“If you want to get into a fight, you should ask if they remove a gay flag”

Written by Kim Buisman (Team Docu)

Amsterdam tells Putin to go homo

Amsterdam tells Putin to go homo (Picture from CharlesFred, Flickr)

Rik had just been filming the internationally well-known decor of the city centre of Amsterdam. His van was loaded with all kinds of set attributes. He pushed back a carpet, moved a small bar chair to the side and repositioned a plant. Would I manage in the back like this, he asked. No problem!

In other words, this was the perfect start for Team Docu. Two other Dutch hitching girls I met along the road sit on the front seats, and Rik takes us all out of Amsterdam in the right direction: south.

Rik’s film company is producing an Amstel beer commercial for the Russian market. The Dutch beer company invited four Russian comedians who recently finished a popular roadmovie in Russia. They record a well-timed compilation of their cabaret, while holding a bottle of Premium Amstel, of course. That explains the Russian symbols I see on the beer sign next to me in the back.


“Do you think it’s funny, the jokes they make?”, asks one of the girls in front. Rik explains it does not matter for him. His Russian is limited to two words: da and njet. He has no clue what is being said. Even though the filming is in Amsterdam, the product is obviously made for the Russian market only.

I remembered the protests in this years april against Putin’s anti-gay policies. Rik tells us about troubles during the shooting on the Reguliersgracht, one of the most dense areas for gay bars and clubs in the city centre. They could not use a specific shot, because there was a gay flag visible in the frame. Rik explains that as homosexuality is forbidden by law in Russia now, Amstel can not be caught creating “gay propaganda”. “We just filmed somewhere else. If you want to get into a fight, you should ask if they remove a gay flag!”

At the end of the ride, I unfold myself from between the props for the commercial. This first ride with Rik showed me again how locations, such as the Amsterdam canals, can travel the world. Citizens of Amsterdam go out to the same streets to support gay rights, while in the next moment the image of these very same streets are censured exactly because of this. I guess personal opinions are not always decisive in the filming business. Team Docu finds itself on the road, armed with a small camera and the naive hope to connect film to personal opinions from different parts of Europe.