CEO Filmhuis Den Haag
Cinemas and their role bridging the gaps between groups and ideas.
As European cities grow larger and more diverse, density of cultures and opinions increases. The population is segregated along more ideological lines, often more diffuse and sometimes even explosive.
Conflicts can inspire exciting films, but we would like to keep our environment harmonious. Remember West Side Story? However beautifully depicted, both visually and musically, no one wants to be in the position of the infatuated Puerto Rican Maria or the New Yorker Tony, personifications of antagonistic communities. Society thrives on mutual understanding and respect, so that love can prevail and people can be happy. No one truly enjoys conflict.
People have deliberated on the ideal of a harmonious society for thousands of years.
According to philosopher Hannah Arendt, an ‘expanded viewpoint’ is indispensable to this goal. You have to make an effort to understand and respect the ideas and opinions of others, regardless of your point of view. Sharing resources is easier when people empathise. This remains difficult, even more so as many never interact with an asylum seeker, a lesbian, or a Kurd.
Last year I spoke to a man aged sixty or so. He had seen the Oscar-winning film Moonlight, and for the first time in his life he had been able to empathise with the love that two men feel for each other. The film had opened his heart.
It is common knowledge that Dutch citizens of Turkish and Kurdish descent don’t always get along very well. Furthermore, within the Turkish community there are conflicting views on the government in Ankara. Still, they all grew up watching the same films and despite the political differences, they share a culture. It is this shared culture that we try to highlight in our Turkish-Kurdish film festival. Nevertheless, sensitivities remain and we asked ourselves questions like: Should we invite an acclaimed director, who also happens to fervently support Erdogan?
We spent much time weighing the tensions between left and right, progressive and conservative, religious and secular while choosing the films. In the end the festival was an enormous success. Turks and Kurds of all persuasions sat side by side in the cinemas. There were some fierce debates in the fringe programmes, but importantly the mutual understanding grew.
This illustrates how cinema can help empathy grow. A better world tomorrow starts with goodwill and respect today. The benefit for society of a festival like this is priceless as it helps form connections between distinct individuals and cultures, the foundation for living and working together at local, national and global levels.
I can’t wait for the cinemas to open again.