Johan van der Keuken

Johan van der Keuken – Het oog boven de put AKA The Eye Above the Well (1988)

A poetic depiction of life and ritual in the south Indian state of Kerala. We see how knowledge is passed down from generation to generation: within the family, through the village economy, and especially from teachers to students. Performance footage shows how song, dance, martial arts, and religion constitute the building blocks of a culture. Read More »

Johan van der Keuken – De Meester en de Reus aka the master and the giant (1980)

Between documentary and fiction, The master and the giant approaches the topic of the rivalry in the creation: a first God created the world, a second God destroyed it to build one new, better. Myth and reality meet in this film that puts in scene two different universes: a man and a woman in a neighborhood in demolition of Amsterdam, and images of the life in the confines of the tunecian Sahara. (Written in collaboration with Claude Ménard.) Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »

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. Read More »