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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Netherlands

Jeroen Houben to start filming Torch Song in the Netherlands

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- The shooting period is slated to commence on 8 February, with Amsterdam city centre serving as one of the main filming locations

Jeroen Houben to start filming Torch Song in the Netherlands
Director Jeroen Houben

After successfully presenting his comedy shorts Page 23 and Sorry at the Cannes Film Festival back in 2012-2013, and then debuting with the full-length family dramedy De Matchmaker in 2018, Dutch filmmaker Jeroen Houben is now embarking on a more existential creative journey with his second feature, Torch Song, described by the director himself as “a story about the infinite pursuit of unconditional love and the search for human connection in a world obsessed with external validation”. The project is being produced by Amsterdam-based outfit Family Affair Films, which tends to back features with a strong auteur-driven vision.

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Producer Noortje Wilschut reports that the project was developed with the support of the Netherlands Film Fund during the first two lockdowns in 2021, and then it was granted €500,000 for production while also receiving €192,500 from the Netherlands Production Incentive. An additional €25,000 came from the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, a certain amount from crowdfunding, plus investments from Family Affair Films itself and the director. The overall budget amounts to less than €1 million. The team chose to make the film without any co-producers, so as to avoid having to make compromises and to enjoy their artistic freedom.

The plot focuses on Liz, a retired American pop singer who is still haunted by her former success. When her mother dies, she is left to her own devices and decides to visit her only relative – her estranged half-brother Gabe, whom she has not seen in years but who lives with his girlfriend Joey in Amsterdam, a place where Liz can still walk the streets and go fairly unnoticed. Her visit prompts turmoil within the couple, which will shake all three sides of this newly formed triangle.

Inspired by stories of real-life celebrities, such as Kate Bush and Marvin Gaye, who at some point decided to disappear into anonymity, Torch Song intends to explore the friction between what we want people to know about us and what cannot be prevented from getting out to the masses. However, Houben confirms that instead of zooming in on the psychological journey of a character or a relationship, the emphasis is more on the theme of bonding. “Our story is not necessarily about Liz, and certainly not about the struggles of fame or anything like that, but rather about something more universal: a need to be ‘seen’ and recognised,” says the director. He sums up: “The screenplay of Torch Song is concerned with the distant dreams that we allow ourselves to have, and what we would do with ourselves if, God forbid, we were to actually get what we wanted.”

The main cast includes Carla Juri (Liz), whom we will soon see in Peter Greenaway’s latest film, Walking in Paris; Al Weaver (The Last Photograph [+see also:
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]
) as Gabe; and Markoesa Hamer (Romy’s Salon [+see also:
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, How to Avoid Everything [+see also:
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]
) as Joey. The camera work has been delegated to Amsterdam-based DoP Aziz Al Dilaimi, experienced in short films and TV productions.

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