'Only Decent People,' Dutch Jewish Film About Interracial Lust, Sparks Debate

Intense Criticism Greets Dutch Box Office Hit

Raising Hackles The lead character in a hit Dutch movie is a Jew from Amsterdam who embarks on a quest to date black women in the melting pot city. Blacks have criticized the movie for perpetuating stereotypes.
youtube
Raising Hackles The lead character in a hit Dutch movie is a Jew from Amsterdam who embarks on a quest to date black women in the melting pot city. Blacks have criticized the movie for perpetuating stereotypes.

By JTA

Published February 14, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

A dreamy expression slowly spreads across Geza Weisz’s handsome face as he watches scantily clad young black women dancing around him at an Amsterdam nightclub.

The scene appears in “Only Decent People,” a dark and provocative Dutch-language film that examines the fraught relations between the country’s Jews and other minorities and stars Weisz, a Jewish Amsterdammer and a major movie star in Holland.

Based on a 2009 best-selling novel by the Dutch Jewish author Robert Vuijsje, the film was the second most popular in Holland last year, drawing 350,000 viewers in more than 100 theaters – a substantial number in a nation of 16 million.

But its stereotypical depictions of Moroccans, Jews and black Surinamese have drawn intense criticism in a country where the lessons of colonialism and the Holocaust have instituted a strict standard of political correctness – a standard that some say only a Jewish artist could breach.

“If ‘Only Decent People’ were written by someone who was not Jewish or Surinamese, it would’ve have been seen as pure racism,” said Bart Wallet, a non-Jewish historian and expert on Dutch Jewry. “It is met with greater understanding because Robert Vuijsje is a Jewish man who has a Dutch Afro-Surinamese partner.”

In the film, Weisz plays a rebellious and dark-complexioned David Samuels, the only son of affluent Jewish intellectuals who endures discrimination because he looks like a Moroccan. Estranged from both the Jewish community and the wider Dutch society on account of his looks, David embarks on a quest for black lovers that leads him to witness not only violence and promiscuity among Holland’s black underclass, but also the racist attitudes of his Jewish friends.

The film traffics freely in racial stereotypes: blacks are lazy and greedy; whites are unhygienic; Jews are slave traders; Moroccans are violent. Such sentiments, combined with the film’s depiction of group sex and borderline rape, helped make “Only Decent People” a commercial success, but they also brought latent prejudices to the fore – bolstering the claims of critics who have argued that the film fosters rather than critiques Dutch racism.

Since its release, Vuijsje has been the target of a death threat and been denounced by members of Holland’s black community. One black artist rehashed centuries-old claims of Jewish complicity in the slave trade.

“The film’s popularity made them feel uncomfortable in a country which celebrates such messages,” said Anousha Nzume, a black activist and artist, referring to Holland’s 500,000-member black community, roughly two-thirds of whom are immigrants from the country’s former South American colony of Suriname.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.