Definition November 2023 - Web



The founder of JaJa Film Productions talks indie filmmaking, inspiration and making an impact

Hulst’s projects – including Lilet Never Happened , Kampala Cycling Couriers and Women with a Mission – have been picked up by Netflix and Amazon Studios. FINDING THE ‘WHY’ Van der Hulst’s latest project – which is heading to the Cambridge Film Festival – is I Am Somebody , which follows three teams – Pakistan, Palestine and Brazil – during the Street Child World Cup in Qatar. “It’s a positive, uplifting story – one that’s necessary in these times,” argues van der Hulst. “All these kids come from such harsh circumstances, and they’ve all got different stories. If you see how positive they are and how hard they work, it’s inspiring, and it really gives these kids a platform.” She continues: “Normally, people wouldn’t see them, and now they see them as football players – as heroes – which is an amazing transformation.” The subjects of her films encourage van der Hulst to keep creating. “That’s the reason I started JaJa Film Productions. Their stories – it sounds a bit cheesy – are so inspiring. Documentary filmmaking, especially independently, can be hard, but when I see the audience react, I think, ‘This is why we do it.’”

GOOD SAMARITAN Soon after Lilet Never Happened , van der Hulst saw “what a huge impact films could make – not only on viewers, but for a lot of other people.” She quickly turned her love of filmmaking into a production company: JaJa Film Productions. “I met so many people who had great stories – I wanted to show them to the world,” van der Hulst beams. “We do that with documentaries, but I also make quite a few one-minute films. I always try to help others with what we make.” But filmmaking – especially independent filmmaking – is not without its challenges. “I think you have to work twice or three times as hard to get your story known, to get attention,” explains van der Hulst. “It’s not that it’s impossible, but it’s hard, and it’s getting harder.” With the rise in streaming, many independent production companies are being pushed out by well-established players. That said, a few of van der

amillah van der Hulst took an unusual path into filmmaking. Originally working for NGOs and other humanitarian organisations, she has “a different story to most”. Now over a decade into her film career, she’s made documentaries, features and one-minute films, largely centred around women, children and sport. “One organisation I worked for was Free a Girl, which fights against child prostitution,” says van der Hulst. “A filmmaker came to us and said: ‘I’m working on a feature about child prostitution in the Philippines. Can you support me?’” Because the organisation was only three months old – and had a handful of employees – it had to decline, but not before van der Hulst offered her own help. “So that’s how I started in the film business, with Lilet Never Happened . “From there, I’ve done lots of different projects,” she continues, “but almost all have a link with a humanitarian angle.”



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