EYE in Belgrad: Dutch postwar experimental avantgarde

Birds (1968) by Frans Zwartjes, stark black and white contrasts

6 December 2016

Restored Dutch experimental films from the EYE collection will receive international attention at the Belgrade Alternative Film/Video festival, running from the 7th until the 11th of December.

EYE curator Simona MonizzaI will present a program with a selection of films from the period 1966 – 1994. On show will be titles from renowned Dutch film makers Barbara Meter, Paul de Nooijer, Frans Zwartjes up to Joost Rekveld. The program starts the 8th of December at the Student’s City Cultural Center at 19.00.

Even in their striking difference, all the films offer a unique glimpse into a relatively unknown alternative film culture of a country that went through a tremendous transformation in the crucial transition period from the post-war years up to the radical changes of the 60’s. In their funny, meditative or provocative way- and their use of the film medium- they all reflect the political, social and artistic climate of the country.

The difference between each film also testifies to a specific characteristic of the Dutch experimental scene, which, others than the one associated with England or Austria for instance, did not organize itself in groups, schools or genres. The presence of the Amsterdam Film Co-op and the flourishing of alternative venues for film, music and mixed media of the late 60’s and early 70’s helped of course create a fertile ground for the practicing filmmakers.

Frans Zwartjes and offspring

Within this framework filmmaker Frans Zwartjes, the ‘father’ of the experimental film in The Netherlands, forms a case apart. Without any previous specific influence, Zwartjes, managed to build up an amazing oeuvre consisting of films where the use of extreme harsh black and white film look combined with sexuality achieve a dramatic effect on the spectator.

 As a teacher and a mentor at the Free Academy Psychopolis in The Haghe, Zwartjes exercised a great influence upon the generation of filmmakers studying under him, but most of them took a very different path, making it hard to speak of a Zwartjes school. The artistic duo Karin Wiertz/Jacques Verbeek and filmmaker Paul de Nooijer are a good example of this. Their animation films speak a very different visual language and distinguish themselves for their original creative force. With Bart Vegter the abstract film, already practiced by Wiertz/Verbeek enters another level of craftsmanship and dedication initiating a sparkle that will be picked up and further developed by Joost Rekveld, the youngest and internationally most active filmmaker of the program.

Thanks to joined efforts between the Filmbank (a distribution organization, now merged with EYE), and EYE Filmmuseum, a large-scale project was initiated to give finally a secure home to a lot of these experimental films, making them available again through preservation, research and programming.

This program offers a chance to see films, which are rarely shown outside of The Netherland, and which can be appreciated in their restored form on 16mm and 35mm copies.

Tulips  Wim van der Linden/Wim T. Schippers 1966, 3 min 16mm
Birds Frans Zwartjes 1968 5 min 35 mm
Daydreams Elsa Stansfield/Madelon Hooykaas 1972 8 min 16mm
Touring Holland by Bicycle Paul de Nooijer/Jerry Musser 1981 3 min 16mm
Case of the Spiral Staircase Karin Wiertz/Jacques Verbeek 1981 3 min 35mm
Song for Four Hands Barbara Meter 1970 4 min 16mm
Rubbish, Matthijn Seip 1972 13 min 16mm
Re-Action in A Noud Heerkens 1979 5 min 16mm
Oblique Maarten Visser 1980 3 min 35mm
Space Modulation Bart Vegter 1994 1 min 16mm
#3, Joost Rekveld 1994 4 min 16mm
Ruby is the One Earth and Fire 1970 3 min 35mm