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Helen Westerik

Helen Westerik is a film historian and great lover of experimental films. She teaches film history and researches the body in art.

Steve mcQueen's End Credits buzzes long after

Steve McQueen is an artist who narrates big and difficult subjects in a physically tangible way. Hunger strike, sex addiction and our discomfort with male sexuality, slavery. These are the things we would rather not see anymore, not want to discuss and certainly not want to feel. In his feature films, McQueen manages to strike a balance between the aesthetic and the physical ... 

Setan Jawa challenges you. That alone is reason to go watch #HF17

What do you get when you combine shadow play, Weimar cinema, gamelan and Javanese myths? A mix that demands a lot from the audience, but is a delight if you are willing to surrender to it. Indonesian director Garin Nugroho does not make easy films. Often they are visually stunning, like Opera Jawa, but the plot gets in the way a bit... 

Waiting in the bardo: the Buddhist film festival kicks off

The Golden Calfs have not even been handed out yet and the next film festival is already about to begin. On Friday 30 September, the 11th Buddhist Film Festival Europe (BFFE) will kick off at Eye in Amsterdam with a very special film. The opening film is produced in one of the smallest film countries and one of the most fascinating countries in the Far East: Bhutan. According to IMDB... 

Roaring, pounding big band overwhelms with conspiracies #hf16

A big band, a ticking clock, conspiracy theories and twelve-tonality. Mix that in a theatrical setting and it can go whooping out of control. Yet composer Darcy James Argue manages to make it a propulsive and energising whole, with help from director Isaac Butler and cinematographer Peter Nigrihi.

Theatre of The World (1): Design by Quay Brothers tastes like more #hf16

Carré's history and programming make it an odd duck in the Holland Festival pie. Programmed for next year are a boxing memorial, Toneelgroep Amsterdam and Ali B. The sawdust for dressage horses never seems very far away. It doesn't seem the most obvious place for a postmodern opera, or rather a grotesque in nine scenes. But now it is here: Theatre of the World. An event so big that we have two reviews and an interview to it.

Helen Westerik discusses the design of this opera.

Secrets of Karbala: The Crusades in oriental light and glass marionettes #hf16

How can you rewrite an intensely complicated history from a different perspective? By using grotesque glass puppets and not actors. This revolutionary invention was shown at the Holland Festival on 8 June, and can still be experienced there 9 June. In that film, Egyptian artist Wael Shawky takes us back to bygone centuries and shows us... 

The Walking Forest is performance you definitely want to watch twice (HF16)

Brazil's Christiane Jatahy was already with the play last year What If they went to Moscow at the Holland Festival. She came, saw and conquered. This year, she comes with the final part in the trilogy of stage adaptations, The Walking Forest. The title refers to the three witches in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, who foretell his rise and fall. The play was the starting point for a performance with four video screens, a bar, an actress, a dead fish and, oh yes, an audience.

Holland Festival goes Nuclear: Atomic by Mark Cousins

Anyone who can remember the fall of the wall has grown up with the threat of nuclear attack. And with that comes the idiotic government advice to get under the table in case of a nuclear explosion, preferably with a colander on your head. And to keep plenty of canned food and water on hand.

#OscarsSoWhite? Yes. But Europe is no better.

Things have been rumbling in the film world for some time: Why is the silver screen so, er, white? And where are all the women anyway? #OscarsSoWhite but also #OscarIsADude! Many people in the industry have already expressed their displeasure at this. At the previous Oscar ceremony, actresses aimed their arrows at equal pay, or rather, the lack of it. This year, many an African-American actor and... 

Good Grief! The Charlie Brown Christmas special turned 50!

Whole generations of children have grown up with Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and their friends. The universe in which adults are conspicuous by their absence, but children's emotions are remarkably complex. And that is probably also the appeal of the television cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas, which first aired exactly 50 years ago. Charlie Brown has no sense at all of... 

The IDFA is almost over. Time to take stock.

With one day to go, it's time to look at what stood out about the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam. The picture of the whole festival is diffuse, as befits a fest whose programme booklet is almost three hundred pages thick. There was, as always, a sea of films about abuses and current political issues, but there were... 

Idfa viewing tip 27 November: Perhaps the weirdest and fiercest film of the festival

It doesn't often happen to me that just under 30 years after seeing a film, I still remember in what state I left the theatre. Supreme confusion it was. Was all this real? As a filmmaker, were you allowed to hit your interviewees? Was it staged? It was too horrifying to imagine everything really happening 

IDFA viewing tip 26 November - A Poem is a Naked person

American filmmaker Les Blank stole my heart a long time ago with the short docu he made about Werner Herzog: Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. And that is exactly what happened in that film. Herzog lost a bet to Errol Morris: he never thought the latter would finish his Gates of Heaven. And so... 

IDFA viewing tip Wednesday 25 November: deadly drug gangs

Today's IDFA viewing tip is directly opposite yesterday's. Yesterday was uplifting and heartwarming. Cartel Land, on the other hand, is hard, raw, unpleasant and brutal. It could hardly be otherwise, as Matthew Heineman's film is about the war on drugs in Mexico and Arizona, which is just north of it. At the risk of... 

IDFA viewing tip 24 November: Tablas take over New York

Today's IDFA viewing tip is the kind of film I normally stay away from: a feel-good film that is stylistically neat, but nowhere innovative. And yet I went flat and with me the whole audience. Why? For the same reason that a group of men with tablas and sitar gets the Jazz at Lincoln Center flat. The combination of western... 

IDFA viewing tip for Monday 23 November

Today's IDFA viewing tip is for a special film about a special man, Sun Mu. That's not his real name, it means 'without borders'. And that is very appropriate for this artist. For years, he was a successful propaganda artist for the regime in North Korea. Until he ventured the great crossing. He swam (literally!) to freedom and has been living since the... 

IDFA viewing tip for Friday 20 November

For 500 years, Hieronymus Bosch has captured the imagination. His paintings remain enormously expressive, even though we may now have lost sight of the ecclesiastical context. In the run-up to the major retrospective that the North Brabant Museum is organising next year, a selection of Dutch art historians and curators will set out to examine Bosch's paintings. What... 

IDFA viewing tip for Thursday 19 November

Can there be beauty in an atomic bomb? Or in the explosion of a nuclear reactor? I don't think so, but I'm going to find out tonight. In Atomic Living, filmmaker/writer/presenter/producer Mark Cousins explores what that's really like, living in the atomic age. Because in addition to the horrors, we also have X-rays and other extremely useful medical applications. Once again, he uses... 

Dancing on the Edge festival started with a sense of urgency.

At Amsterdam's Brakke Grond, the Dancing on the Edge festival (DOTE) opened yesterday with an evening that immediately showed what the span is all about. The first performance, Blank, engaged directly with the audience. The second, and official opening performance, Plastic, was more about the dynamics between the performers themselves and with the soundscape. With her opening speech 

Watch tip: We Are Jung, We Are Stark

It is not often that a film about an event in 1992 is so poignantly topical. That was when a group of some 300 right-wing radicals set fire to an asylum seekers' centre in Rostock. Miraculously, no one died then. But it did scar many for life. Among them was the director of Wir Sind Jung, Wir Sind Stark. Filmmaker and son of... 

People are interested in people. 4 Essential lessons in master class by Pierre Audi.

In a full University Theatre on Tuesday 6 October, Pierre Audi gave a master class for young singers, dramaturgs and directors. Three scenes had been prepared by the students and were then expertly filleted by Audi. "Sorella, que dici?.... Prenderò quel brunettino", from Mozart's Così fan tutte began as a scene of two punk girls gripped by consumerism. The director and trainee dramatists... 

Chantal Akerman: 'I cannot see myself, because I am myself'

Not many directors have become very iconic very young. Chantal Akerman was, both for experimental film and feminist. She broke through in 1975 with Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, a film that is as disruptive as it is understated. It is her most important work, and also her most radical. The protagonist leads an existence of... 

Monks and hippies in search of enlightenment

Among the dozens of film festivals in this country, there is one that forms a small island of tranquillity and contemplation. The Buddhist Film Festival Europe, now in its 10th year, is a multi-day festival with, about and by Buddhists, or Buddhist-inspired. Now that everyone is all mindful, we go back to the source with festival director 

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