Film of the Week – Dutch Cocaine Factory

In her film Dutch Cocaine Factory, Dutch performer Jeanette Groenendaal has made a daring, extravagant experiment. Both the theme and form of her film move on the borderline between documentary and fiction, between a raw record of reality and video art, between reality and dream…

Dutch Cocaine Factory focuses on sixty-year-old Arend who is addicted to cocaine and whose intensified consciousness seems to show obvious signs of paranoia. However, the film director soon discovers that Arend’s remarks about spies and wire-taps monitoring him are not that far from reality. Immediately, another protagonist appears on the scene; a lawyer describing the digital monitoring of suspicious persons in Holland as a legal method frequently employed by the police. Jeanette Groenendal is up for another shocking surprise; with her camera and all of the protagonists, she sets out to a former factory which used to process approximately nine hundred tons of coca leaves a year in the 1920s. She gradually reveals the story of one of the crucial sectors of Dutch economy in the past century; cocaine production, in which Holland remained unrivalled until the second world war. Towards the end of the film, the director’s attention shifts back to Arend and his attempts at getting rid of his addiction as well as his self-ironic, self-reflective remarks. Jeannette Groenendaal has made the following comment on the protagonist and the current state of the Dutch society: “I think he is a visionary. In India, a person on the edge of the society who has been using drugs for fourty years would be a holy man. In our past in Holland, we have given space to these people to grow and experiment. Now, within this new, controlled society, we are suddenly criminalising them.”
Dutch Cocaine Factory can be perceived as an interesting attempt at a docu-detective genre flirting with Lynchian poetics. While openly employing features of fiction and yielding to her inclination to paranoid theories and visions, the filmmaker still does not fail to claim that all she says is “the truth and nothing but the truth”.

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