Movies That Matter is the most current festival in the Netherlands


It Movies That Matter Festival in The Hague, which opened this year on Friday, March 22, has a knack for films that are of great current relevance. As a result, you could say that they are the most relevant film festival in our country. You certainly won’t find big films and blockbusters there, it’s all about the stories. The theme of the nine-day festival is: Human, right? We went there to take a look during the last weekend.

Screencap from the film Photophobia (2023), shown at the Movies That Matter Festival 2024

We’re all human, right?

Just like the festival itself, we opened our visit with the film Photophobia. The film tells the story of a large group of people who take shelter in a metro station while the bombs are falling. The film from Slovakia says something about the message of the festival: we are all human, we all experience something. The festival deals with the hard current facts and events that will plague the world in 2024 and the festival does not hold back. In this festival we see films and documentaries from all kinds of countries, from makers with many backgrounds. However, they have one thing in common: they are human stories. We’re all human, right? That is the question, the statement that makes the connection between the films.

MTM in practice

Both the term ‘movies that matter’ and the theme, clearly a play on ‘human rights’, are put into practice by the film programme. From the documentary Four Daughters about a family whose two daughters join ISIS until the drama film The Mother of All Lies, a story of childhood trauma and a barely documented ‘Bread Riot’ in Morocco. These are just a few examples of one of the core messages of the festival: the film selection speaks for itself. There are so many stories in this festival that are worth seeing and telling that you actually need more than a few days to browse through the offerings.

Screencap from the film ‘The Monk and the Gun’ (2023), shown at the Movies That Matter Festival 2024

One of the films in that line-up that represents that idea is The Monk and the Gun from Bhutan. The film made a big impression at the Toronto film festival: the film could not be missed in The Hague. There is a lot to laugh about in the film, but the absurdist tone also comes from Western ignorance. For residents of Bhutan, democracy and voting are not normal at all. Can we imagine that? No. That’s what this film is for. This is also a human face.

“We don’t take sides”

The hot topic during the festival is of course the conflict in the Middle East and the Gaza Strip. This became clear at the presentation of the audience award alone. The audience at the festival chose the film I Shall Not Hate, not entirely coincidentally, a film that touches on this conflict. Artistic director of the festival Margje de Koning touched on the festival’s choices in her speech. It fits with the general line: let the films speak for themselves. “We have made the choice to show films in which makers from Israel, Gaza and Palestine collaborate”says De Koning. “We don’t take sides and let the programming itself have its say.”

The title of the documentary actually says enough in itself. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gazan doctor who now lives in Canada at the center, does not believe in hate. “Hate is man’s greatest opponent”, he says about it himself. The documentary tells his impressive story and the death of his three daughters by Israeli ‘shells’. At the same time, the film also shows that his struggle to get an apology from the State of Israel is not over yet. The doctor himself, who reflected at length on his situation in a Q&A, has not yet lost hope. We’re all human, right? Human, right?

The article is in Dutch


Tags: Movies Matter current festival Netherlands


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