(Link to Page DUTCH COCAINE FACTORY)
IDFA DAILY 2007
At the heart of Jeanette Groenendaal’s Dutch Cocaine Factory resides Arend ter Horst, a 63-year-old cocaine addict who betrays all the signs of acute paranoia. It becomes very clear early on in the film that this paranoia is far from misplaced.
‘I was shocked to read [transcripts of] the telephone calls that I had made to Arend,’ explains Groenendaal. ‘I always thought fear of telephone taps was just paranoid, and that I had nothing to hide, but when I read back everything, that was when I decided to make this film.’
So Groenendaal commences a documentary journey with Arend that reveals the terrifying degree of surveillance – or ‘digital chasing’, as a Dutch lawyer refers to it – that takes place within the Netherlands. ‘I took my camera along because I wanted to find out what was going on; what was right and wrong. And was I a suspect as well?’ En route, she tells the story of the original Dutch cocaine factory which, in the 1920s, imported up to 2 million pounds (900 tons) of cocoa leaves per year to fire an extremely profitable – and perfectly legal – industry. Cocaine wine was delivered to the Pope and the American president, who commented on the ‘excellent mood’ it created. Eventually the US, unable to break into the lucrative cocaine trade, introduced a prohibition whose global influence became endemic.
The character of Arend fills the film. The CCTV footage of the police raid on his house at the beginning is genuinely shocking. Later in the film, he calls ‘cut!’; an instruction taken on board in a filmic sense by Groenendaal, until she realises that it’s the cocaine that he wants cut, not the camera. The footage of his withdrawal from its use is disturbing, but he reveals a deliciously dry humour when assessing the substitute substances deployed to bulk out the coke. ‘It’s no longer the real thing,’ he observes.
‘I think he is a visionary,’ comments Groenendaal. ‘In India, a person on the edge of society who has been using drugs for forty years would be a holy man. In our past in Holland, we have given space to these people to grow and experiment. Now, within this new, controlled society, we are suddenly criminalising them.’
Nick Cunningham »