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INTERVIEW CHERYL ASRUF about de Vrijplaats residency


Cheryl Asruf is an actress and starting filmmaker who participated in the third edition of de Vrijplaats residency.

What appealed to you when you saw the call of de Vrijplaats?

When I saw the call it ticked off a lot of boxes; the edition was about the children’s perspective and I am making a short children’s film, inclusion and the “other” story was the focus and I am a brown woman with a different story. I totally fit the picture that was outlined. You also had to have a research question. I wanted to know how to shape the fantasy scenes of my film. How I could bring the fantasy world to life in my film in a way that I stayed within budget without sacrificing creativity in the scenes.

Which workshops from the program stuck out to you the most?

Positionality was very special. It was the first workshop through which we got to know each other in a very honest and pure way. I also really liked the singing workshop which was more of a voice lesson. The films and documentaries from a child’s perspective that Dana Linssen showed us were super interesting. And I thought it was super valuable to see the film “The Innocence” by Eskil Vog’t and then be able to question him directly about the cast and how he had handled it with those kids.

Why was Positionality so special?

As a group, you are a kind of “mini society.” Then it is very good to make your position known within that society. People of color know this. We have a kind of secret world; we know that our world exists and that the white world exists. We know how our world works and we know how the white world works. But white people don’t know that about us. And you are constantly confronted with that as a person of color, in situations, in conversations, in life. To someone else of color, I don’t have to explain that, but on the other hand, I am married to a white man. That means there are automatically things that I have felt that he is not going to feel. So it’s woven into life everywhere; some of us have that awareness and others don’t and then it’s unequal. But if you start leveling up within a group right away so that everyone realizes what their position is then the basis is right away. And if you feel your boundary is crossed or you don’t feel safe, you can refer to that moment. Then at least you know that everyone got that information on that day. I am speaking from the minority now, but conversely, I have felt that I too have privileges that I am now more aware of.


You’re an actress. Can you talk about how de Vrijplaats connected to the phase you are in now as a creator?

It was exactly what I needed. As an actress, I wrote a script and with it I participated in talent & skills program, Cypher Cinema of the Film Fund. I knew absolutely nothing about filmmaking, and with a healthy dose of naive hubris, I began the process. And only when you start doing it do you notice how many little obstacles there can be and how well you have to get to know yourself as a creator. And that was very nice about The Freehold of FilmForward, where I was given the space and time to do just that. A healthy environment was created where you could learn with and from each other without judgment with lots of warmth, love and encouragement from facilitators Addy Otto and Dana Linssen.

What has participation in de Vrijplaats residency you?

It brought me a lot, but not in the way I expected. I thought I would go into the studio very practically with a table, craft supplies, a camera, a canvas, a DOP and my coach. But it wasn’t. It was much more theoretical which in a different way brought depth to the questions I had and brought me closer and closer to my taste.

What makes de Vrijplaats different from other Talent & Skills Development programs?

Freedom. Really total freedom to explore what you want to explore and it is facilitated. You will be supported in a healthy environment where you can learn to create and dare to explore yourself. That helped me move forward without experiencing great pressure. I’m now in another talent development program and there it’s just deadlines and skills; I suddenly have to know what antagonistic writing is, more image-oriented or character-driven writing. Yes, then I do experience stress and I haven’t had that in The Freehold. The Waldorf was really free and I think it only helped my development.

Does your participation in de Vrijplaats have a knock-on effect in your practice?

Yes. I now know very well what I want to do with my short children’s film and am now researching how it works with producers. I had a good conversation with a producer and it came about through FilmForward. Getting to know this group broadened my network and gave me a fine connection with this group of people. They were all established filmmakers with more experience than me. Everything I needed I got from them and I was not charged for anything. It was a very empathetic group, always willing to help with anything. We agreed with each other that if we have work that we want to have read to someone that we will meet with each other.

What has stuck with you the most?

I think I am permanently changed by de Vrijplaats. Something opened up in me; that you don’t always have to work toward something. Not constantly pushing, “I have to achieve this now, I have to have done this now,” but that it can also be like that at The Freehold. To absorb everything in you like a sponge in the universe and get to your goal organically. I really find that an eye opener and I want more of that in my life. I very much enjoy what it has brought me and I still ride that wave a little bit.





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