CAST: Martijn Lakemeier (Johan de Vries), Marwan Kenzari (Raymond “De Turk” Westerling), Denise Aznam (Gita Tamim), Jonas Smulders (Mattias Cohen), Jim Deddes (Werner de Val), Peter Paul Muller (Major Penders), Jeroen Perceval (Cappellano Janssen) | SCREENPLAY: Jim Taihuttu, Mustafa Duygulu | CINEMATOGRAPHY: Lennart Verstegen | EDITING: Emiel Nuninga, Mieneke Kramer | MUSIC: Gino Taihuttu | SOUND: Yves Bémelmans, Michaël Sauvage, Philippe Charbonnel | PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lieke Scholman | WARDROBE: Catherine Marchand, Retno Damayanti | PRODUCTION: Sander Verdonk, Benoit Roland, Shanty Harmayn, Julius Ponten, Jim Taihuttu per New Amsterdam Film Company, in coproduzione con Wrong Men, Salto Films NTR
Drama / War – Netherlands / Belgium / Indonesia – 2021
In 1946, just after World War II, more than 100.000 young soldiers are shipped from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies to fight yet another war. The Dutch East Indies colony has just declared its independence and the Dutch government wants to suppress this fight of freedom as quickly as possible. Among the troops is Johan, who has several reasons to do his part in the escalating conflict. With boyish enthusiasm, he enters this adventure in this exotic country. Johan makes friends and falls in love, but pretty soon he gets fed up with waiting for action in a country that, it seems, doesn’t want to be “liberated”. Things finally start to make sense when he meets the infamous captain “The Turk” Westerling. Johan thinks that a forceful man of action like The Turk is exactly what is needed to force a breakthrough in the conflict, so he happily accepts his offer to join the captain’s elite army squad and fight the local rebellious forces. When The Turk’s actions become increasingly brutal, Johan starts to reconsider his beliefs about right and wrong and his personal role in this war…
I noticed that a lot of boys who went to the Indies – were sent, recruited – ended up being exploited, they were deployed in the wrong way and didn’t have good information. Many boys came back disappointed and didn’t understand why they had been there. In a number of conversations I found out how quickly certain standards slip in that kind of cocoon, in the kind of weird vacuum you’re in. When you look at the purges on Celebes, the summary executions and really all the abuses that took place there, they were actually carried out by boys who just happened to grow up in the Netherlands during that time. Without the war in Indonesia they would have become bakers or bicycle repairmen or farmers. Where is the turning in the road of life that leads you to become a killer? You or I will probably never kill anyone. But it happened to a lot of those boys. I wanted to find out how that happens. Because you don’t step off the boat thinking you’re just going to shoot
someone for the hell of it. Over time things happen that blur boundaries and, together with other boys, you enter into a kind of rush of war. And a few years later you’re saddled with a war trauma that wakes you up in the middle of the night, sweating and thinking: what have I done?