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  • Catarina Neves Ricci: The filmmaker behind OF AMSTERDAM

    desktop63 The independent documentary OF AMSTERDAM is a poetic rendition of the issues affecting artists in the capital in the midst of the government cuts. Talking to international artists based in Amsterdam in December 2010, Catarina Neves Ricci explores through a range of mediums (interviews, music and dance) the changing sphere of the arts and what it means to those who have built a base here. The topic of immigration in OF AMSTERDAM works as a tool to help us look into questions from a different perspective according to the background of the artist. Thus, through the tricky relationship between art, money and immigration, Catarina beautifully engages with the opportunities and disadvantages artists are having to face in the current economic climate. Here, the Portuguese 28 year old filmmaker discusses artistic independence, documentary making and her perspective on the government arts cuts.



    Why did you choose to work in this documentary independently?

    Because I want to follow my own rules, I want to be faithful to myself and think independently, these are the main reasons. I want to have the power to choose and to be conscious and proud of my work. If I have a producer telling me what to choose, how and when to do it, it becomes really hard. I work with art, and my creativity is impossible to command. As everybody’s creativity, right? Cinema for me, the things I write and my aesthetics are of course very personal as well as the subjects I choose to discuss so I want to be sure that I do it in the most honest way.

    Do you find that honesty is harder to achieve when money rules?

    If you are supported by a producer and he/she has all the money for the production of “your” film that film is no longer yours… He/she will decide on your script, the material you will use to shoot it, the casting, days of shooting, in the end all your schedule, all your choices, your life! I absolutely don’t want that, at least for this film- OF AMSTERDAM- I couldn’t do it at all. I am not saying that money is not needed, or that big budgets are a terrible thing, it’s not that of course, but in my experience honesty is easiest to achieve if you work independently, without thinking on how to make money out of it. Since that is the function of a producer, I have chosen to be the producer of my own film.   ‘Because you don’t make art to make money, you make art because you have to make it’ ( a quote by Jeanette Jansen from OF AMSTERDAM)… Exactly! That is what OF AMSTERDAM is about.

    Is OF AMSTERDAM art or entertainment?

    I think in some moments the film can feel like entertainment but I wouldn’t call it entertainment because the subjects that are discussed are too serious and my aim behind OF AMSTERDAM, what drove me to it was something so personal and serious that I am not sure if calling it entertainment is possible. But I definitely wanted to do a beautiful thing, beautiful in terms of aesthetics and photography so indeed in some moments you may be entertained, there are certainly performances to watch throughout the film. However I mainly wanted to document a subject. So it’s a real time document! I think that is why some people love it and understand it and feel touched by it, and maybe others don’t. I think it’s a film for people interested and concerned about those particular subjects (art/ Amsterdam/culture/ immigration); I never wanted and I was never worried (!) about making a film which everybody would go mad for. I wanted to do this film for myself and then give it to Amsterdam and its artists. A real time document!   Documentaries often have ‘writers’.

    How do you write a film which is, in many ways, going to choose its own path?

    There are usually two ways to make a documentary; two kinds of directors: those who want to control as much as possible the production and those possible paths (because of budget usually, but also to organize as much as possible their own ideas for their work and schedule), and those who cannot write a script because you never know what’s going to happen in the meantime, after all it is a documentary you are making. That is what I am like! I have a “kind of” script, you always have to have something similar to it, in my opinion. So I have a line, I have subjects I want to stress, I have questions to make. I also have some shots that are very clear to me and I am like that as a director, at least in something as a documentary. I am very sure about the essence of it and what I want it to look like, so I choose very early in the process some direction lines as in shots, art direction, photography. For this film I wrote a story but not a script. I had between 10 to 15 pages of a proposal with an introduction, subjects, some of the shots I wanted for each one of the artists, etc.

    ‘About art, about politics, about immigration, about education’. Was this a collection of themes you were interested in before deciding to make a film about Amsterdam or did the process of making this film resulted in these being the overall themes?

    Yes, those themes took me to OF AMSTERDAM. Those were the subjects I wanted to touch upon. Of course during the shooting and because nothing was “closed” some subjects became more important than others. That is natural. And that’s actually one of the things I’ve heard the most from the audience about OF AMSTERDAM and why they liked it, they say it’s very realistic, those guys are “real”. I didn’t force anybody to say anything! I interviewed like 20 something artists and I chose those 6 because of that: with them I could have each one of those subjects naturally; for example with Hugo (one of the artists) I would naturally stress more the education, with Hércules the politics, with Mariangela the situation of art in Amsterdam/ the Netherlands. I let themselves be themselves. I wanted my film to be about art, politics, etc., through REAL people, REAL artists.

    And you found that in the Netherlands over all the other places you have lived ( Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Spain)? Do you think Amsterdam inspires art?

    I wasn’t even living in Amsterdam at that time. What made me shoot OF AMSTERDAM was actually what was happening in the city in those days. For the first time in the recent history of Holland a real huge cut on the subsidies for art and culture was being implemented. This happened in September 2010, and from then on there were demonstrations all over the city, people were discussing the subject every day and outside. Artists and art supporters were making themselves heard, it was on the news. What the government was planning to do in the end was actually shutting down some museums, theatres, art institutes, and cutting funds that were the only way for independent artists to continue. So people were really concerned about this, going out and discussing this. And I wanted to have a document about it all! I thought: someone has to document this period of time where people are trying to make others (and the politicians) understand the importance of art and artists. Can you imagine a city without its artists? It would be depressing! They make things alive, they inspire discussions and they make you reconsider your reality and stereotypes

    Do you think that the discussions around the cuts have kick started discussions about art and its place in society, so ironically the cuts have given even more fuel to artists to work independently and find creative ways to carry on being artists?

    Yes indeed! That is also what I wanted to achieve with this film: I support this fight more than anything but I don’t look at these cuts as the end of the world. After all I chose to do this film independently. This will always be a very controversial question. I come from a background, a country that rarely supported its artists. I mean right now there’s no longer a ministry of culture in Portugal! But artists we have always had. So how do this people survive? They have to find ways, they have to be creative! My point is I never known those glorious days like there were in the Netherlands, that’s why for me this was an amazing topic. I understand these artists and I respect them a lot and I joined them in this discussion, look at my film! I understand that financial support is something that is really important because it allows artists to work without having to think about money matters all day and that is actually how it should be, of course! But I also know how is to do it without. In the countries I have lived, I’ve never seen anything – not even similar- to this amount of subsidies and funds. I have lived in Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Argentina. In these countries you have always made art with very little! I wanted to shoot OF AMSTERDAM to show how things were changing and to try to make some people responsible to think about the consequences of those attitudes and those attitudes are absolutely bad. However at the same time trying to also pass on a positive message to artists out there: please don’t give up, fight for it! If in the end the government goes ahead with these cuts we will have to get together, join each other and find other ways!

    Don’t miss the  Premiere anniversary screening on Saturday | February 2nd, 18:00| SMART Project Space  
    For more information on the documentary: http://www.ofamsterdamdocumentary.com/ For updates and future screenings: http://www.facebook.com/pages/OF-AMSTERDAM-Documentary/144856158915392?fref=ts For Catarina’s personal Page: http://catarinanevesricci.tumblr.com/


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