Posts Tagged ‘Bio’

Theo van Gogh (1957-2004)

In Netherlands on October 6, 2009 at 6:10 pm

I’m going to take a slight detour from the norm this week and discuss the work of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, rather than a single upcoming film. And to answer your question, yes he is in fact related to famed painter Vincent (or as Theo would have called him, great-great-great uncle). With that out of the way, Van Gogh gained popularity in his native country through a series of unique, and oft-controversial, actor-driven films like 06 (1994), Blind Date (1996), and Interview (2003). The latter two have both been recently remade for American audiences, with actor Stanley Tucci both helming and starring in 2009’s Blind Date and Steve Buscemi doing the same for a 2007 version of Interview.

Van Gogh began a career as a newspaper columnist in the ‘80s, gaining prominence for his controversial attacks on actors, politicians, writers and others he associated with power and “the establishment”. A fierce atheist, he also turned his attention towards critiquing modern religion. In the ‘90s he began to focus on Islam, culminating in the 2004 short film Submission which was broadcast on Dutch public television. In the film four Muslim women deliver monologues that call attention to the misogyny and violent treatment of women found in various passages in the Qur’an (these are also written in ink all over their bodies). Though many applauded the film for asking tough questions about Islam and women’s rights, it caused outrage amongst the Muslim population. Both Van Gogh and screenwriter Ayaan Hirsi Ali faced numerous death threats following the film’s airing, and on November 2, 2004 he was brutally murdered in public by Mohammed Bouyer, a member of the Dutch terrorist cell the Hofstad Network. The aftermath of this tragedy was marked by attacks on mosques and Muslim schools, and further counterattacks on Christian churches. In the end, eleven other men were arrested for the conspiracy to also assassinate Hirsi Ali.

Whether or not you agree with Van Gogh’s politics or views, his tragic death should stand as a reminder of the affront of free speech and civil liberties that is still rampant in this supposedly modern world. Such acts should never stand, and it appears that Hirsi Ali (who still faces repeated death threats) plans on going through with Submission: Part II because otherwise she “I would only be helping terrorists believe that if they use violence, they’re rewarded with what they want”*.