with the
Circus Girls in India (a Joris Ivens contender in 2002). Now,           was travelling through the south of France with his Wild West        help of friends,” De Wilde reflects of the struggle to complete
De Wilde is back in Amsterdam with Lou Biou – The Feast of              circus.                                                              the doc. “We thought this was a special subject – a beautiful
the Fabulous Bull (a world premiere in Premieres From The               The protagonist of the doc is a young Algerian who is the best       subject to make a film about.”
Lowlands). The film, co-directed by Ben Hendriks, is about              of the region’s bullfighters. For all his skill and courage, he is   De Wilde and Hendriks are looking for a sales agent here at
the “cult of the bull” in the French Camargue. The documen-             not entirely accepted. Some of the locals can’t forget that he is    IDFA. GM
tary explores the reverence and affection that local people in          an Arab – a man from another culture. “They have respect for
the region have for bulls. They fight these bulls with great            him because he is very good with the bulls but they also boo         Premieres From
fanfare, but they never kill them.                                      and whistle him because they want a traditional guy from the         The Lowlands
                                                                        Camargue to win”, the director states. In the doc, the film-
“They worship the bulls. They even think of the bulls as their          makers celebrate the athletic ability of the bullfighters, who       Lou Biou – The Feast of the Fabulous Bull
own family members”, De Wilde explains. There are more                  are always dressed in white. They move with a grace that (De         Ben Hendriks and Jascha De Wilde
than 100 villages in the Camargue that host the ‘Course                 Wilde suggests) is almost balletic. The bulls, too, look magnifi-
Camarguaise’, the bull-fighting events. This is an ancient              cent: prowling, angry beasts with a regal quality about them as      Tuschinski 5; Wed 25-11, 22:30
tradition that was given a new lease of life at the beginning           they try to gore the fighters.                                       Munt 12; Thu 26-11, 13:30

                                                                                                                                                 DebuTAnT’s corner:
                                                                                                                                                 seeD wArrIors
                                                                                                                                                 Docs for Sale debutants Katharina von Flotow and
                                                                                                                                                 Mirjam von Arx’s Seed Warriors asks if the dream of global
                                                                                                                                                 food security is achievable. The 86-minute documentary
                                                                                                                                                 is partly set in the remote Norwegian town of Longyear-
                                                                                                                                                 byen, only 1,000km from the North Pole. This is where
                                                                                                                                                 the world’s first Global Seed Bank was recently estab-
                                                                                                                                                 lished. It is described as “the safest place on earth”. The
                                                                                                                                                 plan is for up to 4.5 million seed samples to be stored in
                                                                                                                                                 what has already been nicknamed ‘The Doomsday Vault’.
                                                                                                                                                 Within the next 40 years, as temperatures drop globally,
                                                                                                                                                 food production across the world is expected to decrease
                                                                                                                                                 dramatically. Meanwhile, demand for food will shoot up.
                                                                                                                                                 The documentary explores what the Seed Vault can and
                                                                                                                                                 can’t do as the fight against hunger worldwide intensifies.
                                                                                                                                                 Mirjam von Arx of Zurich-based Ican Films is represent-
                                                                                                                                                 ing the film at Docs For Sale. All territories excluding
                                                                                                                                                 Germany, Switzerland and France are available.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    IDFA – 5
WhIte MAn’s BurDen
“This story has never been told before,”
claims Dutch director Saskia Vredeveld,
whose White Poverty – In the New South
Africa screens in Premieres of the Low-
lands. “It’s a silent phenomenon, a group
that is growing and growing.” In the film,
Vredeveld takes her camera to several of the
burgeoning squatter camps in South Africa
populated by poor whites who feel increas-
ingly disenfranchised within post-apartheid
South Africa.

One kind couple distributes food parcels to the
white poor; subsidised packages that consist of
products beyond their sell-by date. But even
this service is in danger, as the local supermar-
ket is converting this produce into more profit-
able dog-food pellets. We meet another family
who live in a leaking garage, whose descent
into poverty was precipitated by the father
being shot while working as a security guard.
A middle-ranking executive claims to have lost
his job to an underling after the ANC’s rise
to power, citing “reverse racism” as the cause.
“White people have no future here anymore”,
his colleague claims. “We were told that a ‘yes’
vote was a vote for a united nation.”                 “And we must never forget that among blacks        is happening to their own people.”                   but the upper class. That’s what I am anticipat-
“I did have some material from the ANC, as            poverty is even worse. That’s the real majority.   Vredeveld reveals that she is intending to           ing.” NC
apparently the people from the camp are being         Within the new South Africa there is a now         return to South Africa post-IDFA to make
forced to move on”, explains Vredeveld. “But          an upper rich class of blacks, but the major-      a new film about the new rich black class; a         Premieres of the Lowlands
that is for another film; you can’t put it all into   ity of the population is lagging behind, so the    subject diametrically opposed to that of her
one film. There are so many issues. You must          government is concentrating on their prob-         IDFA film. “It’s the new rising class, the black     White Poverty – In the New South Africa
keep your focus, and the focus in this film is        lems. But there is little interest in the white    diamonds, the bling bling class – it’s also a very   Saskia Vredeveld
on the victims.”                                      community. For them, it’s only the church and      interesting story”, she stresses. “I can imagine
“But the ANC say that poverty is everywhere           the white upper class who have any form of         that they are quite proud of what they have          Munt 12; Wed 25-11, 17:15
and that poverty has no colour”, she continues.       compassion, as they are quite ashamed that this    achieved, proud of not being the underclass          Tuschinski 4; Thu 26-11, 19:30

the personAl Is polItIcAl                                                                                                                                     unravel. Another scientist in the film offers a
                                                                                                                                                              deliciously sanguine response to the general
                                                                                                                                                              melee he observes among his peers in pursuit
Cambodian journalist Thet Sambath, who                “Sambath told me he had also been getting in                                                            of scientific glory. “It will be much more
lost his parents and a brother during the             contact with the people who actually carried                                                            interesting if it does not exist,” he asserts. “If
Khmer Rouge’s brutal reign in the 1970s,              out the killing, lower level people, something                                                          we happen not to find it, then we are really
spent ten years tracking down key mem-                that no-one had ever done before. He was im-                                                            wrong, and that is a wonderful situation for
bers of the violent regime, such as Pol Pot’s         mersed in this world in a way no-one else had                                                           a scientist because this is what produces the
right-hand man Nuon Chea, as well as the              ever been – no researchers, no historians.”                                                             new revolutions.”
peasants who carried out the slaughter.               The documentary is a sort of a film within a                                                            Interspersed with the heavy science are play-
                                                      film, in which Sambath is as much a protago-                                                            ful snippets in which physics boffins apply
“Many people were killed during the Khmer             nist as a reporter.                                                                                     human characteristics to the boson, musing
Rouge period, but no-one would ever admit             The film oscillates between interviews with                                                             as to its anatomical make-up. One says that
to having killed”, says Sambath. “In the              Chea and brutal accounts from peasant farm-                                                             it is heavy and fat, another that it is exciting,
beginning, it was hard to get people to talk.         ers about how they killed their victims, drank                                                          interesting and happy. After further postula-
It took time. I couldn’t ask the people in the        from their gall-bladders and buried them in                                                             tion as to its potential gender, a dry British
film straight out if they had been directly in-       mass graves in nearby fields. In one scene,                                                             scientist brings the frivolity to a close. “The
volved in the killing. They would have denied         Sambath asks an interviewee to demonstrate                                                              Higgs does not have a sex”, he intones heavily.
it even though I knew through my research             how he killed his victims. “I feel embar-                                                               The filmmakers are no strangers to topics
that they had been involved. I visited them
regularly, gaining their confidence and trust.”
                                                      rassed”, says the man coyly, before re-enacting
                                                      a killing on a relative with a plastic knife,      collIsIon                                            scientific having, for the past ten years, sought
                                                                                                                                                              to entertain and inform the public through
Enemies of the People, which Sambath co-              making him lie on the floor with his hands                                                              science-related theatre shows. “As artists I
directed with British filmmaker Rob Lemkin,
charts the journalist’s attempts to get to the
                                                      behind his back, dragging up his head and
                                                      pretending to slit his throat.
                                                                                                         course                                               think we should try and stay in contact with
                                                                                                                                                              these sort of developments that are taking
heart of why so many people perished.                 Sambath never reveals to his interviewees that     In retrospect one of the most significant            place outside the reach of our eyes,” points
Sambath and Lemkin first met in 2006 when             his own family died under the Khmer Rouge,         achievements of Hannie van den Bergh and             out Van den Berg. “That is why imagination is
the latter was in Cambodia researching a film         that he too was a victim of their brutal-          Jan van den Berg’s Higgs is in securing the          so important, to get some sort of impression
on the Khmer Rouge Trials, which have since           ity. He is calm throughout, never betraying        great recluse’s services as a talking head in        of the things that are so important for our fu-
started but were then in the early stages of          his emotions. “I couldn’t, because it would        the film. In 1964, Peter Higgs postulated the        ture, and which mostly can only be discussed
preparation. “He had been talking to Nuon             have stopped the people talking – there were       existence of the Higgs Boson, a theoretical          by physicists. As artists, we should try to find
Chea for five years… We met and he took me            times when I could feel emotions rising up         sub-atomic particle, the potential existence         a dialogue with these sorts of developments.”
to see Nuon Chea, who was living up on the            but I had to keep them in check”, comments         of which has subsequently revolutionised the         Start-up problems with the Collider have
Thai border, miles away from the capital,” says       Sambath.                                           science of particle physics. The new and thus        temporarily arrested progress of the pursuit,
Lemkin.                                               He and Lemkin are currently developing a           far ill-fated Hadron Collider, constructed by        but Van den Berg is determined to keep the
                                                      second film, tackling the Khmer Rouge from a       CERN beneath the green fields of Swit-               cameras rolling. “Our main goal is to be there
                                                      more political, rather than personal, angle. MG    zerland, was built in part to determine the          when he [Professor Bentvelsen] or someone
                                                                                                         Higgs’s existence.                                   else has this first view of something which
                                                      IDFA Competition for                                                                                    turns out to be the Higgs”, he confirms. NC
                                                      Feature-length Documentary                         The major part of the film concerns Profes-
                                                                                                         sor Bentvelsen’s Dutch team of scientists            Premieres of the Lowlands
                                                      Enemies of the People                              who, like 160 other scientific institutes across
                                                      Thet Sambath, Rob Lemkin                           the world, are determined to be the first to         Higgs
                                                                                                         analyse correctly the initial data from the          Hannie van den Bergh and Jan van den Berg
                                                      Tuschinski 6; Wed 25-11, 20:00                     Collider, and hence the first to prove the
                                                      Munt 12; Fri 27-11, 10:15                          theory. It is, Bentvelsen says, “a type of mod-      Munt 12; Wed 25-11, 18:30
                                                      Munt 09; Sat 28-11, 12:00                          ern mystery” that he wishes to be the first to       Munt 09; Thu 26-11, 19:45

                                                                                                                                                                                                    IDFA – 7

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