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Netherlands, 1997 (MIFF 1998, Documentaries)

Director: Niek Koppen

A scathing but subtle attack upon the time-honoured British bloodsport institution of the fox hunt. Opting to do without a judgmental narration, director Niek Koppen allows the subjects of his powerful documentary to reveal their snobbery, outmoded values and xenophobia in their own words. Hunt managers, fans and participants explain their motivations and obsessions while the sordid details of the hunt are laid bare on screen. Despite fox-hunting associations becoming increasingly secretive, Koppen was allowed to document the Ludlow Hunt in Shropshire, one of about 200 remaining fox-hunting associations in Britain.

As the film opens an ex-army hunt supervisor bemoans the demise of "Empire, Church and countryside" and describes fox-hunting as a leisure activity close to the heart of Englishmen. The patriotism espoused in these words is captured skilfully in Chris Cox's photography of the splendid English countryside, yet is sharply juxtaposed against the single-mindedness and (at times) violent brutality of the hunters. The apparent indifference of the hunters magnifies the absurdity of their talk of nobility and tradition. Thought provoking and confrontational, The Hunt presents a water-tight case for the abolition of a cruel and senseless ruling class tradition.

"No matter how articulate hunt supporters are in defending their pastime, they are unable to refute the charges of cruelty, and Koppen's level-headed approach effectively stirs anger without grandstanding. Ultimately, the fox hunters come across as a privileged group clinging to an inhumane, anachronistic tradition." - Variety

Niek Koppen was born in 1956 and graduated from the Netherlands Film and Television Academy in 1981. A documentary director and producer, he lives and works in Amsterdam. Koppen's films include Patricia (1990), Gevlucht (1990), Siki (1992) and De Slag in de Javazee (1995).

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