Johan van der Keuken – To Sang Fotostudio + Leven met je ogen aka Living with your eyes (1997)

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Description: Those familiar with van der Keuken’s films are aware of his extraordinary capacity to observe with a camera, to make the everyday magical and to slowly reveal the marvelous complexity of individuals’ lives. In his captivating new short, the delightful van der Keuken focuses on photography, in particular the extraordinary figure of a Chinese immigrant portrait photographer. A man of great authority, To Sang poses his various clients, all of whom work on the same street, with a precise sense of what constitutes a good photograph. He “directs” his clients into old- fashioned poses with a deft series of gestures: a Pakistani daughter stands between her visiting mother and father, a Kurdish son with his parents, a Surinamese travel agent sits alone. For van der Keuken, these photographs are “dream images,” more revealing of illusions and role-playing than reality. To Sang Fotostudio is not only a reflexive meditation on what an image is but also a complex portrait of a colorful, diverse neighborhood. Continue reading

Johan van der Keuken – De beeldenstorm AKA Iconoclasm AKA A storm of images (1982)

Amsterdam’s De Melkweg (The Milky Way) is a 1960’s-type counter-culture center, set up in what was once a milk factory. As-yet unknown musical groups, theatre companies and poets perform there… Freedom of expression is absolute, multiform and eclectic; an explosion of rhythms (from rock to New Wave to Afro-Caribbean), colours, words and images attracts a young and cosmopolitan audience with an uncertain future. Portrait of a generation. Continue reading

Johan van der Keuken – De Weg naar het Zuiden AKA The Way South (1981)

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The coronation of Queen Beatrix on the eve of May Day in 1980 provides a salient point of departure for Johan van der Keuken’s The Way South, a cultural interrogation into the intertwined sociopolitical landscape of immigration, dislocation, underprivilege, and class division. Continuing on the prevailing theme of economic disparity between the continental north and south (in such essay films as Diary, The White Castle, and the The New Ice Age), van der Keuken encounters his first destination within a short distance from his home in Amsterdam, where a unused office building on Kinker Street has been converted to a communal squat by activists (who see their action as a pragmatic solution to the affordable housing shortage by making use of existing real estate that would otherwise remain unoccupied). Facing an imminent siege by riot police to force their eviction, the squatters discuss the logistics of their staged resistance, from rounding up volunteers for round the clock sentry duty to guard the main entrance, to installing reinforcing screens in order to thwart a surprise intrusion from unsecured windows. Intercutting a shot of the activists protesting in the street with footage of a public rally celebrating the country’s liberation in 1945, van der Keuken presents the activists’ defiant expression of freedom within the irony of self-imprisonment that reveals their idealistic act of resistance. Continue reading

Johan van der Keuken – Het Oog boven de put AKA The Eye above the well (1988)

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Johan van der Keuken films in India, in Kérala, various situations of teaching or training: courses of a school of dance, songs, martial arts, a vedic school, a scene of theater. In counterpoint, the circulation of the money through the route of a small busy lender of countryside of village in village. It is a filmic movement which collects the gasoline of a civilization, the permanence of certain values of harmony and artistic discipline.

Note: Grand Prix with the Festival of Brussels, 1989. Continue reading

Johan van der Keuken – Face Value (1991)

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1990-1991: “Face Value” Awarded the Dutch Press Prize, Netherlands

Rejecting linear narrative storytelling, the director offers us an epic on humanity and cultural diversity in Europe through a multitude of appearances, a cartography of faces, the reflection of an imaginary Europe made up of London, Marseille, Prague and the Netherlands.

“Everything revolves around faces and the act of looking: the desire to show oneself, the fear of being seen, the impossibility of seeing oneself, the fear and desire of seeing the other. And, as well, within this theme of looking and seeing, the uncertain struggle for identity, the ferocious struggle for territory, the sweeping movements of love and death” (JVDK) Continue reading

Johan van der Keuken – I Love Dollars (1986)

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New York, Geneva, Hong Kong and Amsterdam are major hubs of the world’s economy. Great amounts of money circulate there, and whereas poverty is ubiquitous in the streets of New York, Geneva carefully protects its wealth behind impeccable facades.
No one is unaffected by the myth of the all-powerful Dollar: the under-privileged struggle to survive talking about their unattainable dreams, while businessmen, from the safe distance of their offices, lay down the tenets of their financial theories. Continue reading

Johan van der Keuken – Amsterdam Global Village + Amsterdam afterbeat (1996)

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From an interview about this film, conducted by Serge Toubiana,

Is Amsterdam Global Village intended to be the portrait of a city? Can one in fact portray a city?
– I don’t think you can portray anything, but you can build a city through film, using both fictional and direct cinema techniques, which I purposely blend. The constructivist concept is very important to me. At the end of the film, there is a dedication to my friend, the writer Bert Schierbeek, who died this year. Bert Schierbeek wrote: “I always felt that life was made up of 777 stories going on at the same time.” So I thought we could do 777 four-hour films about Amsterdam, even if it’s a small city. But you have to make choices, take risks. When you film you have to disregard certain realities in order to recreate something physical on the screen. In that way, it’s possible to portray a city. Continue reading