Written by: FFT Webmaster | November 23rd, 2011
It was perhaps the perfect IDFA double bill, despite the fact that one film started at 10:00am and the other at 10:00pm (same day though). Two new Dutch documentaries that aim the camera inward to dissect two of Holland’s most infamous and wildly progressive cultural icons: weed and sex. Of course, the Dutch want to be recognized for other contributions, but the openness with which they have embraced the human needs for transcendence and fulfillment have always put them at the head of the list in my book. America, you’ve got a lot to learn from those Dutch (hey, I could have been a proud citizen of New Amsterdam if New York’s fate had been different). But back to the weed and the sex…….
In DUTCH WEED, part of the IDFA and Film Fund Present series, co-directors Maaik Krijgsman and Hans Pool dig deep into the Dutch cannabis industry, which is in the process of losing its idealistic innocence and possibility its license to thrill. There are forces in the right wing of the Dutch government that want to reverse the liberal policy for marijuana and hashish in this city that has existed since the 1970s, and limit “coffee houses” to Dutch citizens with ids. Starving off one of Holland’s most intriguing tourist attractions could mean a drastic drop in “drug tourism” and an economic drag on magnet cities like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. The ban to sell small amounts of marijuana and hashish, as well as a wide array of “smart drugs”, is still being debated in the halls of government, with a federal versus region drawing of lines in the sand. In DUTCH WEED, we see the intricate supply system that has made hemp a larger cash crop than tulips, as well as the interactions between growers, coffee shop owners and a government that keeps changing the rules of the game. Why Holland would want to forego with tourism euros and tax income from the trade in the middle of an economic crisis is rather baffling, but it reflects a sharp division between those who relish Holland’s reputation as a safe haven for all groups, and those who are alarmed by the ebbing influence of the native Dutch population in a society where immigrants may soon dominate by sheer numbers.
When you’ve got a title named MEET THE FOKKENS, you know that you will get a sneer, a laugh, but mainly, get noticed. The title is not the most outrageous part of this Dutch documentary that made its premiere at IDFA last evening. The subject of the films are two twin women in their 70s, who have been working the red light district in Amsterdam for decades, and still ply their trade for men interested in more mature women. The film, which is competing in the IDFA Dutch Documentary race, is remarkably intimate with these women, as they recount their past conquests, speculate on the manipulative role men have played in their lives and relate how they have managed to survive all these years with verve, courage and confidence. Co-directors Gabrielle Provaas and Rob Schroder take us through the rundown neighborhoods where the women ply their trade and the humorless suburb where they reside. Where they are most feisty is in confronting the negative judgments coming from those outside the industry, who have labeled them as shameless whores. That this was not quite their free choice, but was coerced by their then-husbands who acted no different from pimps, gives the film a poignant edge. There are definitely regrets in these women’s souls but for the most part, they are amazingly strong, eternally optimistic, and alive with a wicked sense of humor.
The film has its campy elements, to be sure. Several scenes with one of the twins dressed up in full leather gear, acting the senior dominatrix, is a hoot….but funny, sad and perverse at the same time. The two sisters’ repartee as they recount their adventures in the world of money-for-sex is often ruthless and downright bitchy. The audience was heard to cackle as these grandmas described the tricks of the trade and how they would fake the orgasm that their clients mainly failed to have. However, underneath all the camp, this is a serious film about what happens to legal workers in a sex trade that has many regulations to protect them. In the film, the system has not failed the sisters……it is the sense of coercion leading to loss that haunts the film like a specter. These women are too savvy to fall into self-pity, but the filmmakers make us wonder…..how would these women’s lives be different if fate had turned a different corner? No apologies, some regrets, hats off to people who exult in who they are.