Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 07
November 2, 2004
Theo van Gogh murdered

On an early Tuesday morning in the fall of 2004, filmmaker/political activist Theo Van Gogh was riding his bike to work when shots rang out. Mohammed Bouyeri, who'd been waiting for him, shot Van Gogh 8 times, killing him on the street. Bouyeri then deeply and savagely cut  open his throat, and stabbed him in the chest, leaving the knife there with a long, rambling note attached. The violent death was not only the tragic end to an original filmmaker, but became the centerpiece in a debate about immigration policies in the otherwise open and tolerant Netherlands. His namesake, his great grandfather Theo Van Gogh, was the brother of the artist Vincent, a fact that gave Theo a heavy artistic legacy. After making a few independent films––his 1996 Blind Date was recently remade––Van Gogh turned to writing polemics, often supporting any number of unpopular causes, and drawing to him lawsuits and threats. In 2004, he and Islamic artist Ayaan Hirsi Ali made Submission, a ten-minute film that used passages from the Qur’an to highlight Islam’s oppression of women.  After the film appeared on Dutch TV, both filmmakers were publicly attack and threatened. While Van Gogh was murdered, the note was primarily aimed against Ayaan Hirsi Ali. After Van Gogh’s death, Hirsi Ali went into hiding, issuing a  commentary on her friend and collaborator: "I am sad because Holland has lost its innocence…Theo's naiveté wasn't that it [murder] couldn't happen here, but that it couldn't happen to him. He said: 'I am the village idiot, they won't hurt me.'"


More Flashbacks
December 7, 1960
Village of the Damned released

In the winter of 1960, a new vision of horror came to American cinemas from Britain. The Village of the Damned tells the story of a small English village in which all the women are mysteriously pregnant.

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December 7, 1949
Tom Waits For No Man

Thomas Alan Waits was born in Pomona, California, on this day, 59 years ago. The name Tom Waits is, of course, primarily associated with music: Waits is a distinctive, gravely-voiced singer-songwriter who has made classic albums like Rain Dogs and Blue Valentine and has been a force on the American music scene since the 1970s. Waits, though, with his rasping tones and rough-hewn features is also a casting director’s dream and has been involved in film almost as long as he has in music. Bizarrely, it was Sylvester Stallone who first put him on screen in his directorial debut, Paradise Alley, as a piano player called Mumbles, though Waits subsequently drew attention from somewhat more distinguished helmers. The first of these was Francis Ford Coppola, who cast Waits in four consecutive movies (One From the Heart, The Outsiders, Rumblefish and The Cotton Club) and also had Waits score One From the Heart, for which he received an Oscar nod. His other great relationship has been with director Jim Jarmusch, who also initiated Waits into his exclusive Sons of Lee Marvin club; Jarmusch first utilized Waits in Down by Law in 1986 and has since used his musical or thespian talents in Mystery Train, Night on Earth and Coffee and Cigarettes. Appealing to auteurs with an eye for idiosyncratic, Waits has also appeared twice in Terry Gilliam and Hector Babenco productions and had memorable roles in Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (opposite Lily Tomlin) and 2007’s Wristcutters: A Love Story.

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