It may sound a bit dramatic, but fans of Dutch youth film may feel that this is the end of an era. I just read the mail with the sad press release that writer, radio producer and film and television producer Burny Bos (1944) died on 1 December.
It was not entirely unexpected. When Cinekid honoured him last year (and not for the first time, by the way) with a special programme, the festival introduced it with the words: 'The quirky creator of the Ko the Forester show, startup of Villa Achterwerk and founder of production company BosBros is ill and will not get better.
That the Dutch children's and youth film came to be on par with the much-vaunted Scandinavian ones is, of course, not only Bos' work. But he did contribute a lot to it.
We had someone here who believed that children deserved the very best and could use a little quirkiness. We saw that with The Pocket Knife (1991). An adventure as simple as it is imaginative, about a little boy trying to return the pocketknife of his now-removed boyfriend. This was one of his first film productions, directed by Ben Somboogaart after the book by Sjoerd Kuyper. Shortly before, Somboogaart had already filmed the children's book Mijn vader woont in Rio, written by Bos. Two titles that have classic status in the Dutch children's genre.
Yes, because before Bos became a film producer and founded his company BosBros, he was already a formidable children's book author (and before that a primary school teacher). From his impressive bibliography, I mention relatively at random Knotty (1979), Ko the Forester (1983) and of course My father lives in Rio (1990). The latter year also marks the beginning of his film work, mainly as a producer and screenwriter.
Annie M.G. Schmidt
In his extensive survey of film and television work (over sixty titles), film adaptations of Annie M.G. Schmidt occupy an important place. He was happy to make room for that quirkiness, showing that he believed children deserved more than smooth formulaic work. Challenging Disney was one of his ambitions. With films that show that fantasy, contrariness, emotion and a touch of cheekiness go together very well. In the Netherlands, it succeeded quite nicely. See for instance Abeltje, Pluk van de Petteflet, Wiplala or Minoes to which his daughter Tamara also contributed. Overseas remained trickier, although Minoes did sell to Scandinavia, Canada, Germany and Japan, among others.
Meanwhile, the recently released Rocco & Sjuul by Anna van der Heide, with Tamara Bos as co-screenwriter, shows that BosBros does not limit itself to the youth genre.
At the presentation of BosBros' first feature-length animated film (Heinz, 2019), Bos argued that an animated film has a greater chance of breaking through internationally. The period is still too short to really prove that. It does not detract from Burny Bos' reputation.
Also the films based on original scripts, such as The Horse of St Nicholas, Brammetje Baas and Hair salon Romy, received numerous awards and won several Golden Calfs. Bos himself received several personal awards, including a special Golden Calf in 2014 for his special merits to Dutch film culture. In 1999, Bos was voted Broadcaster of the Year.
A year ago, in 2022, Bos and his oeuvre were honoured at Cinekid. Burny Bos said then, "I am happy and proud that the rich oeuvre of production house BosBros, to which so many talented makers have contributed, can now be seen by a new generation thanks to Cinekid."
And let's hope it will also remain on display for a very long time.