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August Willemsen, the page and the reality

A documentary on August Willemsen,

Dutch writer and Portuguese language translator


Directed by Frederieke Jochems          

Production Franjo Studio Amsterdam,


‘When I reread the ‘Braziliaanse brieven’ (Brazilian letters), it struck me how lively the prose still is.’ (writer Sylvia Witteman in newspaper De Volkskrant, 4-4-2019)













August Willemsen (1936-2007) was a translator and writer who translated the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa and the poems by Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade into the Dutch language. In 2022, fifteen years after his death, it is time for a revival of this eminent translator, essayist, writer, actor: The documentary ‘De bladzij en de werkelijkheid’ (The page and the reality) will be released, along with the reissue of his bestseller ‘Braziliaanse brieven’ (Brazilian letters) in the Netherlands, as well as the publishing of a brand-new edition in Portuguese language in Brazil.


Driven by a fascination for Portuguese language and Brazilian literature, August Willemsen travelled often to Brazil, captivated by the language of the classic ‘Os Sertoes’/’Rebellion in the backlands’ by Euclides da Cunha. He desperately wanted to experience the North Eastern Canudos landscape in reality.

During his many travels (from 1967 to 1984) he wrote compelling letters of his experiences in his unparalleled 'Braziliaanse brieven (1985), his writer’s debut. His literary expressive accounts have a timeless appeal; he tries to get in contact with the country and its people and takes distance as well. The life full of contradictions attracts, rebounds, and shakes him fundamentally.

Inspired by his book, filmmaker Frederieke Jochems decides to follow Willemsen to find out what attracted him to this vast land and what made him flee from the Netherlands. Does this charming man of letters comprise a Brazilian soul?

'De bladzij en de werkelijkheid’, August Willemsen’s portrayal is built up by images of Amsterdam, the Bijlmermeer outskirts where he lived, many areas in Brazil, combined with excerpts from his letters and magisterial television appearances. His complex relationships are exposed in the testimonials by his wives, friends and daughter, who show a relentless loyalty towards their ‘Guus’. The tension in his love-hate relationship to Brazil is tangible in his passion for language, literature and music, opposed to his tendency to self-destructiveness. With 'graphic novel' style elements, the film emphasizes on the extremes that characterized his rich, troubled life.


Sometimes I sense I only have to do a small step to get across to the other side, the side of the Brazilians; there have been moments that I thought to take part in this ‘un-walled’, pawing life, and I felt absolutely great. (from ‘Braziliaanse brieven’)

With: Marie Roelofsen, Noor Hulskamp, ​​Bauke Marinus, Paul Roelofsen, Kees Hin, Marian Plug, Edith Sont, Peter Nijssen, Maar

With: Marie Roelofsen, Noor Hulskamp, ​​Bauke Marinus, Paul Roelofsen, Kees Hin, Marian Plug, Edith Sont, Peter Nijssen, Maarten Asscher, Francine Stoffels, Sergio Zalis, Wladimir Weltmann, Carlos Lagoeiro, Antonio Torres, Samia Moraes Zazar, Joao Batista and Roos Willemsen.


Crew: Andras Hamelberg, camera - Carla van der Meijs, sound - Jan Ketelaars, editing - Sandra van Beek, research - Joris Kleverlaan, executive production - trio Acai, music - Frede Tizzot, graphic design - Amos Mulder, animation & titles - Max Frick, sound design - Ben Kremer, advice.


Frederieke Jochems, director/producer

Franjo studio, Tweede van der Helststraat 41

1073 AH Amsterdam



Length 80 min. - Format HD, color & black and white, DCP

Genre (experimental) documentary - release November 2022


Funds: Netherlands Filmfonds,  Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

Partners: Stichting Het Nieuwe Zuiden, De Arbeiderspers Publishers, Stichting August Willemsen, Arte e Letra, ZNZ productions


Preview: Password: August!

Graphic sketches:

Behind the scenes:



Frederieke Jochems (Schiedam, 1961) studied experimental film at the State University of New York at Binghamton, cultural anthropology at the Amsterdam University UvA, and visual communication at the Rijksakademie for visual arts, Amsterdam. She made a.o. the documentaries: 'Zout Zoet' (2005) - 'Edith Stein, Echt en de waarheid' (2007) - 'I love art' (2009) - ‘De zichtbare denker’ (2011) - ‘Stormen in het Nieuwe Land’ (2012), 'Militairen in de Mijnstreek' (2013) - 'Gevangen in schoonheid' (2016). She is a photographer as well, director of Stichting Het Nieuwe Zuiden (cultural foundation) and teacher at the Dutch Filmers Academy, Amsterdam.














grafic august.jpg
still august wiltschut.jpg
still rodeo.jpg
still sergio ipanema.jpg
still sertao.jpg
still Noor piano.jpg
still Paul.jpg
still schetsen .jpg
still Marie.jpg
still Bauke.jpg
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