Michael Forlong / NL, 1964 / 103 min.
A special afternoon featuring the premiere of the English-language feature film Tamarind with Jack Monkau. This social drama about an old colonel watching his familiar world crumbling around him was recently restored by Eye.
Preceding the film we will screen an excerpt from an interview with Jack Monkau conducted for the programme Black Light in which filmmakers Roelof Jan Minneboo and Ivan Barbosa spoke to three actors of colour about inclusion in the Dutch cinema sector, then and now. The other two were Kenneth Herdigein and Yootha Wong-Loi-Sing. Jack Monkau will be present this afternoon and will discuss the strengths of and the controversy surrounding Tamarind with Isabelle Britto of The Black Archives before the screening. The conversation will be moderated by Eye film programmer Saskia Mollen. The language of this conversation is Dutch.The interview will be conducted in Dutch.
Tamarind is about Sjon Jan van Leent, a conservative plantation owner on Curaçao, watching his old, familiar world crumble. His son is a dropout, his daughter marries a black graduate which Van Leent disapproves of, his wife dies and things are going downhill fast at the plantation. When he finally hears his son embezzled money, it all gets too much for him.
The Black Archives about the film
The Black Archives developed the exhibition Zwartheid Onder Ogen Komen [Facing Blackness] which provides a history of the stereotyping of Black people and the resistance against this. In theatre, on TV, in film and in other forms of entertainment stereotypes of Black people have been used since the colonial era as a source of humour and entertainment; Tamarind is an exceptional example of this.
Researcher Isabelle Britto of The Black Archives: "On the one hand, the film builds on a long tradition of blackface that originated from racist, colonial depictions. On the other hand, the actor Jack Monkau plays the role of a Black doctor who is incredibly un-stereotypical. The film can probably be seen as the precursor to the famous American film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner that featured Sidney Poitier, which makes it an exceptional film in Dutch cinematic history". If you’d like to know more about the history of the representation of Black people and the resistance against the latter, visit the exhibition at The Black Archives.
About the restoration
An English version was made of Plantage Tamarinde, called Tamarind, which is very different from the Dutch one. A number of storylines have been left out, the psychological perspective is not the same and scenes have been both cut and added. The Dutch actors dubbed their own roles into English. Eye opted to restore this, the English version, because its negative was available, which provides a much higher quality restoration, and this version contains much fewer Dutch actors in blackface.
About Jack Monkau
Jack Monkau was born in Amsterdam to a Surinamese father and a Scottish mother. He grew up in an artistic family of five children. Monkau worked as a model and took jazz ballet lessons. His first film role was in Plantage Tamarinde/Tamarind (1964). He later had roles in the hit series De fabriek and he had a supporting role in the film Moord in extase, the first adaptation of one of Baantjer’s books. His first leading role was in the cult gangster film Wildschut from 1985, and he could also be seen in Lek (2000). He was one of the first actors of colour in the Netherlands and he is a true pioneer.
Unfortunately, stereotypical images of Black people have been used as a source of humor and entertainment since the colonial period in the theatre, on television, in film and in other forms of entertainment. Plantage Tamarinde is a special example of this. On the one hand, the film builds on a long tradition of blackface that finds its origin in racist colonial imagery. On the other hand, actor Jack Monkau also portrays the role of a Black doctor who is not at all stereotypical. Finally, a warning is also in order for offensive language.
Black Light highlights the representation of black identity in films, from 1920 to the present.
Why in Eye
Inspired by the exhibition 'Facing Blackness' by The Black Archives, Eye recently restored Plantage Tamarinde (1964). Alongside a wonderful leading role for Jack Monkau, it unfortunately also features blackface and sterotypes, which we will discuss with Monkau and The Black Archives researcher Isabelle Britto preceding the screening.
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