Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
November 22
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.'"


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November 22, 2002
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November 22, 1963
The Film Seen Round the World

On November 22, 1963, an accidental filmmaker made what became the most obsessed over film of the twentieth century. Standing on a concrete overpass in Dallas, women’s clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder raised his Bell and Howell 8mm camera and tracked the motorcade that carried president John F. Kennedy through Dealy Plaza. Zapruder’s 27 seconds of footage shot from a clear, elevated vantage point are the only complete recording of Kennedy’s assassination and a focal point for government investigators and conspiracy theorists alike. The film also became the object of one of the stranger ownership tussles in modern cinema. Zapruder gave copies of his film to the Secret Service and, three days after the shooting, sold the negative and all rights to Life Magazine. Zapruder’s heirs later disputed the sale, and the film was eventually returned to them by Life owner Time Inc. for $1 dollar. In 1992, however, the U.S. declared the film an “assassination record” and the property of the government. A lengthy dispute ensued over the amount Zapruder’s heirs should be paid. The government proposed paying the family $3 to $5 million; the Zapruders argued that the film should be valued similarly to recent sales of a Van Gogh painting and an Andy Warhol silk screen of Marilyn Monroe. Finally, arbitrators worked out a value of $16 million. Shortly thereafter, Zapruder’s heirs donated one of the original copies of the film and its copyright to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, which now oversees all rights requests.

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