Statement by Adriaan van der Staay at the International Film Festival Rotterdam on 28 January 2012, receiving the book Passie voor Cinema (Passion for Cinema), by Frans Westra.
Passion for Cinema. An interesting title for a book. Passion for cinema would be impossible if film itself were not a product of passion. As all art, the art of the filmmaker is only interesting if passion-inspired. Imagining emotion is the filmmakers brief for his audience. Passion for cinema is more than a well-chosen title. It means a choice. It is a statement.
I will say a few things about the nature of this choice.
Passion for art will always exist as long as we live in a society of people not machines. But this permanent passion for art exists within changing conditions. The context today is different from 1972 when I started the film-festival with Hubert Bals. The context is also different from 1971 when I wrote the Film Paper with Frank Visbeen.
Not so much so because most of the protagonists have disappeared from the scene.
The scene itself has changed.
This change can be briefly formulated as the final triumph of the idea that all art is commercial. Said in other words: the triumph of capitalism in the production and distribution of art.
The ideology of capitalism in its present phase is neither liberal nor new, but fundamentalist. It believes that profit is holy and that the government of a country is a corporation.
I remember the context of the creation of this festival as somewhat different.
In Rotterdam a progressive city council ruled that saw as its main objective to ameliorate the quality of daily life for its citizens.
The tradition of democratic socialism and social liberalism gave the state a central role in the care for the quality and accessibility of culture.
As director of the Rotterdam Arts Foundation I myself was convinced that that the world of tomorrow would have a “mondial” culture with zero time transmission between the artist and the audience.
It was programmatic to call the festival first International and only then Rotterdam, so Film International Rotterdam.
From the start the festival wanted to have a choice that was worldwide. The festival was made important by its passionate choice of content, not by its size.
Of course filmmaking was a commercial activity also then. But we imagined that the presence of individuals like Fassbinder from Germany, Wajda from Poland, Tarkovski from Russia, or Ray from India was a sufficient reason to organize a festival.
We did not recon how film would become totally dominated by the market or for that matter how American money would throttle passion for film in Europe.
It is questionable if in the present neo-liberal climate there would still exist space to create a non-commercial festival.
When we had figured out what we wanted, we stimulated the creation of a non-profit circuit of art houses/filmhuizen. This would create a larger audience for our non-commercial preferences and perspectives.
We also convinced City hall that it would be a good idea to honor China –going Joris Ivens.
Nowadays the political climate is different.
Meanwhile even today art is still provided by passionate craftsmen.
Because of this archaic basis in craft economists have even formulated the Law of Baumol for the creative sector. It states that the cultural sector will always lag behind in productivity and so profit because in art and science people are not adequately replaced by machines. In culture labor cannot be replaced by capital and profitable investments cannot produce passion.
To survive it will be urgent to invent a new strategy for passionate filmmaking and its passionate public.
I would suggest: Occupy Hollywood.