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I’ve always wanted to be on a film set, to see what’s going on behind the camera, to watch actors and everyone else working to create the final product. This month, I was given the opportunity when I was invited to join the cast and crew of a short movie being created by the talented Cintia Taylor.

The movie, “Clinch“, approaches a sensitive theme: a woman, who is also a violin player, finds herself unable to perform anymore as the result of trauma from an event of sexual violence. She starts to practice in a boxing training room, hoping to overcome her demons and to find peace.

The first day of filming took place at an actual boxing club. So there I was, on a Sunday afternoon, making my way to Amsterdam Noord, admiring the fluffy clouds during the ferry ride and feeling excitement about the day ahead. I joined the team around lunchtime and spent the entire afternoon on the set. When I arrived, they were in the middle of filming a scene. I had to wait silently until they got a few more takes (read: 11), and only following that I could meet the crew; I was informed about the schedule and we mingled during the break, before they started shooting again. I followed the actors everywhere, including outside for the outdoor scenes. After a couple of hours I was exhausted — and that only from following them around and taking some photos. I left the set at 7pm but the crew stayed there until 9-10 in the evening. With Cintia being a perfectionist, who needs to make sure each and every detail is exactly as it should be, I would expect them to still be there the next morning, save for the club having to close and kick them out.

In my few hours on the set I learned that being an actor is much more difficult than I had imagined. It’s not all shiny lights and roses. There is a lot of work involved and it’s energy draining — not only physically, but emotionally too. The actress who plays the main character in this movie, Amelie Onzon, must have gone home that evening with no bit of energy left! So many repeated takes, the boxing, the intense emotions she had to create for the movie — I felt tired just from looking at her.

I also learned that, especially if you are an empath, you pick up on the emotions that are portrayed on the set, and it’s crucial to have moments of emotional refreshment (is that even a thing?), like a group hug after a fight scene, a joke after the scene with a panic attack, etc. There is also a lot of waiting time on a film set: you wait for your turn in front of the camera, for the clouds to cover the sun, or for the next door evangelic church to end its programme of singing and dancing so you can record the sound properly. I used my waiting moments to take a few portraits.

It’s not only the actors who work hard, everyone else on the set works constantly on the sound, filming, production, make-up; and this was the set for a short, low-budget movie… I cannot even imagine what it is like on the set of a big Hollywood production! It was a great opportunity to be part of the filming crew for a day, I can’t believe how much it changed my perspective on this topic. I’d love to repeat the experience another time

The shooting will go on for a couple more weeks and I can’t wait to see the result! The movie will also star: Youval Kuipers, Shane Redondo, Viola Blache, Chanani Campbell, Errol Mccabe.

A few words about the movie from the director Cintia Taylor:

“The idea for Clinch first came to me as an image: I saw a woman practicing intensively in a full gym — yet looking very lonely and sad. This was not your routine training. There was a factor of life and death in it. But I wasn’t sure what it was…
Then, #MeToo hit the headlines.

While I cannot imagine how it is to be abused, as I read the articles on the women coming forward, I recognised some of their feelings and emotions: shame, guilt, anger, deep sadness. As someone who has battled depression all of my life, I was very familiar with these. I also know how pain can blind us and keep us from fighting the real battle: our very own overcoming.

As a filmmaker, I find it important that my stories reflect a wider social conversation. Sexual violence remains largely a taboo.

While #MeToo has helped many women come forward, it is only a beginning, one tool in many. I hope with this film to inspire and support women. It’s a story of hope that, despite the pain, we can find peace and happiness.”

You can follow Clinch Film on their Instagram account to find out when and where will be screened.

[See image gallery at amsterdamian.com]
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One of my favourite part of the spring season in Amsterdam is the spring snow time. I’m not talking about actual snow (although the weather is so cold right now that it wouldn’t be a surprise to get to that). I’m talking about the elm trees scattering their seeds, which create a snow-like effect while flying over the city, dancing in the wind and eventually setting down in rustling piles along the streets. 

There are over 75,000 elm trees in Amsterdam, more than enough to create the snow effect all over the city. I went for a long walk in the city centre on Saturday, enjoying the beauty of spring, the explosion of green and blooming flowers, even the changing weather. The city is coming back to life and that’s a great thing to see. It’s one of the best times of the year to visit Amsterdam — or to live here! 

[See image gallery at amsterdamian.com]
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Every year, the Netherlands goes through an orange extravaganza on 27 April, the day of the (in)famous King’s Day celebration. Compared to previous years, this time the weather was less accommodating, but the crowd no less rambunctious.

While we have tons of images of the day-time parties, there is a hidden charm to discover in the sight of the quiet, empty streets during the early morning hours, when everyone is already hard asleep or planning their next adventure.

The streets were as quiet as they ever get, with a fresh breeze blowing away the clouds that had sprinkled rain throughout the day and night. A few squadrons of dedicated birds swooped down to collect the goodies left behind by the crowds, while the first rays of sun started to brighten the sky. A moment of respite and reflection before it would all begin anew…

[See image gallery at amsterdamian.com]
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A 30 minutes bus ride from Amsterdam Centraal will take you to this old fishing village on the Markermeer Lake, famous for its colourful wooden houses and charming atmosphere. Although it’s well known in the tourist circuit and there are days when it’s flooded with tourists, I still like this pretty place and I am connected to it by nostalgic memories. It’s the first place outside Amsterdam that I visited before moving to the Netherlands. 

The green wooden houses, the shabby chic decorations at the windows or in the gardens, the tranquility, the cats strolling around, the promenade and the harbour — they make my heart sing. I like to stroll through the streets, trying to find hidden areas, adorable canals and bridges. When you visit Volendam, don’t do it in a rush; have enough time to take in the beauty of the place. You can visit for a whole day or just half, combining it with other nearby villages like Edam, Marken and Monnickendam.

To see: Volendam Museum and the Cheese Factory. 

To do: take the ferry to Marken, another superb village on the Markermeer Lake, or walk along the promenade until you reach Edam, the place of the famous Edam cheese (it’s about an hour walk, and you can also take the bus, of course). 

Ah, it would be so nice to teleport myself to the Volendam promenade right now!

[See image gallery at amsterdamian.com]
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QETC just concluded their tour through the Netherlands with the latest play, Scary Bikers, at the Betty Asfalt in Amsterdam, and I saw it the last minute. I am glad I did, because it was delightful! Advertised as “a comedy/drama about life, love and staying on your bike”, Scary Bikers, written by John Godber, is the story of Don and Carol, two people divided by class but brought together by their losses and their love for bikes. The timeline is 2016, the moment of the Brexit referendum. I wasn’t particularly eager to see another play about Brexit, but I knew that, if nothing else, I will at least enjoy the performances: I’ve seen Mark Winstanley and Loveday Smith in Talking Heads a while ago and loved them.

When I sat down to write this review, I wanted to say that the play was not only about Brexit, but the more I think about it, the more I see the whole situation as a metaphor for it: two people with opposite opinions stuck together on a tandem bike, on a ride through Europe. Hmm… They are forced to work together, despite their disagreements, to get to the destination. Another prevalent subject is loneliness, and how people deal with it. Carol and Don have different backgrounds (she’s a former teacher and he’s an ex-miner, working now as a porter at the hospital), and they voted opposite in the referendum. There’s a lot of tension between them because of this, but eventually they realise they are only small pawns in a bigger play and that they can get past their differences because life goes on and the most important thing is to get out of their immediate misery.

I liked how this play tried to explain why some people voted out – and the complex and unexpected reasons behind it. There’s a quick analyse of the British society as well, in one of Don’s monologues, comparing the entire society with the poor situation of lonely people in the hospital he works for.

There were moments when we laughed out-laud, and moments when we were moved to tears. Mark and Loveday did a brilliant performance, the play flowed smoothly, and it was entertaining. It didn’t feel pretentious, it felt real and relatable. Well done, guys!

Photos provided by QETC.

Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets to review this show. However, all the opinions expressed here are my own. 

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If you’re looking for a walk in the woods without having to go too far away from the city, the easiest choice would be the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) — a park situated right outside Amsterdam, in Amstelveen. You could call this “hiking for beginners” or “hiking for lazy people”, if you wanted, since it presents no challenges for the hike itself nor for the getting there part. I use the term “park” because Amsterdamse Bos is not a natural forest, it’s a man-made one, and it comprises different landscapes, not only forest. This is one of the largest parks in Europe, and its construction started around 1930, but had to be interrupted because of the Second World War, to be subsequently finished only in 1970. Today, Amsterdamse Bos is a popular spot for outdoor activities for Amsterdammers of all ages. The varied landscape — wet and dry patches, wooded areas, grassland, reed and open water — provides a great habitat for a diverse flora and fauna to thrive.

Amsterdamse Bos offers quite a wide range of activities too, so don’t expect to find yourself all alone there, just yourself and the Highland Cows on the forest path. However, it’s the closest to a forest hike you can get if you are not in the mood to go too far away from Amsterdam. It is a beautiful nature area that covers 1000 hectares and provides a few good kilometres (4 to 15) to walk in the forest, where you can admire plants, birds and animals (the Highland Cows I was talking about can be found in the forest area called Schinkelbos). I like to forage for wild plants and berries (this is a good area to do it), look for mushrooms (but I don’t like to eat them :P) and I always keep an eye out there for cute little creatures. When you’re done with the walk, you can have delicious Dutch pancakes at the Boerderij Meerzicht (Meerzicht Farm) — my favourite way of ending a walk in the forest! They have a few animals in the courtyard, among which deer and colourful peacocks that roam around the tables of the open door restaurant.

If you are interested in more than just hiking, here are a few of the other activities you can do in Amsterdamse Bos:

  • Various outdoor sports: horse riding, canoeing, rowing, cycling, stand-up paddle boarding and swimming (in the summer, if the weather allows it); the administration assures us that the water is clean and there are also two outdoor paddling pools for small kids.
  • Visit the Geitenboerderij Ridammerhoeve (a Goat Farm): situated in the middle of the forest, this is an interactive farm, part petting zoo and part educational centre. Ideal for a visit with kids.
  • Fun Forest Climbing Park — high rope adventure park.
  • Open-air theatre or music performances at Amsterdam Bostheater.
  • Cherry Blossom Park: a round area covered with 400 cherry blossom trees, this is the place where the Cherry Blossom Festival takes place every year, in spring.
  • Visitors’ Centre “De Boswinkel”: if you enter the park through the main entrance, you can pass by the visitors centre for maps, info or for the gift shop.

These are only a few of the things Amsterdamse Bos offers, you can check their website for everything else, including a map of the park.

How to get there: cycle from Amsterdam (takes about 45 minutes or more, depending on the starting point and how fast you cycle) or take the bus (use 9292.nl to find the best route for you). Or drive, of course, but why drive to the park when you can enjoy the trip as well?

[See image gallery at amsterdamian.com]
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I’m not a morning person. But I am a person who occasionally wakes up at impossible hours when going through stressful periods of life. When that happens, I still try to make the best of it, like that morning when I went out to see the sunrise over the canals. It wasn’t a spectacular sunrise, mind you, but a regular one was welcome nonetheless. I love the fresh air of the morning, the stillness, the sun slowly rising over the old city. And the coffee tastes so much better after a walk!

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