Counting down to this year’s Movies that Matter Festival:

"Film is able to pinpoint what’s at stake"

The annual Movies that Matter Festival is drawing near. Featuring a program of 70 films and approximately 300 viewings, it attracts some 25,000 visitors to The Hague each year. This year’s festival takes place from 23 thru 31 March at Filmhuis Den Haag and Theater aan het Spui. We checked in with the festival’s artistic director, Dirk van der Straaten, to hear his latest.

“Our festival aims to have a social impact,” Dirk van der Straaten explains. “Film offers an interesting entry point to trigger empathy. Our films tell a story. It has our viewers empathize with the characters in it. Essentially, the main character becomes their friend.”

“If we manage to expose the right people to our films, surely we will have an impact,” he says. But this is no easy task. “We try our best not to be a festival of heavy melancholy. Rather, we want to show the resilience and strength of people that are building their livelihoods in difficult circumstances,” Dirk elaborates.

Movies that Matter: pinpointing what’s at stake

“Our main goal is to raise awareness. There’s so many choices we make on a daily basis, small and large, that have a direct impact on our surroundings,” he says. “They range from the political party we vote for in the national elections to the brand of peanut butter that we pick up from the shelf in the store. And from the means of transportation we choose when we go on vacation to the way in which we consume energy and food.”

“We’d rather not preach, but we want to inform instead,” he emphasizes. “Ideally, this affects people’s attitudes and overall sense of agency. We hope that, after being triggered by our movies, people will no longer thoughtlessly move through life.”

“In the end, film turns out to be a great instrument to put questions into perspective. Film is able to pinpoint what’s at stake and can make things tangible,” he adds. “We can influence the world around us. Our films make the impact of our choices tangible. What we’re trying to say is, ‘Be aware of the consequences of your actions, large and small’.”

“One of the main reasons for us to settle in The Hague is the multifaceted community of professionals that is working on a wide variety of global issues” – Dirk van der Straaten, artistic director at the Movies that Matter Festival

The Hague: a meeting place

Movies that Matter was founded in 2006 as a spin-off of the Amnesty International Film Festival. In 2008, it found its new home in the City of The Hague. “One of the main reasons for us to settle in The Hague is the multifaceted community of professionals that is working on a wide variety of global issues that we’re facing in our day and age.”

He adds, “We purposefully involve these local networks to foster new connections and to advance their important work. We aim for our festival to function as a meeting place, albeit via our movies or in the literal sense.”

Not unique

“By all means, our festival is not unique in the world and we explicitly strive not to be. The more initiatives like ours arise around the world, the better,” Dirk says adamantly. That’s why they support twenty like-minded festivals around the world by offering grants, generally in places around the world where they can make the biggest difference.

“What is indeed unique about our festival’s perspective is that we offer an explicit stage to the main characters in our movies, rather than zooming in on its producers. This, again, encourages a stage for their stories and the related issues that are deserving of our attention,” he adds.

This year’s Movies that Matter Festival takes place from 23 thru 31 March at Filmhuis Den Haag and Theater aan het Spui. Keep an eye on the festival’s website as the program is being finalized. Also, follow Movies that Matter via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Ticket sales start on 8 March, so look into the program and reserve your seats ahead of time.