YIDFF 2009 International Competition
The New Rijksmuseum
An Interview with Oeke Hoogendijk (Director)

Renovation from Within

Q: Your previous films dealt with the Holocaust, a subject that is very personal for you. What processes allowed you to make this particular filmpersonal for you?

OH: As you mentioned, my previous films dealt with a topic that I was connected to naturally, so to speak, in that my mother was a Holocaust survivor. That being said, I prefer to make films on subjects I choose myself and on subjects that I am personally linked to. However, for this particular film, I was approached by a producer who wanted me to take on the project of documenting the renovation of the Rijksmuseum. It was difficult in the beginning and I thought long and hard as to whether this project was a fit for me. But, in the end, I went for it.

There are about 400 employees working for and/or in the Rijksmuseum, so the research involved in making this film was a lot of work; talking to everyone in order to collect as much information about the procedures equated with such a massive endeavor. It took about one year to really get into the subject and know whom I had to talk to and whom I did not. Once I started to speak with people, I began to form connections with them and I realized the project of renovating the museum was so huge that the employees also had to reinvent themselves. I met with them to have a coffee or tea and gradually our conversations and relationship became more intimate. They opened up to me, revealing what was bothering them, in turn, creating new and provocative story lines. Thus, I also formed an intimate relationship to the museum through them, receiving a better appreciation of what filming is about. I learned to improvise because in the beginning I was holding on to the script and suddenly I thought, “It is no use,” so I had to throw it out and start from zero and focus on what was really happening.

Q: After you screened the film in the Netherlands, what were some of the reactions by the citizens, museum administrators, government officials, etc?

OH: The Cyclist Union was a bit upset because they felt their portrayal in the movie was too far to one side. They felt their arguments and concerns were not presented in its entirety, resulting in a caricature like image of them. However, for the museum administrators and other citizens, the screening was well received. I often heard things like, “It’s amazing,” and, “How could we have let this happen?” Now the museum is using the film to get more support, which was not my intention. Even the Minister of Culture was at the film and he said the Cyclist Union might have been allowed to go too far. On a larger scale, the government is beginning to readdress the structure of certain areas of the political system in terms of the amount of power given to district councils. I am pleased about this because I would have never thought this film would have had such an impact. My goal was to make art, but it is nice when things like this happen.

Q: What advice would you give to those interested in making their own documentary film?

OH: Always follow your own intuition. Try to tap into and listen to your inner voice and find a form for it to be able to put in your film . . . and I believe this is a lesson for our whole life.

(Compiled by Isom Winton)

Interviewers: Isom Winton, Nomura Yukihiro
Photography: Murakami Yumiko / Video: Chiku Hiroko / 2009-10-12