©Ralf Uhler-EFP

Hannah Hoekstra

A graduate of the Amsterdam Theatre School, Hannah Hoekstra received a Best Actress Award at the Dutch Film Festival 2012 for her lead role in Sacha Polak’s “Hemel”. She was cast in Bobby Boermans’ “App” and “The Canal” by the Irish filmmaker Ivan Kavanagh and has also appeared on stage in productions of the Dutch National Theater since 2013. Hoekstra’s lead role as Tiny in Andre van Duren’s “The Fury” has earned her Best Actress awards at the Montreal World Film Festival and the Dutch Film Festival in Utrecht in 2016.

 Tara Karajica talks to her about being an actress and a Shooting Star, the meaning of awards, women in Film and her next projects, among other topics.



How did you become an actress?

Hannah Hoekstra: I don’t think I became an actress. Everybody, when they are small, play with stuff, with puppets, using their fantasy to place themselves in different situations and explore the world. And, at some point, people stop doing that, you know – they grow up. I don’t know why… And, I just didn’t do it. So, I don’t feel I became an actress. I just didn’t stop playing. I’m learning, I’m fighting, but I love it. So, I do not see the point where I started it. It just hasn’t ended yet.

I am sure you must get this question a lot: you work a lot in theater as well. How is this different from film?

H.H.: No, I completely understand… For people who are not used to playing, it’s weird and they always ask the question: “Which one do you like best?” But, it’s so different because the concentration, if you do a theater play – for as long as the play takes – you have to drag it through all these two hours and make sure you’re always good and that you take the people with you. You’re in direct contact with your audience. And then, in films, you have the shooting day that sometimes lasts for fourteen hours and you need to be focused for a couple of minutes for a scene and you really have to know what you’re doing because everything is precise. And, when you do this [*moves cup from one had to the other*], you have to also remember it because you have to do it in the next take again. So, it’s a really different concentration, but both is playing and that is, for me, the best thing in the world.

What does theater have that film doesn’t and vice-versa?

H.H.: The direct communication with the audience. With film, you have to wait until it is released. It’s weird for an actor. You know, you shoot a film and then, a year later, it comes out and you sometimes forget about the shooting days so you see it and it’s like: “I remember this day…” That’s weird, but nice…

You also did some TV. Can you talk about TV and how it is yet another different experience?

H.H.: It is. But, I think there’s money in TV most of the time; they take less time with what they want to do. But, not all TV does, because there are really good TV shows in Holland. For me, as an actress, to say TV or Film, it’s just a different medium. So, it has nothing to do with me; it just has to do with the outcome, and I tend to sort of distance myself when it comes up because I think it’s up to the audience.

What can you tell me about your Shooting Stars experience? What do you think it means for your career? What do you think will happen?

H.H.: I don’t know! I’m curious! It sounds corny, but I feel extremely blessed, happy and lucky to be here. And, of course, you can write those words down but you can never explain the way I feel about these people protecting me from this world. They give me opportunities, so the only thing I think is: “Bring it on! Let’s go from here!” And, this group of people is amazing! We make a really amazing family! I love it!

I think that everybody needs to be a feminist. Also men. I feel like it’s a good time.

You won two Rembrandt Awards as well. Can you talk about that and about what awards mean to you?

H.H.: I did win two of the Dutch film prizes and that was amazing! But, I think that my job is not about prizes. It’s a great, great honor to win them and the awards that were given to me are actually quite beautiful. I like it, but my life is about playing and not about prizes.

I’d like to know what you think of the Dutch Film industry right now. How do you see it and where do you place yourself in it?

H.H.: I don’t think of where I place myself, actually. There are some quite amazing directors and some really great actors, but it’s difficult because it’s all over Europe and all over the world. I think America might be a bit different because the investments are bigger. But, in Europe, we’re really suffering. For all arts, I think, it’s difficult to make a living out of them. And, that is one big problem, because I seriously think that in times like these – disturbing and scary – we need Art. I think Art is about peace and it gives people the opportunity to reflect on themselves. And, if we lose that, this world is really going down and that’s not a good thing, I guess…

What’s your take on women in the film industry? There’s a lot of chatter on the subject, especially in the U.S. … In Europe it’s a bit better, but how is it in The Netherlands?

H.H.: What I LOVE about Dutch actresses – the ones that I know, the ones that I like – is that they are such strong women. But, I think that everybody needs to be a feminist. Also men. I feel like it’s a good time. It works sometimes, and we have to fight. But, we’re opening doors and windows everywhere with the things we make and we should keep on doing it. Sometimes people are like: “This world is crazy! Women are left behind! We should change now!” But, I don’t think so… Things like this are so big just like racism. Of course, it would be perfect to let go of that now with a finger snap, but that’s not possible. We need a little time for all of the people to open their minds and for them to think like this: “Yes, women and men are equal. It doesn’t f*^$ing matter where you’re from or the way you look because people are the same.” We need time, but I hope we get there.

How do you get “in the zone” for every character you play?

H.H.: That’s something that I find really hard to talk about because it’s something that I do. Of course, it’s in my system, it’s in my head, it’s in my body… When I play a role, I know exactly what I’m doing and why I’m saying my lines, and if I don’t agree, I tell the director and I ask him: “Why am I saying this? Can we change this?” It’s something that happens on the inside, and if I use words I only flatten the thing out.

What about your next projects? What do you have in the pipeline?

H.H.: I have some small things running, but I am actually free as a bird and willing to explore this crazy world.

 So, no films yet?

H.H.: There’s an Austrian-German film coming out that I have already shot. This video game [Aloy: Horizon] is out there, and I have a theater project next month. I’m also shooting a film in May and June here in Berlin. It’s a Dutch film. It has a title, but I think it’s a working title.


This interview was conducted at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival. 

Tara Karajica

Tara Karajica is a Belgrade-based film critic and journalist. Her writings have appeared in "Indiewire," "Screen International," "Variety," "Little White Lies" and "Film New Europe," among many other media outlets, including the European Film Academy’s online magazine, "Close-up" and Eurimages. She is a member of the European Film Academy, the Online Film Critics Society and the Alliance of Women Film Journalists as well as the recipient of the 2014 Best Critic Award at the Altcine Action! Film Festival. In September 2016, she founded "Yellow Bread," a magazine dedicated entirely to short films, ranked among the 25 Top Short Film Blogs and Websites on the Planet in 2017. In February 2018, she launched "Fade to Her," a magazine about successful women working in Film and TV and in 2019, she was a member of the Jury of the European Shooting Stars (European Film Promotion). She is currently a programmer for live action shorts at PÖFF Shorts, Head of the Short Film Program and Live Action Shorts programmer at SEEFest and Narrative Features Programmer at the Durban International Film Festival. Tara is a regular at film festivals as a film critic, moderator and/or jury member.

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