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Selling a Colonial War

In the Netherlands, colonial history is slowly but surely being rewritten. It has long been clear that what the Dutch government at the time described as “police actions”—the deployment of the army in response to Indonesia’s declaration of independence in 1945—was in fact an unlawful war. Nonetheless, the use of the term “war crimes” is still sensitive.

This documentary reveals how far the Dutch rulers went in selling the war as a domestic affair, intended to restore peace among the population. Unique, often shocking images tell a different story. Filmmaker In-Soo Radstake holds extensive interviews with international experts who explain the complex relationships in the former colony and set out the global context.

Under international pressure, the Dutch government gave up its colonial war, but the carefully composed political message from the past still hangs over the current public debate in the Netherlands. This is just one of the insights that emerge from this broad-based investigation of colonial history, which consistently looks beyond the established frameworks.

Selected for the International Competition at IDFA 2023