The Washington Examiner — Amsterdam, Montana

17 Feb

Dutch filmmakers documenting every US Amsterdam

Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Sometimes the most touching stories can be found in the smallest, most overlooked towns.

That’s what Dutch filmmakers Bob Robbout and Rogier van Eck are discovering along their year-long journey across the United States, visiting all 16 towns with their hometown’s namesake: Amsterdam.

Their documentary series, “Amsterdam Stories USA,” is a road movie and mosaic portrayal of little-known America focusing less on the facts and history and more on the stories of the people who make up the 16 Amsterdams throughout the U.S.

Of course, no country wide tour of towns called Amsterdam would be complete without making a four-day stop in southwest Montana’s very own Amsterdam.

Robbout and van Eck found themselves in the hub of the town on Feb. 13 at Amsterdam Store, standing by the iconic windmill in the parking lot there. The only sounds to be heard were the hum of the nearby ice machine and the sporadic hoot of an owl hiding somewhere in a pine. Not even a car drove past on the highway as they noted that Amsterdam, Mont. wasn’t the smallest of the seven towns they’ve been through so far.

In Amsterdam, Pa., for example, the only “residents” that remain in the hamlet are found in the cemetery there. People stopped being buried there in the early 1900s. Or consider New Amsterdam, Ind., where only one man, the mayor, officially resides there. In reality, approximately 16 people call New Amsterdam home, but as Robbout and van Eck discovered, they didn’t make it to the census count, much to the chagrin of the mayor.

“Sometimes places can be small,” said van Eck, “but they all have big stories.

Robbout agreed.

“The funny thing is, in every Amsterdam we have been, residents always ask, ‘Why do you come here? There is nothing to film,'” said Robbout. “But we talk to them and find some really surprising elements. These films are a lot about suggestion — how we can make a place seem deeper. We want to give these invisible people recognition.”

Along their journey through Montana they stopped in Great Falls where they met a 19-year-old girl who was working as a barista. They filmed her outside in the falling snow as she described her dream of going to Africa to help the people there.

“It was moving,” said Robbout. “Her dream, to experience the world, it was idealistic and pure. Everyone has a detailed moment in which life is defined. That’s what we’re looking for.”

Along the way the filmmakers and their assistants have encountered poets, writers, musicians, and working class people. They believe by focusing on one resident in every Amsterdam, they can effectively portray the stories of small town America.

In Montana’s Amsterdam, after exploring the area, they soon noted the small railroad track that runs from Amsterdam School to the main drag. They discovered the owner of the track was a Mr. Fischer, and planned to interview him.

The inspiration for “Amsterdam Stories USA” began when the two filmmakers decided to create something about their own background. They discovered that two islands named, you guessed it, Amsterdam existed — one near the North Pole and one near the South Pole. They created “Amsterdam via Amsterdam” in 1997, and the film won several awards in the U.S. Recognizing the interest, they decided to create “Amsterdam Stories USA.”

The two spent six weeks filming in the east coast in the summer of 2010, and are currently spending the winter portion in the western states. They will conclude filming in the South in the spring. The entire series, which is expected to be about five hours long, will be completed in 2012.

The first six portrayals of Amsterdams along the east coast and Midwest have already been edited, and van Eck and Robbout said the producer was very pleased with the work. They asked him, ‘What did you see (when watching the film)?’

“Emotion,” the producer replied.

That’s just what the filmmakers wanted to hear.

“For us, it’s an adventure,” said Robbout. “Nowadays many films are detailed and planned. This is different. It’s a romantic way of documenting a community.”

Robbout and van Eck hope to have it aired as a series on PBS as well as in documentary film festivals across the U.S. as well as Europe.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:


3 Responses to “The Washington Examiner — Amsterdam, Montana”

  1. laurence April 29, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    Bonjour Rob,
    Merci de me faire partager votre voyage, j’aimerais bien être dans les bagages ! Les photos sont superbes, les paysages magnifiques et on ne peut qu’avoir envie de rencontrer les personnes !
    J’ai bien reçu la carte postale qui m’a fait très plaisir !
    Bonne route à toi et à vous et au plaisir d’avoir de tes nouvelles !

    • AMSTERDAM STORIES USA May 9, 2011 at 6:25 am #

      merci, j’aimerai de un jour vous présenter ce film ( d’une durée de 5 h !)

  2. françoise schein May 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    J’ai adoré , keep going!
    Beijinhos de Francoise

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: