One of the highlights of next month’s festivities is the first edition of the Indian Film Festival The Hague (IndianFFTH), which will present a long list of Indian art house films, such as Noukadubi (the opening film), I Am, Fatso! and Gandu.
Ricardo Burgzorg, who’s the festival director, got the idea while on a visit to a similar event in Goa, India. “I saw a couple of great films but I realised we would never get to see them in the Netherlands. So I decided to stage a festival that could show them.”
His idea fell on fertile ground in The Hague, which has a large population of Hindustani of Surinamese descent. Many of them still feel a very strong bond with Hindustani from India, with a lot of interest in Indian culture, including film and music.
Cinema chain Pathé regularly screens Bollywood films in its The Hague outlets due to popular demand.
But IndianFFTH wants to show more than just Bollywood, according to Mr Burgzorg. “The films we show make you understand the country. They show the diversity,” he says.
“There’s a whole new generation of young Indian film makers coming up who prefer to make films that paint a realistic picture of today’s India.”
But it’s not just the Hindustani community that makes India Month an interesting project for the city of the Hague.
It is the seat of Dutch parliament, the Queen lives there and it’s home to several renowned international institutions such as the Peace Palace, the International Court of Justice and the Institute for Global Justice. It also has a large diplomatic community.
“They like to label itself as the international capital of peace and justice,” Mr Burgzorg says, “and I guess they’re right. They really want to reach out to other countries. Given that India is a major and upcoming economic power, the city clearly doesn’t want to miss that boat.”
Culturally, the city has even appointed a film commissioner to lure Indian film makers to come over and produce movies in the Hague.
A Bollywood movie staged in a typically Dutch city? “Yes, why not?”, says Mr Burgzorg. “We’ve already seen Bollywood films made in Austria or Belgium. It’s a great way to show your city to Indian audiences.”
However, no Indian film producer has yet used the Hague’s hot spots such as the North Sea beach, the parliamentary quarters in the city centre or the forests and sand dunes between the city and the coast.
The Hague will also be the home to a new Indian cultural institute, the Gandhi House, to be opened on 2 October, Gandhi's birth date. It is launched by the Indian Embassy and the Indian diaspora in the Netherlands, as a platform to show the diversity of Indian culture.
“These are great developments,” says Mr Burgzorg. “It all helps to show the people of the Hague and of the Netherlands what contemporary India is really like.”