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On 16 February 2024, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia announced the death of lawyer and opposition leader Alexei Navalny at the age of 47. Not surprisingly, the Russian authorities gave no cause for his untimely death, neither have they been very cooperative in uncovering it. My local cinema, Filmhuis Alkmaar (@filmhuisalkmaar )decided to organise a special screening of the Oscar-winning documentary ‘Navalny’ by Canadian filmmaker Daniel Roher, on Sunday the 25th of February.

Navalny had passed away only 9 days earlier, so the documentary’s opening scene, in which the blue eyed opposition leader answered the question what his message would be if he were to perish, was an emotional experience to say the least. The handsome, cheerful and charismatic lawyer was still alive and well, and looked straight into the dark cinema room with his piercing blue eyes. He is not going to get killed, he said. What his message would be is material for a second movie, a boring in memoriam.

This documentary deals with much more exciting stuff instead How Navalny had become a louse in the
pelt of the Kremlin. How he was poisoned in 2020 and extradited to Germany to recover from his
ailment. How he started investigating who was responsible. And how he actually found the answers. It turns out that Vladimir Putin has a network of killers going after opposition leaders like Navalny to kill them with Novichok, a nerve agent that has been used before to eliminate opponents. In Navalny’s words, Novichok is Putin’s autograph.

The serious subject of the documentary is often lit up by Navalny’s undeniable sense of humour. His warm laugh makes it feel even more tragic that this courageous man is no longer with us. Thankfully, he does answer the question from the opening scene in the end: “do not give up.” This conclusion does make you hopeful that Navalny’s wife, children, and international following will not either.

- Jasmijn Groot -

Since the agricultural revolution some twelve thousand years ago, men have dominated women almost everywhere in the world. Why patriarchy is the most common hierarchy in human communities is unknown. What we do know is that all societies divide people into men and women - and that specific roles, rights, and duties come with it, which vary enormously from culture to culture. However, there is one striking similarity: men have been better off almost everywhere for centuries. 


Until one of the greatest revolutions in human history unfolded a hundred years ago: the feminist revolution. A massive upheaval that completely changed the narrative about men, women, and gender. The book "De omwenteling of de eeuw van de vrouw" (The Revolution or the Century of the Woman) by Suzanna Jansen delves into the changes that occurred in the Netherlands. In a story where fiction and non-fiction cleverly intertwine, Jansen guides the reader through the past century, starting in the birth year of her mother Betsy: 1922.

The year in which women were allowed to vote for the first time. 


This book makes one realize how short a hundred years is: Jansen describes a revolution, a catch-up process, that has only just begun. Women's suffrage since 1922 (in the former colonies only in 1945). From 1955 onwards, no dismissal for female civil servants when they marry. In 1956: women are no longer legally incompetent when they marry (but the husband remains the head of the marriage). And so it continues. Housewives. Housewife fatigue. Housewife pills. Recent history made accessible through this book. 


That the feminist revolution is still in full swing is evident from the accompanying podcast "De eeuw van de vrouw" (The Century of the Woman). Hosts Jansen and Rachel van de Pol, assisted by knowledgeable guests, discuss relevant topics. The message is clear: there has certainly been progress, but women still face invisible barriers. 

- Marlot Akkermans -


men were always better off, until a massive upheaval took place one hundred years ago


Etty Hillesum (1914-1943) is one of the most admired women in modern history. She is admired for her inner strength during the horrific persecution of Jews by the Nazi’s in the Netherlands.She was certainly not naive. "It's about our downfall and our destruction, there's no need for any illusions," she wrote in her diary on July 3, 1942. These diaries form the basis for the biography written about her by Judith Koelemeijer. In this well-written book, Koelemeijer describes the spiritual
development that Hillesum underwent during the war.


While the Nazi’s threatened her freedom, Etty Hillesum became convinced that she could only find true freedom within herself. More and more, Koelemeijer writes, she trusted that she could spiritually resist the danger from outside "and that, despite the constant limitation of her freedoms, a space was growing within her where she could always find refuge. There was no other answer to the terror, she told herself, than to
follow the path inward, and to eradicate the hatred where it began: in the hearts of people, starting with oneself.”

Etty Hillesum chose not to go into hiding, although she was offered several opportunities to do so. She believed that she had to accept and endure the collective fate of the Jews in solidarity. At the insistence of her brother Jaap, she did decide to
work for the Jewish Council. She thought that the work of the Jewish Council was meaningless and illogical. Nevertheless, she saw a role for herself: in transit camp Westerbork, she provided spiritual support to many people as a member of the Jewish Council and encouraged them until the very end.


On September 7, 1943, Etty herself was transported to Auschwitz. This transport consisted of 987 people. Only 6 of them survived.

Etty Hillesum is an important voice in Dutch literature and in the history of the Holocaust. She deserves her life to be made accessible to a broader audience
through this biography.

- Marjonne Maan -

In 2020, the podcast ‘de Plantage van onze voorouders’ was released. What started as the story of podcastmaker Maartje Duin and her research into the history of her family and their nobility, turned into something quite different. Duin discovered that her great-great-grandmother had owned a sugar plantation in Surinam and has owned slaves too. One of the families that was enslaved on this plantation was the Bouva family.

Maartje is curious whether there are any living descendants of the Bouva family and finds the nieces Peggy and Jessica Bouva. They too are curious about their own past and Peggy decides that she wants to go all into this investigation with Maartje. After all, the story of the Bouva family and Maartjes great-great-grandmother are intertwined.


Their journey takes them past archives, new knowledge, and difficult conversations with both families. And finally, it takes them back to where their story started: Surinam and the plantation. During the podcast we hear not only the experiences of Maartje and Peggy, but also the experiences of their family members.

‘De plantage van onze voorouders’ has won multiple prices, including one for ‘Best Dutch Podcast’, which I think is well deserved. The podcast tells a story about the past of slavery, but also about its consequences many years later. Maartje and Peggy open up the conversation and let you see the story from different angles. And Maartje in particular is not afraid to have difficult talks with her mother, which makes it really intimate. If you want to know more about the history of slavery or why it still hurts people today, you should definitely listen to this one!

- Rosa den Oudsten -


In 2021, director Peter Jackson released 'The Beatles: Get Back' documentary, covering the recording of the final album by perhaps the most mythical band of all time. The documentary has a total running time of nearly 8 hours (!) and the material, that was unreleased for more than half a century, focusses on the internal relationships of the band, that were not just marred by tensions, but actually rather jolly.

Similarly to 'The Beatles: Get Back,' the 'Amazing Grace' (2018) documentary follows another almost mythical artist while recording a live album, the video recordings of which never made it to air. It is just much shorter and centralizes the music. The artist is none other than Aretha Franklin (1942-2018), who in 1972 returned to the roots of her musical inspiration: the gospel music of the church. She organised a two night event in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, where she recored her live album Amazing Grace, singing the gospel classics that had

inspired her to become a singer, accompanied by Reverend James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir. The album became a succes. The video footage was not seen until half a century later, due to difficulties of synchronising the video material to the audio.

As the Reverend Cleveland puts it, gospel music is all about reaching a higher spiritual level. And that is exactly what happened on those two nights in January 1972. The documentary not only highlights Franklin’s amazing vocal capabilities, but also the experience of music and its unifying power. What adds to the historical experience for the viewers, are the attendees wearing their seventies Sunday bests, engaging in extatic dance, without taking any cellphones or cameras out, while Mick Jagger sits in the back enjoying the whole thing. We dare you to watch 'Amazing Grace' without getting up from your chair to dance or shedding a tear for its sheer beauty.

- Jasmijn Groot -

Behind the efforts of many young art historians, art enthusiasts, art organisations and collectives world wide today to promote women artists from history – British art historian Katy Hessel’s book ‘The History of Art Without Men’ and her Instagram project @thegreatwomenartists , Dutch art historian Cathelijne Blok and her platform @thetittymag , the Dutch @kunstmeisjes consisting of Mirjam Kooijman, Nathalie Maciesza and Renee Schuiten-Kniepstra, and the American organisation @artgirlrising , but to name a few – lies the inspiration by the late Linda Nochlin (1931-2017). In a time when there was no such thing as Women Studies or Feminist Theory, she published an article in ‘ARTnews’ magazine, in which she posed the question: “why have there been no great women artists?” 

Expertly refuting the argument that greatness has never had the option of manifesting itself in female artists, whilst eloquently explaining that simply summing up female artists from the past will not do either, Nochlin does something else entirely. She

explains that women artists throughout history have not had the same opportunities as their male colleagues. At the bare basis they were not even treated as equals. Not only did women for centuries not have access to art schools and universities, they were not allowed to attend classes to paint models in the nude, which was a requirement to achieve greatness as an artist.  

But does that mean that women artists have truly never been great? Not at all. Nochlin extensively covers the life of Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), the most famous female artist of all time - at that point at least. Even without the advantages that her male colleagues possessed, she was the very best at painting animals and landscapes.  

Nochlin’s words did not have an immediate effect. But her words have inspired a generation that seems to be more succesful in garnering attention for all the Bonheurs that have ever been.  

- Jasmijn Groot -


in a time where there were no Women's Studies, Nochlin posed an inspiring question

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