Documentary Film “Curaçao” Wins Dutch Film Critics Award

Sander Snoep and Sarah Vos’ film Curaçao has won the Dutch Film Critics Award at the Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht. The film, which stunned many in Curaçao, is about the separate worlds of the Dutch Europeans and Curaçaoans in everyday life on the island. Curaçao premiered in the Netherlands in November 2010 at the IDFA Documentary Festival. In Curaçao, the film was screened to packed theaters in its Spring 2011 premiere.

Nino Klingler writes in Nisimazine:

A small island off the Venezuelan coast, populated by people originating from two different places both thousands of kilometers east, yet worlds apart. Bluntly speaking: black and white. In more refined words: descendants of former slaves from Africa and descendants of former slave owners from the Netherlands.

On this island called Curaçao, we find traces of a hopelessly entangled history, asymmetrically fragmenting a society into rich and poor, powerful and obedient. Traces in the form of documents, buildings, and clothes. Filmmakers Sandra Snoep and Sarah Vos arrange the pieces into a shattered picture of the aftermath of colonial frenzy. Every combination is a clash: a rough coastal landscape, ruins and dry bushes. A voice off-screen monotonously reads the accounts of the crossing of Slave ship #94. More than 600 alive on departure, over 200 dead and 100 sick on arrival. Cut to a residential resort where Dutch people are swimming in their pools. The salesman answers a buyer’s question: “This place has no history.”

The film takes a controversial, unsettling point of view, tracing the lines of segregation without any real attempts at crossing them. No utopia for Curaçao, no utopian potential in filmmaking. The ‘Whites,’ sunburnt and always somewhat slightly drunk, talk endlessly, whilst the ‘Blacks’ quietly look into the camera. To make it clear: this film is racist, yet not tendentious. We see two Dutch men talking and hear nothing but the dialogue. Then the face of an Afro-Caribbean woman appears, and music swells menacingly. Cut back to the Dutch, no music. Is this approach to ethnic difference disgusting or honest? Do we want visions or positions?

“Slavery is not over,” says a descendant of African slaves to her bosses at Curaçao’s Albert Heijn supermarket. “We just wear ties now, we are the modern slaves.” Old-fashioned racism became the ’structural racism’ within our capitalist-rationalized democracies. But in the same act of speech, the employee points out the only truly promising path for the future: the slaves of history have to reclaim the right to articulate their own version of events, their own narration. The film’s refusal to take a position in this respect could either be read as impotence or as deliberate restraint.

For full article (in Dutch), see http://www.rnw.nl/caribiana/bulletin/prijs-voor-film-cura%C3%A7ao

For full review, see http://www.nisimazine.eu/Curacao.html

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