In 1987 John Appel graduated at the Nederlandse Film and Televisie Academy with his documentary Radio Daniëlle, a portrait of a local pirate radio station. This film, awarded Best Student Film, shows Appel’s interest in ‘daily life drama’

In 1993 he made his first documentary for cinema Johnny MeijerBody and Soul, about the last and lonely days of the Amsterdam accordeon virtuoso. This film expresses Appel’s tendency to ‘Amsterdam blues’.

His film André Hazes – She believes in me, awarded with the Joris Ivens Award for Best Feature Length Documentary (IDFA ’99), is the greatest documentary hit in Dutch cinema over the last 60 years.

In 2003 he made his film The last victory, about the famous horse race in Siena, the Palio. This film won two Golden Kalves at the Dutch Film Festival and many international awards. The film was nominated Best European Documentary at the European Film Awards 2004.

In 2009 he made his personal film The Player, about his father’s addiction to gambling. This film was a.o awarded with the IDFA Award ’09 for Best Dutch Documentary and the Filmfund Stimulus Award 2010 for most succesful documentary of the year. The film  was nominated Best Feature Length Documentary (IDFA ’09).

His latest film Wrong time, wrong place (2012) is a film about chance and fate, based on the tragic events in Norway of 22 July 2011. This film was the Opening film of Idfa 2012 and won several international awards.

Charactaristic feature of all his films is the preference for ordinary people and lonely heros, while thematically it’s about melancholy, memories, death and consolation. John Appel: ‘I make films on the basis of a combination of thorough research and intuition. During my research I’m not just looking for facts, but above all for the vulnerability of people. I call this ‘emotional research’. During filming I’m very selective. I don’t believe in collecting as much footage as you can. I try not to postpone my choices to the editing, but to make them during or before shooting. I think it’s very important to invest time in your characters WITHOUT a camera running: by being there, hanging around, gaining their confidence.

About mentoring: ‘I have a lot of experience in mentoring and coaching (young, first time) filmmakers. I was mentor at various workshops, national and international. A.o. IDFA workshop, Binger Doc Lab and Film Academy.

In the Middle-East I’m mentoring young filmmakers in the Greenhouse Development Program. Some great films started from this (a.o. Oscar nominated 5 Broken Cameras)’. In coaching I concentrate on the choices you can make before starting to shoot, the focus on what the film is about, the various layers of the film. I believe a film should go beyond its subject and it should have a vison and a clear ‘hand of the maker’. I think it’s important to be open minded when you start filming, not just to stick to the script. I try to help other filmmakers in developping a vision, discovering the ‘drama’ in their subject and casting the right protagonists.  I strongly believe in the power of restriction.

My motto – since I graduated from Filmschool 25 years ago –  still is: LESS IS MORE.’

foto John:Guus Dubbelman1 foto John:Guus D.

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