Dutch director on lesbian coming-of-age story

The heat is sweltering in rural Netherlands. Teenager Anne (Sigrid ten Napel) is suffocating. Not only is the heat oppressive, so is her dysfunctional family and the town itself.

 

Anne’s life changes forever when Lena (Jade Olieberg) moves to town to care for her ailing mom. Anne has never met anyone quite like Lena, an outgoing, motorcycle-riding, mixed-race lesbian who exudes a raw sensuality unheard of — and considered improper — in the town.

Anne is mesmerized by Lena; the feeling is mutual. As the two fall in love amid the disapproving stares of Anne’s family and friends, Anne experiences a sexual, spiritual and political awakening.

Director Colette Bothof spoke to PGN from the Netherlands about her film “Summer (Zomer).”

The film, Bothof told us, is based on a play by Marjorie Bierens.

“It’s a film about growing away from your youth, from where you came from,” the auteur said. “But without being too judgmental about it. It is still where you came from, although you hate it and it may never feel like home again.”

Bothof, who said she personally identifies as bisexual, added that she considers “Summer” to be less a film about lesbianism and more of a coming-of-age story.

“The main character, Anne, doesn’t struggle much with the fact that she falls in love with another girl,” Bothof said. “But more with the unwritten laws of the environment she grew up in. It’s essentially a film about becoming your own person and daring to be different when everyone else stays the same.”

The film includes a scene in which Anne and Lena are ridiculed by Anne’s friends when they discovered they’re a couple. Bothof addressed the homophobia that can still flourish in cultures that perceive themselves as beacons of equality.

“In the Netherlands, we like to believe that we are tolerant and accepting,” Bothof said. “But in practice, young LGBT people — and older ones — encounter explicit and implicit discrimination and find it hard to come out, especially in a high-school environment or in more traditional or religious communities.”

Bothof told PGN that prior to her career as a filmmaker, she had done quite a bit of traveling and studied psychology and communication.

“What drew me to filmmaking is that as a filmmaker you can combine all of your own interests, obsessions, opinions, jokes and stories in film,” she said.

Film, Bothof noted, can also reach people on a deep emotional level.

“You can really touch an audience and reach them on a subconscious level, in their guts and hearts,” she said. “You can really draw an audience into lives and stories they would otherwise ignore and make them feel things they have never felt before. So for me, filmmaking combines everything that fascinates me.”

Wolfe Video released “Summer” on Video on Demand Oct. 6. The film is in Dutch with English subtitles.