Report on Dutch young audience documentaries

More than a year ago, Signe Zeilich-Jensen was commissioned by IDFA to investigate the situation of Dutch youth documentaries. Although the Netherlands are known as a leading nation in this field, according to Zeilich-Jensen’s report measures are needed to continue to guarantee the quality and visibility of the genre. (Photo: AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR)



Signe Zeilich-Jensen outlines the context of her research: “Dutch youth documentaries are of top quality, telling relevant stories that closely match children’s experiences. At the same time, the media landscape is changing drastically and with it the viewing behaviour of children. The boundary between documentaries and reality programmes is blurring. The trend is to produce more binge-able, glossy stories, often starring familiar faces. Documentaries that do not fit into this trend are becoming increasingly difficult to finance and are almost impossible for the public to find in the large online catalogue.” That is why producers and directors of Dutch youth documentaries have sounded the alarm. Despite the appreciation for their films, the competition for screens and increasingly smaller budgets threaten to turn quality youth documentaries into a dying genre.



The research process consisted of conversations with approx. 40 filmmakers, producers and representatives of national and international parties. “I asked them what bottlenecks their experience and what they believe is necessary for Dutch youth documentaries to continue to exist as a powerful and attractive genre.” Based on these conversations a draft proposal was written, suggesting cooperation between all parties involved. The preliminary conclusions were shared at an international presentation at IDFA in 2022.



Results are encouraging: the Netherlands has a strong network of stakeholders, facilitating and supporting youth documentaries. Now that the genre is being put under pressure, there is a growing need for sharing expertise in co-financing and distribution and for a joint approach to talent development. Strong signs of hope are: the new policy plan for the NPO (Dutch public broadcasters), and the first edition of the Zappdoc talent development programme, which started in December 2023. Such initiatives should create a fertile climate for Dutch youth documentaries in the coming years.