Talking Oscars with the Dutch

Talking Oscars with the Dutch

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In February each year we are all anxious to see who will receive an Academy Award, or "Oscar", at the biggest awards night in the film industry.

Unfortunately this year no Dutch films, directors or actors have been nominated. So instead - to avoid any awkward silences if you’re discussing the Academy Awards with a Dutch person - we’re diving into film history for you.

Dutch Academy Award winners

We look at eight Dutch actors, directors and films that have all won an award at the biggest night in showbiz. So sit back and relax, here’s what you need to know (and which names to drop) when talking Oscars with the Dutch.

1. Audrey Hepburn, "Princess Ann" in Roman Holiday, Best Actress (1953)

1953 was the first year that the Academy Awards ceremony was televised. And who appeared on the tiny screen in millions of homes to accept her award and speak these modest words, "Too much... I am truly, truly grateful and terribly happy"?

Yes, this charmingly skinny young woman of 24, whose real name was Audrey Kathleen Ruston (daughter of a British banker and a Dutch baroness) actually grew up in the Netherlands.

Audrey Hepburn was nominated five times in all for best actress and will be remembered forever for her role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Did you know that her debut as a film actress was acutally in a Dutch feature film? No? Then read on!

2. Bert Haanstra, director of Glass, Best Short Documentary (1958)

The Dutch remember Haanstra (1916-1997) for his funny documentaries like Alleman (The Human Dutch, 1963, voice Peter Ustinov and Simon Carmiggelt) and feature films like Fanfare (1958).

Despite winning an Oscar for his short documentary Glass, Haanstra should have also won for his magnificent drama film Dokter Pulder zaait papavers (Doctor Pulder Sows Poppies) which screened in 1975. If you’ve mastered some Dutch, seek out a copy of this often overlooked film. It’s wonderfully acted and filmed.

3. Charles Huguenot van der Linden, director of This Tiny World, Best Short Documentary (1973)

Charles Huguenot van der Linden (1909-1987) was a Dutch filmmaker who is now completely forgotten. For over fifty years he made beautiful films which were far ahead of his time. Unfortunately he never got his breakthrough.

In 1948 he made a funny short film for KLM, which was called Nederlands in zeven lessen (Dutch in seven lessons). This film is worth watching because it was the film debut of Audrey Hepburn. And yes, she is speaking Dutch and she looks ravishing.

Imagine, Audrey Hepburn's first acting lines were in Dutch! She says:
"Ik ben stewardess bij de KLM" (I am a stewardess for KLM)
"Moet je me zien in mijn pakje" (you should see me in my ensemble...)
and at the end: "Goodbye!"

Twenty-five years after this short film, Huguenot van der Linden heard that he was nominated for a short documentary about antique toys. He couldn’t imagine himself ever winning this big prize, so he didn’t bother to fly across the ocean. Instead, the American ambassador presented the Oscar to him in The Hague.

4. Børge Ring, director of Anna & Bella, Best Animated Short Film (1984)

Børge Ring (1921) shows two sisters looking and laughing at photos of their younger days together. It’s a poignant eight-minute film which has a surprisingly bitter ending.

5. Fons Rademakers, director of The Assault (De Aanslag), Best Foreign Language Film (1986)

Based on the novel of the same name, this film is about an assault in the Second World War and how it affected several people after the war.

The Assault was directed and produced by Fons Rademakers (1920-2007) whose 13 films were mostly very successful in the Netherlands.

6. Marleen Gorris, director of Antonia’s Line (Antonia), Best Foreign Language Film (1995)

Marleen Gorris (1948) won international acclaim directing this authentic story about friendship, desire and love.

Described as a "feminist fairy tale", the film centres around an independent woman (played by Willeke van Ammelrooy), her mother, daughter and granddaughter.

A year later Gorris went international by successfully filming Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs Dalloway (1997) starring, amongst others, Vanessa Redgrave.

7. Mike van Diem, director of Character (Karakter), Best Foreign Language Film (1997)

Character is an excellent adaptation of the famous Dutch novel of the same name. The plot is set in pre-World War II Rotterdam and deals with the bizarre relationship between a tyrannical father and his son.

Van Diem (1957) is a director of very few films. His second cinema film Surprise, a romantic comedy, was screened only last year.

8. Michael Dudok de Wit, director of Father and Daughter, Best Animated Short Film (2000)

The Dutch illustrator Michael Dudok de Wit designed a magic story about a daughter whose father vanished when she was just a little girl. This moving short film is Dutch to the core, showing the characteristics of our landscape and culture: water, dike, polder, bicycles, wind and rain.

The Dutch at the Oscars

So this is the modest harvest of 60 years of Dutch filmmaking: one actress, three feature films, two animated shorts and two documentaries have won Oscars.

The Netherlands, however, has many other excellent filmmakers in store: Alex van Warmerdam, Paul Verhoeven, Jim Taihuttu, Paula van der Oest and Maria Peters, just to mention a few. We are looking forward to more Oscar nominations soon.

What's your favourite Dutch film? Do you think it should have won an Oscar?

Ruud Hisgen is managing director of the Direct Dutch Institute, one of the oldest language institutes in The Hague.

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Ruud Hisgen


Ruud Hisgen

Ruud is teacher and managing director at Direct Dutch, he is also an author.

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