The Back Lot brings the magic of film to Suriname

december 2005 -

"Breathing new life into the world of film in Suriname." Nothing less than that is the ambitious goal of The Back Lot, an organisation from Paramaribo that has started showing films and documentaries in Suriname. And why does it do this? Well, because there are no more cinemas in Suriname, as they all shut down in the wake of the economic recession in the 1990s. However, this never diminished the Surinamese appetite for good films, despite the competition from the Suriname TV networks, who illegally broadcast American and Indian films every day.

affiche backlotFilm producer Eddy Wijngaarde and Hennah Draaibaar are the initiators of The Back Lot project. Their cultural, educational and commercial activities are primarily intended to help kick-start the Surinamese film industry. For instance, starting in 2002, The Back Lot has put on two major international film festivals for films and documentaries each year. The fourth IDFA Flies T(r)opics film festival is being held in Paramaribo from 6 to 11 December, in close association with the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA).

"Every festival is also a celebration," says Ally Derks, director of the IDFA, whose financial support made the first IDFA Flies T(r)opics film festival possible. "These days, all they need from us is our expertise. It's actually very simple: they want cinemagoers to be able to feast their eyes on new creative documentaries, and we either have copies of them here or know who they have to contact to get hold of them. And we know how to put the whole show on. I feel it is vitally important to show those living in Suriname all the things you can do with moving pictures. After all, Suriname is a bit isolated, and they don"t get to see that many good TV programmes. This is now the third year that we will be putting on about twenty films there that have also been shown in Dutch cinemas. It stimulates creativity and shows them what is going on in the world, as well as all the things they can do."

Most of all, Eddy Wijngaarde is thrilled about the educational films that will be shown during the IDFA Flies T(r)opics festival. "There are two programmes of children's films. The Rotterdam company Digital Playground has provided the wherewithal for about three hundred children to make their own digital film shorts. There's also another programme that teaches children to think in terms of sound and images. We teach them how to match sounds and images. It broadens their imagination."

As well as the film festivals, The Back Lot organises workshops for media workers and film fans, and produces educational material and teachers" manuals. The reading materials include entertaining analyses of selected well-known films, which teaches the children about such things as building up tension, dialogue and acting. Just recently, The Back Lot has started making programmes for Surinamese TV too, namely the Jeugd Journaal kids" news programme and the youth discussion programme Krutu.

The Back Lot is supported by, among others, DOEN foundation, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Prince Claus Fund.