Martin Koolhoven • Schnitzel Paradise
by Boyd van Hoeij
- "Re-create a sense of social cohesion"
Two years after Het Zuiden, Dutch filmmaker Martin Koolhoven has returned to the screens with Schnitzel Paradise [+see also:
interview: Martin Khoolhoven
interview: Mimoun Oaïssa
film profile], a comedy made for the general public set against a Romeo and Juliet love story, starring Mounir Valentyn and Bracha van Doesburgh. The film, which focuses on the kitchen of a hotel restaurant – presented as a microcosm of contemporary multicultural Dutch society, has just been selected to screen at Karlovy Vary in the Variety Critics' Choice: Europe Now! sidebar section.
Cineuropa : Het Schnitzelparadijs (Schnitzel Paradise), a broad, crowd-pleasing comedy, represents a break from the small, artistic films that constitute your filmography. Why this change, and why now?
Martin Khoolhoven : I did not feel like a big change for me, in fact, I think the change of mentality or change in my filmography came between De grot (The cave) and Het zuiden (South) [his last and one-but-last films before Het Schnitzelparadijs]. I understand that people look at it in this way, however, as this is the first film for a big audience. I always wanted to make films like that too and the time seemed right to tackle some of the subjects that are treated in Het Schnitzelparadijs; I simply felt comfortable enough to be able to make this film the way I wanted to make it. Het Schnitzelparadijs was the first film that I made with the general public in mind, which creates a different kind of pressure when the film is about to be released. Everything looked promising upon release, but the figures still had to prove it.
What has been the influence of the socio-political situation in the Netherlands on the development of the film?
I had the distinct impression that the public discussions in the Netherlands overly dramatised and polarised the issues surrounding immigrants and integration; this was not at all something that I could see in my own experiences. I thought that there were more than enough things that bound "them" to "us" and vice versa, and I wanted to make a positive film about that. There are enough optimistic things to be said about the immigrant experience in the Netherlands, so the idea was to make a fun comedy that could create or re-create a sense of social cohesion for its viewers.
How important was the success of the culture clash comedy Shouf Shouf Habibi [the most visited Dutch film of 2004] for the making of this film?
First of all, I would prefer to speak of a “multicultural” rather than a “culture clash” comedy; Het Schnitzelparadijs is not really about a culture clash but is simply set in a multicultural environment. The script of Het Schnitzelparadijs [based on the homonymous 2001 novel by Khalid Boudou] had been in development before Shouf Shouf Habibi came out, though I came on board later. With regards to the success of Shouf, it certainly was easier to raise the money for this project, because that film had proven that a multicultural comedy could be successful. In terms of the film itself, however, it was a not really a reference for my own work.
Could we speak of a trend of Dutch multicultural comedies or films?
I hope so. I do not think it is a coincidence that these films are being made, and more are likely to come. These two films were hits both with the critics and the general public and they have proven that there is a market for films that deal with these themes and as with any kind of film that has had some success, it will spawn similar films. I just hope that people will not look at the phenomenon in a restrictive or narrow manner; what is the most important thing is that the films reflect the society from which they come. This has not happened for a long time in the Netherlands and we need to make up for it; perhaps with Shouf and Het Schnitzelparadijs we have started to bridge that gap.
Do you think there could be a Dutch Head-on [+see also:
film profile] [a brutally honest drama about two Turkish-German immigrants] somewhere down the line?
That would be great, but that is another step on the ladder; the filmmaker [Fatih Akin] is himself someone with an immigrant experience; something which I am not. In the Netherlands there are still very few actors and even fewer directors and screenwriters who come from that background. Perhaps this will get better in the future.
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