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Occupied City

4h 11m Documentary, Historical 2023

This immersive, epic work of memorialisation from Oscar winner Steve McQueen uncovers WWII histories hidden in plain sight.

McQueen is known for tackling important themes in ambitious projects; in his latest film, he shifts his gaze to his adopted home of Amsterdam. Shooting throughout the COVID-19 pandemic as the city lumbered through all-too-familiar lockdowns, protests and reopenings, he reveals the traumatising events from WWII that continue to haunt every corner of the city to this day. Alongside footage of schools, parks, homes, museums, businesses and the red-light district, he interweaves revelatory, sometimes harrowing testimonies from locals, who reflect on the inter-bleeding of history and memory, trauma and healing.

From chronicling the troubles of Northern Ireland in his breakthrough Hunger (MIFF 2008), to American slavery in the Oscar Best Picture–winning 12 Years a Slave, to the UK of his youth in the multi-part anthology Small Axe, there’s no subject McQueen can’t inject with a uniquely artistic style and profound gravitas. Here, building on the meticulous research of wife and fellow filmmaker Bianca Stigter’s book Atlas of an Occupied City, he uses an engrossing four-hour running time to inspire contemplation on how the present is both indebted to and must surpass what came before it, and to put forward his hope for a more peaceful future.

“For McQueen, history isn’t a neat little package that can be experienced at a safe remove and then forgotten. Here, history is in every wintry park and sunlit room because it is insistently present and very much alive.” – New York Times

Director

Steve McQueen

Producer

Steve McQueen

Producer

Floor Ontrust

Producer

Bianca Stigter

Screenwriter

Bianca Stigter

Cinematographer

Lennert Hillege

Composer

Oliver Coates

Language

English

Countries

UK, Netherlands, USA

Studio

Madman Entertainment

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