Funded! This project was successfully funded on March 12, 2013.

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A film about the blackface tradition of Zwarte Piet in the Netherlands. Problematic? Or are the Dutch just having holiday fun?

ZWARTE PIET: A DUTCH TRADITION

www.blackpetethedocumentary.com

Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary is a film about the blackface tradition of Zwarte Piet, a Dutch folklore character associated with the celebration of Sinterklaas. According to folklore, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands via steamship every November, rides into town on his horse, and is assisted by his helper Zwarte Piet, which literally translates to “Black Peter.”

"Black Pete" | Photographer: Brett Russel
"Black Pete" | Photographer: Brett Russel

Every holiday season, hundreds of Dutch citizens dress up as Sinterklaas’ helpers by blackening their faces, reddening their lips, donning afro wigs, and wearing bright, colorful costumes with gold “creole” earrings. If you visit the Netherlands during the holiday season, this is what you might see:

Group of Zwarte Piets
Group of Zwarte Piets

Scores of people living in the Netherlands, particularly those of African descent, are speaking out against the imagery and stereotypes associated with and promoted by the Zwarte Piet tradition. Other folks hold on to the idea of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet celebrations as harmless, playful fun for Dutch adults and children alike. Sometimes, during school celebrations, Black children are selected to play Zwarte Piet. So what gives?

*NOTE: It was brought to my attention that the word "oftentimes" may be been misleading. Both Black and white children are selected to play Zwarte Piet.

Daphne Kolader dressed as Zwarte Piet and classmates.
Daphne Kolader dressed as Zwarte Piet and classmates.

THE FILM

Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Documentary explores both sides of the tradition - and everything in between. Who seeks to change the tradition? Who seeks to maintain it? And why? The film features interviews of Dutch citizens, historians, scholars, activists, artists, and members of the general community. The film also explores the representation of Black people and the Black body in Dutch popular culture and how these images affect the lives of people of African descent on a day-to-day basis.

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!

As independent filmmakers, we rely on the support of our community. In June, our creative team will travel to Amsterdam to continue pre-production and document the celebration of this year’s Keti Koti “Breaking of the Chains” festival. This year’s festival marks the 150th year anniversary of the abolition of slavery in Dutch colonies. We then plan to travel back to the Netherlands in November to capture the Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet celebration in action.

This is where YOU come in!!

We need funding to cover expenses for:

  • air travel
  • local transportation (trams, metros...will save the bike riding for when we’re not shooting)
  • lodging
  • van rental and gasoline
  • meals (hungry crew members go on strike!)
  • equipment rentals (light and sound)
  • and stipends for the production crew

Producing a film in an international location - Europe to be exact (read: the Euro) - requires a lot of resources. Without your help, we can’t afford to get this project off the ground! (Literally)

Pre-production with the crew | Amsterdam, NL | Fall 2012
Pre-production with the crew | Amsterdam, NL | Fall 2012

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:

  • S/O to Jomo Fray and Christie Neptune for doing an awesome job on our kickstarter video!
  • S/O to a few friends who make cameo appearances in the video: Glynis Terborg, Kno'Ledge Cesar and Dana Saxon (listed in order of appearance).
  • S/O to my entire production team who have put in some serious work just to get this campaign up and running.
  • Music: "Major Heavy" by the brilliant Shafiq Husayn
  • Special Thanks to the Freebrook Academy for offering their space for the Kickstarter video 
  • Special Thanks to the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute for supporting my initial research in the Netherlands.

REMEMBER, KICKSTARTER IS ALL OR NOTHING!

We have to raise the entire $20,000 fundraising goal! If we don't raise every penny, we won't receive ANY of the money. That means that we totally need your support. But not just your support, your mama's support, your daddy's support, your grandmama's support. We need EVERYONE'S help to make this a successful campaign. If you're unable to support financially, no worries! You can still show your love by simply sharing your interest in the project with your friends, family, and coworkers and ask if they can support on your behalf! Also, every facebook post, every tweet, every blog will help us to spread the word and make this documentary a reality.

So as we say in New Orleans, please help us achieve our goal with a lil LAGNIAPPE (something extra).

Dank U Wel! That's Dutch for Thank You!
~ Shantrelle

Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter

Challenge 1: Like many documentaries, the story we vow to tell during pre-production may not necessarily be the story that unfolds in the editing room. I mean, it may be even better! As a Kickstarter backer, you might be supporting a project that may evolve in lots of different ways and the final project may look different from what you expected.

Challenge 2: As American filmmakers producing a film primarily in the Netherlands, the costs of most things increase exponentially due to the exchange rate. While we expect to finance the film through other sources, we really need your help in getting this project off the ground and jump-starting pre-production.

FAQ

  • If you want to support but don't have the money in your account right now, but you will in the near future, no worries! You can donate today. The money that you pledge WILL NOT be taken out of your account unless we raise the entire $20,000. If we are successful, your account won't be charged until 8:48 p.m. on March 12, 2013. That means you don't have to wait until the end of the campaign. You can totally donate today.

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  • No worries! When you donate to the campaign, the only people who will know the dollar amount that you pledge is us! (As in myself and my producer Chanelle). No one else will be able to see the amount that you donate. So feel free to give as much as you can afford, no one will know that you're secretly independently wealthy, unless you want them to know. ;)

    Last updated:
  • Kickstarter is a "crowdsourcing" platform. Basically, people (mostly artists) use Kickstarter to raise money for art projects such as documentaries (like us), books, exhibitions, etc...The reason why so many people use Kickstarter is because it has been successfully used to raise millions of dollars for great independent projects. The reason that Kickstarter is both exciting yet challenging is that once you launch a campaign, you have to raise every single penny of the dollar amount that you're trying to raise (in our case $20,000) or you receive none of it. That means it's literally ALL or NOTHING. This has to take place within 30 days. It's fun but it's also stressful and a lot of hard work.

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  • That's such a great question! I have already come out of pocket to pay for some of the funds for pre-production for the film since I didn't have funds set aside to start shooting. I just knew that the story needed to be told and I wanted to do whatever I could to tell it. Because we are shooting a film overseas, the costs have to be converted to Euros, which makes everything more expensive. Honestly, we need to raise MUCH more than $20,000 to shoot the best film that can be done. If we exceed our goal, we will use that money to travel to Curacao as well to document the celebration of the tradition there. Additionally, there are many historians, scholars and individuals who are not based in the Netherlands who would add valuable insight to the discussion. We would like to interview them on camera as well. Making a film is expensive. The more money we're able to raise, the better!

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Funding period

- (30 days)