White Balls on Walls
Year Released: 2023
Runtime: 1h 30m
Director(s): Sarah Vos
Where To Watch: Opening May 26 in NYC at Film Forum, and June 9, 2023 at Laemmle Theatres
RAVING REVIEW: WHITE BALLS ON WALLS plunges us headfirst into a journey through a sea of change in the hallowed halls of Amsterdam's Stedelijk Museum. The film navigates this journey as it documents a transition from a staid, homogenous artistic display towards a vibrant, diverse tapestry of narratives and artistic styles. Rein Wolfs, the new Director of the museum, spearheaded this change.
Stripped to its bare essence, the narrative lays out the shifts in the museum's experience. Documentary director Sarah Vos’ lens becomes a microscope, observing the emotions rippling through the corridors as the predominantly white staff navigate the new mandate of diversifying their space.
The film's story often focuses on Charl Landvreugd, the Head of Research and Curatorial Practice, emerging as the lead guiding his team toward understanding the many dimensions of diversity. His consistent focus isn't just a subplot but a microcosm for the museum's broader vision for inclusivity and representation.
Vos' camera work is reminiscent of cinéma vérité. This approach allows the audience to witness the challenging dialogues and debates that fuel the transformation of this traditional institution. This allows the viewer to be privy to the undercurrents of tension and conflicts accompanying the museum's efforts to evolve beyond its established norms.
The film has many ups and downs with all its unpredictability and dramatic moments; the ebb and flow of the museum's transitional journey form the backbone of WHITE BALLS ON WALLS. The documentary's strength lies in its authenticity, portraying the convoluted yet intriguing process of moving this project forward and managing systemic change within an institution rooted in tradition.
As we navigate the film, Landvreugd's critical role and the skepticism surrounding his appointment amidst the diversity drive form an intriguing subplot. Yet, his astute understanding of his role and comprehensive knowledge bring depth and clarity to the narrative, illuminating the path toward transformation. WHITE BALLS ON WALLS exposes the museum's historical blind spot regarding diversity. It lifts the veil on decision-making processes that have traditionally been biased towards a select group of artists, raising the curtain on a critical discourse about evaluating art and how the museum's patrons perceive this shift.
The documentary is punctuated with moments of deep dialogue that challenge the entrenched norms of the art world. More than a critique or a historical recounting of Stedelijk's evolution, WHITE BALLS ON WALLS morphs into a riveting narrative on the transformation of an institution and a commentary on societal change. Vos successfully transitions her film from a conventional documentary into an engaging experience, an intricate ballet of cultural evolution.
Vos brings the audience along on Stedelijk's journey, exposing the museum's inner workings and faults, revealing the inherent trials and tribulations of deep-seated institutional change. Ultimately, the audience is left with an uplifting sense of anticipation for the Stedelijk Museum's commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and a future showcasing the world at large in artistic excellence.
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[photo courtesy of ICARUS FILMS]