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Theo van Gogh Death: Muslim Radical Kills Contentious Dutch Director

Theo van Gogh: Brutally murdered by a Muslim radical, the Dutch filmmaker was known not only as the great-grandnephew of painter Vincent van Gogh but also as the writer and director of controversial films – not infrequently perceived as sensationalistic and exploitative.
  • A Muslim radical has brutally murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, known for being Vincent van Gogh’s great-grandnephew and for several controversial – according to some, exploitative – big-screen dramas.
  • Van Gogh had received death threats following a Dutch television broadcast of his polemical short Submission: Part I, which presents a critical view of Islam’s treatment of women.

Contentious Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh murdered by Muslim fanatic

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was shot and stabbed to death on an Amsterdam street on Nov. 2. After a shootout, the police arrested a 26-year-old Moroccan-Dutch man who is supposed to have ties to radical Muslim groups.

The great-grandson of Theo van Gogh – and great-grandnephew of painter Vincent van Gogh – the filmmaker (born on July 23, 1957, in The Hague) was 47 years old.

In recent months, van Gogh had received death threats as a consequence of his English-language short film Submission: Part I, a harsh critique of the treatment of women under Islam.

The 12-minute film was co-written by van Gogh and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee and former Muslim who also happens to be a House of Representatives member of The Netherlands’ People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, whose political agenda consists of a mixed bag of libertarian, right-wing nationalistic, and socially progressive views.

Shown on Dutch television last August, Submission: Part I – which displays abused women with Koran verses written on their bodies – was reviled by The Netherlands’ Muslims, including some Muslim women’s groups.


Baby Blue with Roeland Fernhout and Nienke Römer. Directed by Theo van Gogh from a screenplay by Tomas Ross, the 2001 psychological thriller Baby Blue revolves around neighborly relations, adulterous sex, and men being less than candid with women.

‘Shocking’ Theo van Gogh movies: Animal abuse + cannibalistic serial killer

Theo van Gogh’s relatively modest big-screen output – 16 features over the course of nearly a quarter of a century – mostly consisted of low-budget arthouse fare featuring broken characters, and (in the view of his critics, gratuitously) disturbing images and themes.

In spite of the envelope-pushing quality of his work, van Gogh never acquired the international prestige/notoriety of the likes of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Nagisa Oshima, or Lars von Trier.

Titles include the following:

  • The black-and-white “shocker” Luger (1982), van Gogh’s feature film debut. Thom Hoffman (also in his film debut) stars as the titular character, a fascistic psychopath who kidnaps a millionaire’s mentally handicapped daughter (Laurien Hildering); problems arise when the woman’s father refuses to come up with the ransom money. In one scene, two kittens are placed inside a washing machine; in another, a gun is stuck up a woman’s vagina.
  • Another “shocker,” Charley (1986), features a silent serial killer (Marie Kooyman) whose technique involves seducing men, killing them, and then having them for dinner. The justification for her acts seem to lie in her incestuous past.
  • The psychological drama Blind Date (1996), in which a grieving couple (Renée Fokker and Peer Mascini) – their daughter has died – decide to go on “blind dates” with one another. Each encounter (or process of rediscovery) is supposed to have a different “theme.”
  • Baby Blue (2001), featuring quite a bit of English dialogue and described by the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad as an “elegant psychological thriller.” The life of a Dutch couple (Roeland Fernhout and Nienke Römer) takes a nightmarish turn after the husband becomes sexually involved with his British neighbor (Susan Vidler). Van Gogh called Baby Blue his “most paranoid” effort, adding, “I know that I lie to other people and I suspect that my fellow man does the same.”
  • Based on a Tomas Ross novel and loosely inspired by the events that led to the assassination of populist, far-right Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002, the political thriller 06/05 (2005) centers on a photojournalist (Thijs Römer) who uncovers an intricate conspiracy to have Fortuyn killed off. In real life, van Gogh had been a friend and supporter of the politician.

According to the IMDb, Theo van Gogh’s last movie was the episodic, two-character effort Ter ziele [possibly translated as “dead” or “defunct”], shot in summer 2004, and featuring Thijs Römer and Steve Hooi as a couple of nurses with numerous hang-ups.

Like 06/05, Ter ziele is scheduled to be released in 2005.

Noisy wake

December 2004 update: At Theo van Gogh’s wake, about 20,000 people gathered on downtown Amsterdam’s Dam Square. The crowd stood around banging pots and pans, and blowing horns and whistles.

Van Gogh’s family had called for the noisy wake, which was supposed to symbolize Dutch freedom of speech.


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“Theo van Gogh Death” endnotes

Theo van Gogh quote about Baby Blue via De Filmkrant.

Nienke Römer and Roeland Fernhout Baby Blue image: Shooting Star Filmcompany / Buena Vista, via De Filmkrant.

“Theo van Gogh Death: Muslim Radical Kills Contentious Dutch Director” last updated in December 2020.

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