Humans of Film Amsterdam: much more than cinema

Picture of By Gilda Bruno

By Gilda Bruno

[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”48″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]A[/mks_dropcap]lthough of Surinamese descent, Feargal Agard was born and raised in Amsterdam. Architecture graduate, he successively moved the focus of his education towards his greatest passions: film, photography, and writing. In 2011 he moved to New York to attend The New School University, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Media Studies. In 2015, he returned to the Netherlands and started a Master’s in Film Studies at the UvA.  Since then, Feargal has collaborated with many art institutions such as Rijksmuseum, Cobra Museum of Modern Art, and Amsterdam Museum. Today, he is the owner of Humans of Film Amsterdam, a blog that emphasizes the impact movies have on people’s life by providing a space where their stories can be told.

A combination of plots and (extra)ordinary stories
The idea is simple yet gives voice to people, allowing them to progressively open up through the unifying experience of film. Directly approaching passers-by on the street, Feargal asks them to talk about a film product (e.g. movie, documentary, TV-series) that changed their previous perspectives or acquired a particular meaning for them. Bucking with technology-driven interaction, the interviewees are lead to rediscover face to face communication, seeing mutual trust, respect and curiosity as the cores of its success.

Behind Humans of Film Amsterdam
Recently Humans of Film Amsterdam celebrated their first anniversary. When asked about how everything started, Feargal says: “I found New York to be very edgy: the city was very liberating, an entirely different world. I gained a brand-new perspective of film, Hollywood and independent film-making. I was in the United States for four years; after graduating I tried to stay there, but it was really hard. I had almost found something, but it would take me forever, so I thought: ‘Whatever, I’ll just go back to Amsterdam and see what happens’, and now I partly regret that decision.”

“I didn’t like the too commercial stuff, so I avoided that. While doing internships at museums, I was busy with themes such as transgenders and LGBTI. I got in touch with many people, and I thought it was fun to listen to them, make a story of it, and put it out on the social media for the museums. Nevertheless, it was very difficult to find a job, and I couldn’t stand the whole “Alright, I have to search for something else again”. So I thought: what about starting my own thing? I have always wanted to do a blog.”

A growing community: from the birth of the blog to its future perspectives
Choosing a topic from which to develop the project can be hard, although Feargal had some inspiration: “I had thought about ecology, but I didn’t really have a voice in it. I started thinking about film, but then again, it seemed like everybody was already talking about it. Then, all of the sudden, it came to me, because I was following Humans of New York and Humans of Amsterdam: why not combining them? Humans of Film… Humans of Film Amsterdam! That’s how Humans of Film Amsterdam was born.”

The future perspective is of course important for a lot of projects, but Feargal has no clue as to where Humans of Film Amsterdam will go. He does however have plans for the future: “I really don’t know what it’s going to be. It would be cool if it was a website blog followed by a lot of people who like the stories. I seriously have to plan this day by day: you never know what will happen on social media, they could randomly discover you.  I once wrote a post about a film by a filmmaker I met at the CinemAsia Film Festival; some people found it and started retweeting it, and then he found it, and he also retweeted it! That was incredible, I couldn’t believe my film review had been shared by someone with 1.5 million followers. At a practical level, I would like to go on a street and try to film at least three people to make a film of it. It is not supposed to be so much about film, yet the essence of it is that it is being filmed. Contrary to the stories of Humans of Film Amsterdam, this time the aim will be to touch and discuss broader subjects.”

It is very hard to gain somebody’s trust, it is very hard to even tell something so personal to somebody you have just met on a street.

The importance of being heard
Exciting projects come with exciting stories, and Humans of Film Amsterdam is no exception:“It’s hard to pick just one. There was this girl that spoke about how moving from Poland to Amsterdam had made her feel super alive: back in her home country, she grew up with her mother that was mentally ill, and she had to deal with sexual abuse. The thing that I found so beautiful about it was that she trusted me with that story. It is very hard to gain somebody’s trust, it is very hard to even tell something so personal to somebody you have just met on a street.”

“Another girl talked about an episode from a TV-series, Black Mirror; some people who lived underground were participating in a competition and had to bike in order to create energy for those living above. There was a song from the sixties, and what amazed me the most was that, when she heard it, she immediately started thinking about all the nostalgic things around that song: it reminded her of when she was little. Her parents died at a young age, and to listen to that song was like a teddy bear, one of those you have kept there, up in the closet, since when you were a baby. That’s what the song meant to her, and I thought it was very touching.”

Cover: Gilda Bruno / Final Editor: Kyle Hassing

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