NFF 2022: Bo
Director Joost van Ginkel talks to SEE NL's Geoffrey MacNab about his Netherlands Film Festival 2022 film Bo
“An ultimate love story with the sensuality of Betty Blue, the looks of a western and the feel of a road film,” was director Joost van Ginkel’s pitch to producer Ellen Havenith (PRPL). The film they made now closes the 2022 Netherlands Film Festival.
Bo by Joost van Ginkel
The closing film of the 2022 Netherlands Film Festival follows the eponymous Bo**, played with satisfying spikiness by Gaite Jansen, as she goes on an epic journey to visit the grave of her jazz musician father’s grave in Georgia. En route, she hooks up with an older truck driver called Levan (Rati Tsiteladze) who knew her father many years before. Both characters are drawn to each other… and both have difficult memories they need to exorcise.
“I wanted to do a story about lies. Every family has their own secrets and lies,” the writer-director elaborates. “People tell lies to each other every day, constantly. You, me, we all do, even if we are not aware of it.” The film, he adds, is also about identity. “Who are you… what are you made of? How much of a percentage of your character is made from the DNA of your father, and how much percentage of your character is from your mother.”
These may sound like abstract concepts but Van Ginkel had some very practical problems to solve in filming Bo. The Dutch director was making the film in a foreign country in the middle of a pandemic.
“We were shooting between the first and the second Covid waves. We flew there [to Georgia] with a Dutch-Belgian crew, did our quarantine. We worked together with two Georgian co-producers with whom we cast a fantastic Georgian crew.” He cites, for example, the art director Bacho Makharadze who was invaluable in scouting the locations.
“Georgia is a really beautiful country, with amazing landscapes, but not too big, so it was really doable to see a lot of locations in a few hours’ drive,” Van Ginkel remembers.
As in the director’s earlier film 170 Hz*, the lovers exist in their own self-enclosed world. They spend much of the movie in the cabin of Levan's big American truck.
It took three days to shoot all dialogue scenes between Bo and Levan in the truck-cabin. Cinematographer Frank van den Eeden (Girl*, Lukas Dhont), the cast and various crew (eight people in total) had to squeeze themselves every morning into the cabin. The truck was placed on a “really big low loader” to give the impression that Levan was actually driving. It was the height of summer, blisteringly hot, and it was not comfortable at all to be cooped up together at such close quarters.
“We were all pushed in together. After an hour, you smell each other and you feel each other,” Van Ginkel laughs at the memory of being so close to his colleagues. Thankfully, the crew members all clicked. “Everybody was relaxed.” Throughout the 11-week prep and shoot, no-one had a tantrum.
The director had worked with Gaite Jansen before and knew that she would be perfect to play Bo. “We know each other from when I cast her in 170 Hz. At that time she was 17. She was already amazing at the time… so young and already she had this enormous gut feeling how to approach a scene. She always seems to know,” Van Ginkel says of the fast-rising young Dutch star who also co-starred in hit TV series Peaky Blinders. “I feel we have a big trust in each other’s intuition how a scene should be done. Because of this trust there is this magic that can happen to a scene when an actor and director are both open and curious to investigate the scene to bring it to a higher level. For example, only half an hour before the scene in the bathtub we together invented the line ‘I do not believe you,’ which turns the whole scene around.
It was more of a struggle, though, to cast the male lead Levan. “He had to be Georgian. He had to have looks that would be attractive enough for a younger woman - and not every male of 46 is physically attractive enough.” An added requirement was an ability to speak English. “I think I saw every actor in Georgia available in this age,” the director sighs. Thankfully, one candidate, Rati Tsiteladze, “just had it all.”
Bo’s father was a trumpeter. Music features prominently in the film, therefore, and the director pays tribute to his composer, Jochem Weierink.
Van Ginkel discovered Weierink’s music when it was used on the trailer for his second feature The Paradise Suite**. As soon as he heard the quality of the composition (“I thought it was Bach himself”) the director was determined to work with Weierink for a complete score on his following feature film Bo. “Later I found out that Jochem also made the trailer music for Knight of Cups (Terrence Malick, 2015) - need I explain more about his talent? Weierink was the sweetest and most generous person you can imagine…and he worked so hard for this film. He came up with an evocative and elegiac score which fit the story perfectly,” Van Ginkel ends.
The Dutch release of Bo will be through September Film and is set for September 29, a few days after the Utrecht premiere. Bo is produced by PRPL (NL) in co-production with Savage Film (BE) and Natura Film (GE).
*Film is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund
**Film is supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and Production Incentive