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'Dormant Dutch film world needs kick from Brandend Kalf'

Good news for anyone who also thinks the Dutch film world could use a bit more spice. On 29 September, film theatre Springhaver in Utrecht will host the Evening of the Burning Calf organised. Rounded off with the presentation of the Brandend Kalf, the new film award for the most sensational, daring, cheeky or inspired Dutch film initiative. At least, if enough crowdfunders are those who want to support this project by film journalist Karin Wolfs and writer A.H.J. Dautzenberg.

Yes, you see, this event takes place, not entirely coincidentally, on the evening preceding the presentation of the Golden Calf awards. And no, the Brandend Kalf is not a side-programme of the Dutch Film Festival. When we ask Karin Wolfs to explain, she first of all wants to emphasise that it is a completely independent project. Nor a private party of Wolfs and Dautzenberg. Hence also that crowdfunding. If it succeeds does that mean that that there are many more film lovers out there who see this initiative.

Still, the question naturally burns on our lips: aren't there enough Calfs yet? Or are those Calves not going to the good films?

'A Brandend Kalf didn't exist yet. An award for an unconventional initiative that wants to bring fire to the Dutch film world, currently dominated by success formulas. It could use a bit more guts, daring and commitment. Paul Verhoeven said it not so long ago in an interview, when asked about his biggest frustration with contemporary films: 'It's escapism and fantasy that counts. While there is so much going on if you read the newspapers.

I discovered that A.H.J. Dautzenberg had written articles about the lack of engagement in Dutch literature. The things he signalled I also missed in many Dutch feature films. Moreover, he turned out to be a huge film buff. He sees at least one film a day. So we decided to do something together to bring fire to the Dutch film world. We love films that broaden our view of the world, change it or turn it upside down. We would love to see more of those.

Brandend Kalf is not just another award for a film, but an award for an inspired initiative or idea that sets Dutch film on fire. One that blows fresh air, turns things upside down and inspires. Three quarters of the annual crop now consists of children's films, romcoms, navel-gazing drama and other more or less comforting entertainment. While there is so much going on in the world.'

So the prize does not necessarily have to go to a filmmaker or an already realised film?

'Anyone with a fervent initiative stands a chance, be it a film distributor, or a film theatre, or a sound engineer who stands up during a discussion and lets his heart speak. It could also be an idea that comes from outside the film world. We like to be surprised.'

Might it also have something to do with your article 'The splinter in our eye' that you wrote for the Film Yearbook?

'Yes, too. That article about the lack of engagement in the (inter)national film world can now also be read on my site Moreover, engagement is often mistakenly understood as dramatised social realist drama, when in fact it is so often well behaved and cliché-affirming. When in fact, the term 'engagement' actually calls for an unconventional, new take on things that are controversial, marginal, underexposed, or overlooked. When filmmakers become aware of conventions, they can escape them and the chances of exciting, innovative films become a lot better.'

What it the purpose of the award?

'The Burning Calf will only get off the ground if enough people want to help fund it through Contributions can be made from as little as the price of a cinema ticket. It is both an invitation to the Dutch feature film world to be more ambitious and challenging and a declaration of support for passionate filmmakers who (want to) make daring, groundbreaking feature films. The aim is to provoke a discussion about what film can do as an art form.

Filmmakers can hold up a mirror to us and show us new horizons. It's crazy that it happens so little.'

Who will designate the winner of the Burning Calf?

'A jury. Who is on it we will announce towards the end of the crowdfunding campaign [it runs until 10 June, LB]. There is no monetary amount attached to the prize. The Burning Calf is a glass-blown 'fire cup' in the shape of a calf's head, based on a design by glass artist Melvin Anderson.'

Among the artists performing on the night, I see many theatre people and visual artists, few film people. Coincidence or intentional?

'The Evening of the Burning Calf will be a full evening programme with a feature-length performance. Artists from different art disciplines will come to bring fire. With the award ceremony as the finale. We think it might be refreshing to ask artists from other disciplines. They all carry elements that also play a role in feature films. Music, imagination, words and above all: inspiration. We hope to bring fire and inspiration this way, maybe help people get new ideas again.'

Contributions can here.

Leo Bankersen

Leo Bankersen has been writing about film since Chinatown and Night of the Living Dead. Reviewed as a freelance film journalist for the GPD for a long time. Is now, among other things, one of the regular contributors to De Filmkrant. Likes to break a lance for children's films, documentaries and films from non-Western countries. Other specialities: digital issues and film education.View Author posts

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