Amsterdam’s Bijlmer neighbourhood is the most logical area in the city to pave Holland’s first Malcolm X Boulevard. The high rise building cluster was originally built for middle class families but has long attracted lower income inhabitants. Black culture is celebrated in the Bijlmer and language is reinvented but most of all it’s one of those places that doesn’t submit itself to anyone or anything. The Bijlmer snaps back when attacked and loves to be honoured. This mix of glory and gloom is exactly what BNN, Holland’s TV channel bold enough to make the Red Light District turn down their lights with coy, aims to feature for a theme night on June 2.
On March 18 BNN-director Patrick Lodiers (pictured at left) will move into the Bijlmer to get the hang of what he calls â€˜an exotic garden with more than 130 nationalities.’ Maybe it’s me but unless the subject is fruit, the description exotic sounds like it’s only a minute before someone asks me if they can touch my hair. My inner-cynic foresees many inappropriate truths and not enough research but maybe this will be different. Maybe this BNN show will feature the area’s true variety and not what the traditional media portrays as the umphteenth time the Dutch cabinet try to clean up the “problem area.” Still, with all of Amsterdam’s rawness, why did BNN choose this particular part of town?
On February 7 2009 the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment presented a list of the 20 most problematic neighbourhoods in the Netherlands. The fact that Amsterdam is only mentioned twice on the list isn’t hardly as interesting as the fact that The Bijlmer didn’t make the cut at all.
But perhaps the list was made too soon. One could argue that the 22 shootings and three people killed in the Bijlmer’s war with self last year alone would earn it a better ranking in Holland’s who’s who.
Lodiers is giving himself two months in an apartment in one of the neighbourhood’s best streets to figure out what’s good, what’s hood and if the two mix. Of course this micro version of what it’s like to live in the Bijlmer isn’t a one-man show. The director will have a variety of famous Dutch sleeping over as well as a film crew.
Because we all know that nothing elicits people’s true behaviour like cameras and being treated as a spectacle. BNN hasn’t released too much information just yet but we’re keeping our eyes peeled. If not because we care, then at least because we wonder how this experiment will end.