Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired the creation of the film.
My name is Mateo, and I am 24 years old. After completing a fairly academic course at Amsterdam University College, I had the desire to use the gained theoretical understandings but also make something different, practical, and artistic. At this point, Yannesh and I finally had the time for such a project and also felt conceptually ready to tell a story like the one depicted in Radio Voorwaarts.
The main inspiration is the squatting, or the more edgy rave scene of Amsterdam. For almost five years, I had the idea to make a feature film or a series about this underground nightlife. What triggered the actual creation of this short film was my graduating and leaving my student dorm while friends of mine were getting kicked out of Voorwaarts - the real place that inspired the setting where the film takes place. We were at a stage of just having finished a very nice period of our lives but also having no clue what was going to happen next. I also saw this uncertainty as attributable to an extent to political factors – if it were easier for people to find housing and for artists to survive in this system, this uncertainty wouldn’t be as intense.
What is the film about and what are some topics it addresses?
On an abstract level, it is about a collectively experienced feeling of loss - the fear of losing something that is valuable to you while still being in it, enjoying it while knowing it’s not going to last for that much longer. On the one hand, you’re thankful for it, but on the other hand, you’re already sad about its unavoidable ending. Literally, the film depicts a specific building that is going to get evicted. All the characters have different emotional responses to the fact that they have to leave, but for all of them it’s a big deal: this building was part of their lives, and losing it doesn’t just mean losing the space but also losing a part of themselves and having to move on from a chapter of their lives that they have very fond memories of.
Interview with Mateo Vega about Radio Voorwaarts, a short fiction film that takes place on the eve of the eviction of an alternative community, home to the
Radio Voorwaarts pirate radio. The inhabitants - artists, squatters, idealists, and ravers - give one last party to simultaneously mourn and celebrate the end of their beloved space.
The film is a project set up by a group of young filmmakers and artists from Amsterdam, directed by Vega and produced by Yannesh Meijman.
It sounds like viewers will be able to relate to the characters and their sense of loss – what feeling or message would you personally want the film to convey?
If people feel anything, absolutely anything, I will be happy. Mainly I hope to convey the aforementioned bittersweet feeling of being thankful for something but also sad about the prospect of losing it. The film is not that much about the actual place that inspired it. For me and for a specific group of people, it was a legendary space, but most don’t even know about it. Through Radio Voorwaarts, we want to create a sense of universality, especially since the project is politically motivated as well. We hope to emphasize the importance of a city’s spaces for people who do things differently and are not as much part of the economic system, but who still create valuable cultural things. I don’t think that’s acknowledged enough. It’s getting harder and harder to find affordable spaces where you can not only live but where you can also organize events such as parties, concerts, screenings, and discussions. There is this dominant idea that you have to do things in a specific, market-oriented way; if you don’t, it becomes difficult to survive. Places like squats thus become a beacon of hope that society doesn’t have to be the way it is; if you lose that, then you also lose the sense of there being an alternative… which would be really sad.
After coming up with the concept, what was the process of creating Radio Voorwaarts like?
We’ve been working on the film for the past year. In the beginning, I had the image of the very last shot in my head, and then we came up with what preceded it - the story about the last night and the last party. The steps involved developing the plot and the structure, writing the script, getting a crew together, doing auditions, deciding on dates to shoot (which we did halfway through January), editing, color correction, sound design; between all of these things there is PR, graphic design, title sequences, music. A really important part of the process was also writing grant applications because they allowed us to crystallize our thoughts by explaining the film to someone who knew nothing about it. At the end, so many people have contributed to so many tiny elements to make it all happen.
What were some of your influences for the film?
A structural inspiration was Richard Linklater’s movie Slacker which depicts a day in Austin, Texas; it's like a chain reaction of people just running into each other, hanging out, and talking. Similarly, Radio Voorwaarts follows different characters during one night, thus focusing more on the community’s collective experience of losing the space. The structure was the breakthrough after which the themes we wanted to incorporate all fit into place. Donald Glover’s Atlanta was an inspiration in terms of tone - the way it balances the banal and the philosophical and intertwines them in unexpected ways. Another influence is La Haine (perhaps my favorite film) in which poetic meaningful moments stem from something which might initially be perceived as simple or superficial.
Friday (June 22, 2018) is the film’s official premiere - what can people expect to see at this event?
The premiere is exactly one year after the last party of the real Voorwaarts, after the initial moment that inspired the project. It is organized as if it were a party of and with the people in the film. The bands performing at the event are either in the film or people around us whom we want to showcase. Also, in the film there is a pirate radio platform which was actually something they wanted to do in the real Voorwaarts. If we had a radio station, we would invite the people performing at the premiere, so in a way, by making Radio Voorwaarts, we aim to help the real place (which is now gone) reach its full potential. This concept is really important to us when it comes to the distribution of the film.
How do you see the future of the film, and what other projects do you have planned?
During or after the summer, we would love to screen it in small places in Amsterdam and around the Netherlands. Organizing little underground screenings would fit the spirit of Radio Voorwaarts. It would be cool to have it at prestigious festivals (we’ll be submitting to festivals for the next year and a half), but I think it’s also true to the film to show it somewhere in a basement, for example. In the fall, we want to do a party. We also thought it would be cool to make the radio a real thing, so we’re working on a podcast that is related to the film. Ultimately, it is all intertwined.