SEE NL #18

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Berlinale feature presentation

Play it again Sam Sam de Jong

Young Dutch director Sam de Jong has enjoyed a meteoric rise since his graduation short Magnesium was chosen for Sundance 2013, reports Geoffrey Macnab. Now his debut feature Prince opens Berlinale Generation 14plus. The subject matter of Magnesium was brutal. This was a film about a young gymnast awaiting an abortion. Its “engaged storytelling” (as the director describes it) caught the imagination of American audiences. A second short, Marc Jacobs, a coming of age film about a young Moroccan kid who never sees his father and is desperate to own Marc Jacobs sunglasses, was also well received – and selected for Berlinale Shorts 2014. Now, de Jong has US agency support (through UTA) and has completed his debut feature Prince, an equally hard hitting drama, this time about a troubled teenager. “I started reflecting on Magnesium which I liked as a short film and as a grad movie but I didn’t think it was the tone of voice I wanted to pursue as a director,” de Jong comments on what

led him to develop and make Prince. “All my previous work is within the realm of social realism. For Prince, I wanted to go way beyond that. It started out as a social realist story with non-professional actors from a poor part of town. It evolves into a more surreal piece of work.” The film starts from a conventional enough premise. It is about four kids growing up, wanting to be rock stars and wanting to “have respect and status.” The early scenes are shot in downbeat, documentary style but as de Jong tries to reflect the dreams of his characters, the style changes. “It becomes more like a music video in a way,” the director suggests. “For instance, when he gets new shoes and feels super cool, we are almost in a Grease-like musical vibe where we are steadycamming and spinning 360 around him.” In Prince, De Jong elaborates, he wanted to begin in a sober, Bresson-like way but then to make the film “more dynamic and dark and more dramatically lit” as it progressed. De Jong has always moved easily between documentary and drama. Prince has elements of both. One of its main actors, Ayoub Elasri, is the same boy who appeared in Marc Jacobs. The film was made through Amsterdam-based production company 100% Halal, with whom de Jong has worked since his film

school days. “They were young guys just starting their company and I had just started filmmaking. We connected.” Prince received backing from the Netherlands Film Fund through its new low budget scheme.

‘It evolves into a more surreal piece of work’

De Jong enjoyed working quickly and on a small budget. “I liked the energy and that you had no time to doubt your decision,” he states. “It was a very stimulating way to work because I felt completely trusted by them (the Fund). They gave me good feedback on the script. Their vision is to give as much freedom as possible, even to give us the possibility to fail or experiment.” The feature was also supported by global youth media company VICE Media, which is helping to devise an online campaign for Prince in advance of its release in June. And with the film only just completed, de Jong is already working on several new movies, he confides. Still in his early 20s, de Jong is quickly racking up credits. Alongside other young directors like Morgan Knibbe and Sjoerd Oostrik, he is part of what some are billing as a “new wave” in Dutch cinema. “I think there are a few young filmmakers standing up and making new things that are becoming pretty interesting. I definitely feel there is a new generation coming up and, of course, I feel part of that,” the director declares. Prince Director: Sam de Jong Script: Sam de Jong Production: 100% Halal in co-production with VICE Media

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