With a camera and sound man at her side the Chinese writer and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo wanders through Beijing. Her impressions of China, that still has one foot in the old communist system and the other turned toward the outside world, constitutes the ingredients of The Concrete Revolution. The film was shown last year at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Thanks to the Hivos-NCDO Culture fund, which selects 15 documentaries by filmmakers from Asia, Africa and Latin America for each of its annual festivals. These are films that would not necessarily reach the western world on their own.
The Hivos-NCDO Culture fund is devoted to increasing the Dutch public’s involvement in art from developing countries. "In my opinion, globalisation has made the world bigger,” says program worker Marinde Hurenkamp. "We are much more conscious of what is going on in the world. Through the media we can now communicate with the whole world. But at the same time, commercialization puts pressure on the news being offered. These documentaries not only teach us something about the world, but also show us someone’s personal vision of reality. It is extremely important for NCDO that people in the Netherlands come in contact with these ideas, stories and images. A film can contribute to a more carefully considered opinion and another view of development. People learn things they didn’t know. Moreover, these are very beautiful, creative films."
All the documentaries selected are socially motivated and contain stories about themes that are close to NCDO’s heart, such as equitable economic relationships and sustainable development. Documentaries from both established filmmakers and young talent are included in the regular program and in the competition. Frequently the filmmaker attends: the Culture fund also pays their travel and lodging costs. "It is important for filmmakers to be able to promote their work during IDFA and to be able to move within a professional circle," explains Marinde Hurenkamp. "After all, IDFA is the podium for the documentary film in the world, but their presence also enriches western filmmakers."
In addition to selecting the films, Hivos-NCDO also handles the distribution of documentaries (within the Netherlands) that are financed from the Jan Vrijman Fund for filmmakers from developing countries, which is affiliated with IDFA. The collaboration between IDFA and NCDO dates from 1993. This bundling of money and expertise with Hivos, which has taken place since 2004, is intended to make both funds more effective. "We share a number of principles with Hivos," explains Marinde Hurenkamp. "We also wanted to eliminate redundancy: now people only have to submit one financing request. Already both our logos frequently appeared on the same poster." 2005 was a pilot year for the Hivos-NCDO Culture fund. "Now we will see whether the budget of a million euros is adequate and whether we meet our objectives. It would be great if a third fund would join us," says Marinde Hurenkamp. "Up to now we have supported many films. It is an accessible medium. But more than just low threshold and broad scope are involved. We want the work of artists from developing countries to acquire significance. That can also be theatre or visual arts. Perhaps fewer people attend, but we still find it important to support these efforts. They allow people to look at each other differently."