Holland is brilliant. It's like the polar opposite of America, with its jolly liberalism and legislation-enshrined rights to get stoned and then milked by the finest prostitutes in the world. It's a place to laugh, to talk crap, to be gay by archaic and modern definitions. No wonder, then, that lots of people stuck in other less enlightened places with fewer pretty flowers and dirtier canals want to go and live there. But Holland, sensibly on this front as on others, wants to ensure it doesn't get invaded by marauding do-gooders who will be affronted by its customs. So the Immigration Ministry has produced a film, brimming with images of gayness, nudity and everything else that makes the country great, to show to prospective new residents. It's 105 minutes long. That's a lot of gay.
The Dutch have a grand tradition of brave and unconventional thinking, and of being slammed for same. Naturally this new concept has met with a degree of outrage. The idea is for those who are after citizenship to buy the film as part of their application, which includes an examination (the writing kind, not the lying-down kind - however shrivelled your genitalia, Holland welcomes you). Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk has implemented the new test, along with other policies which have reduced immigration by a third. The artist Theo van Gogh's murder in 2004 upset rather a lot of people and led to a lot of anti-immigration sentiment, which in turn upset a lot of people. It's hard not to feel somewhat queasy about the film, which has an aggressive whiff of something meant to put people off - a small snarl of 'if you don't like it here, then fuck off back where you came from'. But it's also hard to argue with the sentiment, blunt and Griffin-stroking as it feels. If you want to live in a place like Holland, you should have to at least confirm that you're prepared to turn a blind eye to men snogging each other and women sitting in windows wearing very, very little. It's not a matter of insisting that all newcomers should strap on something studded and pile in under threat of deportation; it's insisting only that a basic level of respect is maintained, in a society that strives to stay progressive when it would be so much easier to slip into the freedom-bondage gear of other nations.
Presumably, immigrants will be provided with a bucket and left in peace during the film, then depending on what involuntary emission is found therein, they can stay or be politely asked to try elsewhere. A lobbying group for mixed Dutch and immigrant couples solemnly declared it a 'black day for the people intending to bring their partners to Holland', but the chairman of a national Muslim organisation was rather more pragmatic, suggesting that immigrants should 'embrace modernity'. He - one Mohammed Sini - said in defence of the film that homosexuality is 'a reality'. Well, *yes*. All that's required is for people to acknowledge each other's reality and if they can't actually dig it, they can grit their teeth and achieve some measure of neutrality about it, even by describing it as 'a reality' or 'something that is' and leaving it at that. Much better that than denying its right to exist and thinking of it as something that should be eradicated to get the world back to normal. And then perhaps they can just express their issues with others' way of life by drawing and publishing cartoo.... Well, maybe not.
The irony of this particular wheeze is that there's a censored version produced to be shown in Iran and other countries where images of nudity and homosexuality are illegal. It is probably very, very short.
The Dutch vid is likely to repel some who had no idea life in the country really is that lascivious, and will attract others like men in macs to sex shops. But what warts-and-all, delusion-shattering montages would greet intrepid prospective residents of other great nations?
1) France - sour-faced people staring with naked contempt at passers-by while drinking coffee outside cafes that (as subtitles will explain) doesn't actually taste any more 'authentic' than the silt you complain about in Caffe Nero.
2) USA - very unhealthy-looking people. Unintelligible people. People in big silly hats. Fat unintelligible people in big silly hats standing outside boarded-up abortion clinics cheering.
3) Germany - some fat people. Some people in big silly hats. Some humble and terribly apologetic people who think that the world still thinks it's all their fault personally. Oh, and English football fans performing flying experiments with plastic chairs.
4) UK - depressingly ordinary-looking people, grey skies, pervasive sense of national shame which actually makes it a natural drinking pal of Germany, startling paucity of public conveniences.
5) Iraq - lush flower gardens, laughing children, smiling camels and some absolutely *gorgeous* rugs for practically nothing. (Due to production issues, footage filmed somewhere else entirely.)