Film & History in the Netherlands
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 2, Number 4, December 1972
- pp. 79-84
- Additional Information
speaking roles and locals for extras and nonspeaking parts. The most difficult acting assignment is that ofplaying a real person convincingly. Amateur actors who have done magnificently in local theatre productions are unlikely to do well with real person reenactments. Dialogue written by professional writers who are not super specialists in colonial language must often be translated into the proper idiom. Not all historians can do this. As a matter of fact most colonial historians are not interested in or concerned with such detail. Thus a consultant may do very well with more scholarly information but be unable to provide information on necessary everyday situations. In Williamsburg, research teams are frequently used in planning films. For a complex subject, the practical historian is supported by subject specialists, architectural researchers, curators, and archaeologists. The result ofthese collaborations not only helps resolve differences of opinion but also takes advantage of a greater depth of knowledge. Although Colonial Williamsburg's film program is a limited and specialized activity, experience has determined its decisions-a necessary procedure in the absence ofpublished guidelines. Almost any serious documentary reenactment requires six or more months of intensive practical research and detailing. Failure to explore every single detail for authenticity, fact, style, and appropriateness may result in serious weaknesses in the finished film. Finally there is the matter ofthe film crew. Colonial Williamsburg has been fortunate in locating extremely able and conscientious film makers who have been willing to accept and to require the premise of good research. In the process of translating an idea to a finished film, even the best preparation is no guarantee of success and each production is less than perfect. But each successive effort benefits from previous experience and criticism. FILM & HISTORY IN THE NETHERLANDS By Rolf Schuursma Film and history in The Netherlands happens to be a singular and intricate affair, although the situation seems to be much more clear now than it was in the beginning, some twelve years ago. In fact, the first signs ofinterest in film as a historical source are to be found in the twenties when the Dutch historian R. A. Th Fruin and his famous Belgian colleague J. Pirenne, in the International Historical Congresses of those years, tried to promote the systematic collecting and description of films in order to open up a new type of archive material for educational use and historical research. These efforts came to a halt when the economic crisis of the thirties resulted in a total lack of money, and the deteriorating political situation made it very difficult to go on with international co-operation of this kind. Ideas about film as a source never died down totally, however, and in 1938 some social scientists brought into being a foundation - a typical Dutch type oforganization, which makes it possible to 79 combineprivate non-commercial initiatives with financial help by the state for the collection and documentation of films. The idea was to study the physical expressions of the human race as recorded on film for the use of several fields of social sciences. The war and the subsequent German occupation made this interesting initiative unworkable. Although after the war some description offilms was done, especially in co-operation with the Dutch Filmmuseum which came into existence in those years, the aims of the foundation were too great and the funds too small to make possible a really important development. In 1960 several new initiatives were taken in the field ofaudio-visual media and history. This was not wholly by chance. Dutch television started officially in 1951 and although in the beginning intellectuals had doubts about this kind of mass communication, gradually the significance ofthe new medium became clear. At the same time contemporary historians realized the importance ofpicture and sound for research and education. This must also have been due to the fact that films on fascism, the Third Reich, the horrors of the second world war and the German occupation in the Netherlands made a great impression and seemed to indicate that this kind of evidence could not any longer be left out of modern historical research. So in 1960 the foundation was reactivated under the presidency of Prof. F...