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Dick Maas: Saint

Jolly old Saint Nick? Not in the Netherlands. Meet the director who turned his country's sinister Santa-lore into a brooding horror/thriller.



Tribeca: Tell us a little about Saint, in your own words:


Dick Maas:
Saint is about the legend of St. Niklas. Whenever there is a full moon on the 5th of December, he will come to Holland to murder children.


I wanted to make a dark brooding horror/thriller, with lots of suspense and some gore. I didn’t want to make a spoof, though like always in my movies, I put in some comedic elements.


Tribeca: Can you explain how St Nicholas and Black Peter are normally regarded by the Dutch? (Their story is somewhat different from our jolly Santa Claus icon, with his merry elves.)


Dick Maas:
St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) is a very popular tradition each year in Holland. He’s sort of a Santa Claus. Instead of a sleigh with reindeer, he rides a horse over the rooftops. Every year, children put their shoes in front of the chimney and will find a present in there the next morning.  
St. Nicholas is considered the epitome of good-heartedness.


In Saint, I’m showing his dark side. I’m portraying him as a cruel bloodthirsty bishop who, together with his helpers, the black Peters, will try to slaughter as many children as possible on December 5.


Tribeca: What inspired you to tell this story? It’s pretty off the wall…


Dick Maas:
The idea to make Saint Nicholas into a murderous bishop was something that was on my mind for a very long time. The first ideas emerged already some ten years ago and the first drafts of the screenplay date back to 2002.


It is always fun to make familiar objects into evil ones, as I did with The Lift. Likewise, familiar traditions and well-known mythical persons lend themselves well to be turned around into something totally the opposite.




Tribeca: I understand Saint has had amazing success in Holland. Why do you think that is?


Dick Maas:
St. Nicholas is the most important celebration of the year. A lot of people felt offended that I was portraying him as an evil child murderer. Before and during filming, we got a lot of flak from the Dutch and Belgium Saint Nicholas Society and other religious groups who tried to ban the movie from the cinemas. Even the poster couldn’t get their approval, and a legal complaint was filed, requesting the removal of the posters.


All attempts were unsuccessful. Needless to say, all this commotion caused quite a stir and the public awareness of the movie was overwhelming. The result was the biggest opening weekend for a Dutch movie rated 16 and older, dethroning Paul Verhoeven's Black Book.


Tribeca: What's the craziest thing (or "lightning strikes" moment) that happened during production?


Dick Maas:
Shooting a chase scene in the middle of night during of one of the coldest winters in Dutch history, high on the rooftops in Amsterdam, is not something I do every day. Watching galloping horses on a 50-meter long, elevated platform against green screen is also an impressive feat, and not something easy to forget.  


Tribeca: You’ve had a long career. Any advice for aspiring filmmakers?


Dick Maas:
Don’t try to make movies in Holland.



Tribeca: What are your hopes for Saint at Tribeca? The Cinemania audiences are usually game for anything!


Dick Maas:
My hope is that an American audience will like the movie even more then the Dutch. I mean, a guy on a horse galloping the Amsterdam rooftops by night, that alone is worth a ticket, no?


Tribeca: If you could have dinner with any filmmaker (alive or dead), who would it be?


Dick Maas:
I prefer to have dinner with dead filmmakers. Filmmakers aren’t that talky anyway.  I know I’m not.


Tribeca: What piece of art (book/film/music/tv show/what-have-you) are you currently recommending to your friends most often?


Dick Maas
: I recommended my latest American movie, Down, to the last friend I had. Now he’s gone too.


Tribeca: What would your biopic be called?


Dick Maas:
The Next Best Thing.


Tribeca: The Cinemania section is so much fun—known for its offbeat humor and often wicked undertones. What makes Saint a Tribeca must-see?


Dick Maas:
Because it’s the best Saint Nicholas movie ever! 

Find out where and when Saint is playing at the Festival.


Become a fan of Saint  on Facebook.


Follow Dick Maas on Twitter.





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