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43 Joris Ivens (En)

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In the spring of 1912 the then thirteen year old Joris Ivens played the part of a good Native American in the homemade film De Wigwam. The film was shot at two locations in Nijmegen: Kwakkenberg and Jonkerbosch. De Wigwam went down in history as the first film directed by this world-famous filmmaker.

De Wigwam was a classic western in which cowboys fought Indians. All members of the Ivens family took part. They were artistic and enjoyed dressing up. For De Wigwam some of them even covered themselves in cocoa. Joris wrote the script and took the lead part of the honest Native American called Brandende Staal. During his directing career Joris Ivens often showed many of Brandende Staal’s traits.

Joris Ivens was born in 1898 at 15 Van Berchenstraat, the son of a prosperous Catholic family. His father was a photographic equipment salesman and a prominent, enterprising and socially involved citizen of Nijmegen. Joris came into contact with film at a young age via his father’s business. It was a relatively new medium, which influenced Joris for the rest of his life. Once he had mastered the art of photography in Berlin, he started directing. He produced his first serious documentaries, De Brug and Regen, in the late twenties. His works were acclaimed by the national and international avant-garde scene. In his following documentaries Zuiderzeewerken (1930), Komsomolsk (1932) and Borinage (1934) Ivens exposed and denounced the working conditions of Dutch, Russian and Walloon workers. In those times the films were modern and undiluted socialist realism. Later, while reporting on the Spanish Civil War, the revolution in China and the Vietnam War, Joris Ivens proved himself to be a committed filmmaker with undeniable communist sympathies.

In 1945 Ivens came into conflict with the Dutch government for siding with the Indonesian freedom fighters in his government commissioned film on the liberation of the Dutch East Indies. Indonesia Calling (1946) was a long-term source of animosity between Ivens and his homeland. For this reason the artist remained a controversial figure in middle-class Netherlands. Ivens was a cosmopolitan whose films were shown on all continents and often gained awards. He worked with celebrities such as Ernest Hemmingway. Ivens always had warm memories of his birthplace. He once said, as the quote on the monument in the Joris Ivens square states, “Even though often far away, Nij_megen, my childhood, stayed close to me.”
A committed and controversial filmmaker
Joris Ivens behind his camera (RAN)

43 ivens.jpg

Source: Jan Brabers, in: De Canon van Nijmegen, Uitgeverij Vantilt (Nijmegen 2009)
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