Joris Postema


Filmmaking is much more of a reflection of our own backgrounds.

Perhaps the philosophy of Anaïs Nin, "We don’t see the things as they are, we see them the way we are," is indeed emblematic of all of Joris Postema's work? Doxy has had a long-standing relationship with filmmaker Joris Postema. When Doxy was still Keydocs, his documentary "Daan’s Inheritance" – about the consequences of having an ambitious artist as a parent and the son of Ed van der Elsken - premiered at IDFA. Joris is always conscious of the lens through which he films his stories. With that awareness, his documentaries not only offer insight into the subjects filmed, into other worlds like Rwanda, Congo, but also into his soul as a creator.

First experience with Doxy? "I worked with Harmen Jalvingh on a film about the depressed son of Ed van der Elsken called 'Daan’s Inheritance,' and we ended up at Janneke Doolaard, who was leading KeyDocs at the time. Almost immediately, the film was funded, and we could start making it. The film premiered at IDFA. I still find the theme of that film very intriguing. We all appreciate the art of Ed van der Elsken. But often, it's the case that artists only focus on their art. And then, children are somewhat in the way. With Michael Jackson, we were briefly angry, because, well, pedophilia. Now, his music is back to being played normally. I find that a very interesting phenomenon. Do you have a work ethos? "I do believe that you have to go through things to achieve something" When I started making my first film, I spoke with Mart Dominicus – he's like a documentary guru at the Film Academy. He said, 'Talent is not what matters in the documentary world. It's about perseverance. The only thing that determines whether you make it or not is whether you keep going. You have to face every rejection and every difficulty. Just keep going. Of course, you have to have talent, otherwise, you won't make it anyway. What you want to achieve mostly concerns your own definition. It's not about what the outside world thinks. With films, that may be easier to measure because it's just per film. With every film, I can measure: well, this is really the best we could do.'" What was your journey like to filmmaking? "I didn't go to film school, but I studied economics at the UVA. Somewhere in the mid-nineties, I wrote a thesis about the ethical inevitability of implementing a basic income. Because I was in a football team with an editor from NOS, I got a part-time job making slow-motion shots for sports events on television. I was good at it, so then I started editing matches and topics. Eventually, they said, 'Why don't you direct?' So, I directed football matches for a while too. Through that route, I learned to make television. But music was my first love. I always made music, and I thought, 'One day, we'll make it big.'" In short, could I have been interviewing a successful musician now? "Well, I found it very difficult in music because I always worked with very good friends and then ended up in unpleasant arguments. Making films is much easier. When we film, I go with a cameraman and a sound technician somewhere. We just agree: we're going to film this and that, and we discuss it with the cameraman and the sound technician. And then we just do it. I'm pretty bad at doing things halfway. So I either do them very well or not at all. I had a lot of bands. Starring Lisa did quite well. My role was always singer, guitarist, and songwriter." But now I'm sitting here with a documentary maker? "Yes, at some point, I realized that the breakthrough as a musician probably wasn't going to happen. So then I focused on my second love: documentary. How did I do it? I know a lot about sports. I wanted to make a film about sports with a societal undertone. So I started searching a lot. Every week, I bought Voetbal International to see if there was something I could work with. And there I found the story of Erik te Paske. He was the coach of a football club in Rwanda. I ultimately made a film about that club: FC Rwanda. It was selected for IDFA in 2013. And then so many doors opened." Was that an AHA moment? "I found it really great that you could tell a story in this way. I'm not a journalist, so I don't have to fact-check everything! Plus, I just really like the people in the documentary world. I had worked in sports television for a hundred years and maybe made two friends. In no time, I was in a much more enjoyable world. With bands, there's always a democratic process that doesn't work. If you want to understand how democracy doesn't work, just follow a band. You can't make decisions with four people." You made "Stop Filming Us": how did you come up with this idea? "I was once in Goma, a city in Congo, in 2010 on assignment for a Dutch NGO to make a video about all the good things they were doing there. What I found very intense: I couldn't do anything myself. I had to be picked up from Rwanda in a big car and driven across the border. I slept in a house with a security guard and a gate. I was given all these keys and a panic button, and there was even a hidden room, and I don't know what else. I couldn't even walk the streets myself. It felt like hell. I thought, how can anyone live here as a normal person? If it's so dangerous? I wanted to make a film about that." A very different type of film than the NPO film, I assume? "A few years later, I went back. With a local NGO of people from Goma. They were supposed to pick me up at the border. But... They weren't there at the agreed time. So I walked across the border into Northeast Congo by myself. At that time, it was probably the most dangerous place in the world, if you Googled it. My phone wasn't working either, so I couldn't call. Well, this is it, I thought. That lasted about half an hour. Then I was picked up after all. In that half hour, I probably had eight conversations with really nice people who just happened to pass by." And then? "Then I got in the car, was taken to a hotel without all those security things, and we just went for a beer in the evening. When we walked back, I thought, how can it be that we in the Netherlands think it's so damn dangerous? While the people who live there? They just get up in the morning, drink their coffee, go to work... It's not fundamentally different. And YES, there is a lot of misery and trouble and danger, and there is sexual abuse, rape, militias... and also hunger. So we shouldn't ignore that. But it's not like when you walk in there, you get shot in the head right away." What do you think makes that difference? "It's because we here in the North represent Africa. Here, we only see things made by us. So we perpetuate our own stereotypical image, and based on that stereotype, more NGOs and more people from the UN go to Africa. A lot of representation comes from NGOs. They obviously have an interest in not having a too positive story. Because otherwise, what are they doing there? I find that so skewed and also very intriguing. That's why I started making a film about it. Due to our colonial past, there's a kind of power imbalance, with all kinds of privileges that we're naturally not or hardly aware of." But you're also looking through a white lens? "It's just very difficult to become truly aware of your own perspective. I'm doing well here because I was born in the Netherlands, I'm white, and I'm also a man. So I really have all seven privilege boxes checked, and I realize that. By which lens we look, should always be a huge theme. The local crew were just friends I've known for a long time. So I said to them: 'We're going to make this film together, but please: intervene if I do something stupid. Do it and tell me!' And they took that to heart. It was very painful at times, but also really good. And I think that's ultimately what the film is about. If you don't understand where you're going and what your privileges are, then things go wrong. I don't think we, as white people, will ever fully understand it all, but at least you can try. What you film often says much more about where you come from than about the people there." How was the perception of the film there? "The most beautiful thing is: there's been an African response to the film. There was a viewing in Goma, and I was there via WhatsApp. People either find the film a real eye-opener – or they think it's really bad. In Goma, the film was shown at a big festival. The audience asked: 'Can we not have the raw footage? Then we'll make a much better version.' 'Of course!' was our answer. So with them, we asked for money from the Film Fund. Then they made their own version, which they called 'Stop Filming Us but Listen.' This film premiered here in the Netherlands at Movies that Matter. The renowned Congolese director Petna Ndaliko, who lives in America, even made a film about the editing process of 'Stop Filming Us, but Listen.' So it became a sort of triptych." Do you understand their version? "I find their response very interesting because it says so much about how you look at things. People who knew Africa well and saw the film said: yes, this is what Africa is like. You throw something into the group, it goes around a bit, and then it comes back. It's much more of a circular process: also making a film. In the West, a story always has to go from A to B. Every Hollywood movie is from A to B. But Congolese culture is not like that at all. We have to realize that it has a different narrative structure than what we learn. The interesting thing is that we implicitly believe that we are better. At one point, it was very hot, and I don't really like socks, so I always put on flip-flops as quickly as possible. We had a very important appointment in Goma. I asked my producer there, 'Can I wear flip-flops?' He looked at me, and all he said was, 'Would you do that in the Netherlands?' Ouch, confronting! If I have such an important appointment, I would dress more neatly." What are you working on now? "I'm currently making a film about the climate with the working title 'The Inconvenience of Being Right.' The previous working title was 'The System.' Once you accept that the climate crisis exists, and you break through all the mourning, denial, and cognitive dissonance as a human being, then you understand that it's systemic. You can add another solar panel to your roof or eat even less meat and never fly again... but that won't save the climate. We all have to fly less and stop eating meat. Once you understand that, you actually have to explain to people that it's systemic. That's the same as with institutional racism and colonialism... if you understand it a bit, then you have to name it, of course." What stage is the film you're making now in? "We're currently financing it, and I'm spending a lot of time with the characters from the film. KRO-NCRV has joined the project, and the Dutch Film Fund is also on board. And recently, we applied with a co-producer at the VAF, from which we received a positive outcome. My wish for this film is that viewers understand that the resistance we feel as humans to really change is widespread, but that we still have to do it. If we don't want the earth to perish, then we really have to take action. It's a systemic thing. A better climate starts with a different system. And whatever you want to call it: capitalist or fascist, I don't care: something really fundamental has to change from the top to be able to change it from the bottom. The climate crisis is a form of exploitation. We in the North naturally cause that bulk." How long does it take you to make this film? "I'm working on these kinds of films for a long time, Really about three years. I almost have a film done now. That took me seven years: 'Be The Fool.' So these projects are often long. So I have a lot of perseverance, but I've also made a film in just one year before. Be the Fool is about an illustrious art collective: three Dutch people and an Englishman; two couples. They designed clothes for The Beatles and for The Hollies, basically for all the bands back then. They were super successful for two years, and then they fell apart a bit and fell into oblivion. The British-Dutch couple has been living in Amsterdam since the eighties. Their children wanted to tell this story once and for all. They promised their parents that. They started looking for the people from back then and the places from back then. It's quite a bizarre story that no one knows. There's also a part in it, which I still find fascinating, that's about the fanaticism of artists. If you're so dedicated to art, then you also damage things. So those children sometimes had a hard time. That's the same as with my earlier film about Ed van der Elsken." Will you ever do something else? "Documentary is my narrative form. I really love music. Only: it doesn't go together so I have to choose. Documentary, I can make a living from. I really like that I get to tell a story. If I'm fascinated by something and then get to make a story about it that people watch... That's magical."

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