Heddy Honigmann – Poet of the moment

Retrospective 2019

Fotocredit: John Appel

At the end of the film, the driver sits in his taxi, a shabby, rickety tin box. He puts a cassette into the recorder, a cassette he finds invaluable, and sings along a little. The love song we hear, folklore from his homeland, echoes for a long time to come. "Life is hard, but beautiful," says one of the taxi drivers portrayed by Heddy Honigmann in METAL AND MELANCHOLY from 1993.

It seems that Heddy Honigmann has always seen the fast pace of time coming: She confronts her with the magic of the moment, the intimacy of the moment. Born in Lima, the filmmaker has always focused her very personal gaze on the present and on people who, on the surface, don't bring a great story with them, but great inner conflicts. She stubbornly gives them her attention until they begin to tell: About her memories and her life.

Almost without exception, she gives a voice to people on the margins of society. These could be the musicians in the Paris metro in THE UNDERGROUND ORCHESTRA from 1997 who, as fugitives, seek a livelihood in the city, or the veterans of the Blauhelm missions in CRAZY from 1999, whose courage wrote history but whose stories remained unheard.

In her early twenties, Heddy Honigmann left her native Peru; there was no film school there. After stops in Mexico, Spain and Israel, she went to Rome to study film at the renowned Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia. When she finally moved to Amsterdam in 1978, she found a new home there, from where she made a film almost every year for over 40 years. Her works have won many awards, she was the second filmmaker to receive the "Living Legend Award" at the most important European documentary film festival IDFA in Amsterdam, and the MoMA in New York dedicated an exhibition to her.

"I would never betray her," she says about her protagonists. Voyeurism is alien to her, we don't look at people in her films, but at us through them and with them. Heddy Honigmann's gaze is deeply humanistic: she celebrates hard life in all its beauty.

Julia Teichmann and Jan Sebening


As part of the retrospective, six films from Heddy Honigmann's work will be shown at DOK.fest 2019 at film museum:



Netherlands 2018, 86 min., OmeU

"I think the word 'love' is appropriate." They are guides, companions and much more. In BUDDY we meet six guide dogs and their owners. An 86-year-old woman has pictures of all her four-legged friends hanging on her wall, who have been at her side since her youth - even if she can't see them. An autistic boy describes how his dog can tell if he is ill. The wife of a traumatized war veteran suspects that she would have separated long ago without the help of the blind dog Mister. The portrait of a unique relationship.

Thursday, 9th May, 7 pm, Film Museum
Tuesday, 14th May, 2 pm, Atelier 1



Netherlands 1993, 80 min, English subtitles

How to experience a city? In the metropolis of millions, Lima, the director climbs into one of the many taxis waiting for customers on every street corner. Whoever has a car - no matter how dented - offers his services in the hope of escaping poverty. In METAL AND MELANCHOLY, Peruvian-born Heddy Honigmann returns home after a long absence and takes the audience on a moving road movie through a country marked by the economic crisis.

Friday, 10th May, 7 pm, Film Museum



Netherlands, France 1997, 108 min., English subtitles

A singer from Mali, a pianist from Argentina, two violinists from Romania: Father and son. They have all fled from inhuman circumstances to Paris and are trying to secure a meagre existence for themselves with their music. Heddy Honigmann follows them through the corridors of the Paris metro, into their barren attic flats or horribly overpriced descent. For the protagonists, the music is not only a memory of their lost homeland, but also a dazzling spark of hope for a better future. A hymn to human resistance.

Saturday, 11th May, 6 pm, Film Museum



Netherlands 2006, 95 min., English subtitles

There is an unbreakable bond between the dead and the living: memory. The Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris is a place where people find comfort and peace, remember their relatives, friends and lovers or pay tribute to admired artists. FOREVER takes the view of its visitors and employees on the silent magic of this cemetery as its own. They tell us about the meaning of the dead and art in their lives, share their grief and admiration with us. "It's amazing how a film about a graveyard becomes a celebration of life - but it's exactly what a smart film is about: believing that culture and art are the driving force behind human existence." Ramiro Cristóbal, FIPRESCI

Sunday, 12th May, 11 am, Film Museum



Netherlands 1999, 97 min, English subtitles

How can you go on living if you've taken a look at hell? The Dutch UN soldiers who were deployed in various conflict areas around the world are still struggling with their memories today. For many, the key to the past is the music they heard on the front lines. Whether Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater" or songs from the band Guns N' Roses - the familiar sounds help to face the experience and overcome fear. A film about the madness of war and music as a means of survival.

Sunday, 12th May, 6pm, Film Museum



Netherlands, Germany 2008, 92 min., English subtitles

The inhabitants of Lima have survived decades of economic crisis, terrorism and government power: Peru is a torn country. OBLIVION accompanies people from the army of street musicians, singers, salesmen and shoeshine boys who desperately try to make ends meet. Some of these survivors pursue the most unusual activities: Manufacturers of presidential sashes are among them, leather goods repair workers and frog juice sellers. We meet bartenders and waiters, employees in the city's best restaurants and hotels, who flock every morning from the slums to the city centre. OBLIVION shows the daily struggle of the "little people" for survival - and their resistance to being forgotten.

Monday, 13th May, 7 pm, Film Museum


Kindly supported by EYE Film Instituut Nederland


On the death of Heddy Honigmann – an obituary

With a very personal view of the present and of people who on the surface don't have a great story to tell, but great inner conflicts: after a long illness, Heddy Honigmann passed away on 21 May 2022 in Amsterdam. A personal obituary.

Dear Heddy,
het is zo akelig stil op dit moment. Een stilte, die hard aanvoelt.
... it is hard to grasp what we have lost today. A filmmaker who showed us a way, who was always that one little step ahead? A storyteller who allowed us to re-enter our world on screen? A quiet voice, distinct, gentle and clear. What were those stories? Themes, places, people that are part of the usual flotsam of our world, but through your voice, your films, found a place on the screen and thus in our memories. What a privilege.
And what a life: Lima, where you were born, where you made your first and your last film. Mexico, Israel, Italy. You've always been a restless one. And then the city that shaped you like no other: Amsterdam. How do we put your signature into the appropriate words: attentive? Wondering? How do I describe what defines you as a filmmaker? The persistent? The upright?
You didn't seek fame. And yet: retrospectives from Munich to the MoMa in New York. Awards, national and worldwide. The Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival awarded you the title of "living legend". How fitting. And how ironically far removed from what moved you. On your path, on your trail.
What could our parting words be: 'No hay camino'? No, there is no path. You have shown us that time and time again in over 30 of your works. There is no path, except the trace we leave in this life. Thank you for this find. Thank you for the hours we spent together in front of the big screens, in which we were allowed to dive into realities that only you were able to show us. Thank you for your listening, your questions. Not only to your protagonists. Your questions were always questions for us. Heddy, I know you will hate me for calling you a magician. But your cinema... has always been magical. From the first METAL AND MELANCHOLY to NO HAY CAMINO.
Now you've gone, surrounded by your family, we hear from Amsterdam. It's quiet here.
Beste Heddy, dank je wel.
Heddy Honigmann is survived by her husband, son and stepson.
Jan Sebening