Jaap van Heusden was born 1979 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. As the son of a preacher he was surrounded by stories right from childhood. By the age of eight he had trashed his first Nikon camera. And by age twelve he burnt his first novel because it was so bad.
At fifteen he was convinced he would become a major player in European politics. He gave up acting at seventeen because he found out there where people who were actually any good at it. Before going to filmschool, he lived and worked in Ouagadougou, West Africa, where he shot a series of most enlightening traffic safety instruction videos and co-founded a platform for young filmmakers that grew into the biggest human rights filmfestival on the continent, but only after he left.
At the turn of the century he entered the Dutch Filmacademy where he focused on fiction. He graduated (after a fling with philosophy at the university and a screenwriting course in Hollywood) as a director in 2005 with his film A complicated story, simply told, showing the last intense three months in the lives of two friends, before one of them dies. The film was shortlisted for the Student Academy Awards, it was in competition at the Cannes filmfestival’s Cinefondation and it won prices at festivals around the world.
His short documentary Anderman showed his psychotic friend Per battling the madness of his mother. The film was warmly received by the press and distributed in national theaters. In the United States it was shown at Tribeca filmfestival and AFI Silverdocs.
In 2008 he teamed with the famous Dutch actor Barry Atsma to create Ooit, a psychological drama about a mentally disabled man living with his mother. The film premiered at the Netherlands Filmfestival, was called ‘a jewel’ by the press and was nominated for the Golden Calf.
Just after the collapse of Lehman he managed to get his feature debut on the road, Win/Win told the story of a playful ‘nobody’ at a famous investment bank who becomes a successful trader overnight. As he’s gradually becoming estranged from himself, he still seems unable to lose… Win/Win premiered at International Filmfestival Rotterdam in 2010 and was selected for 25 International Film Festivals in Europe and North-America; Jaap won the Prix Europe for Best screenplay. Oscar van Rompay made his first appearance and promptly received the Best Actor Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival.
Two 40-minute short films Drone and Het Offer followed in 2011 and 2012. Together with the 2014 short De Verloren Zoon (an adaptation of ‘The Lame Shall Enter First’ by the celebrated American author Flannery O’Connor), these films constitute the triptych Fathers & Sons.
His film De Nieuwe Wereld premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2013 and went on to be shown at over 40 festivals worlwide. Some of the prices it won: Signis Award Washington International Film Festival, Runner-Up Telescope Award Melbourne IFF, Nominated for Prix-Europa Berlin, Winner Special Mention Mannheim-Heidelberg. Best Film, Best Actress & Best Actor at Tehran Int Filmfest. Monterrey IFF, Best Feature & Audience Award. Ourense Independent Film Festival: Best Film & Best Director. And most importantly the lead actress Bianca Krijgsman won the International EMMY Award.
2017 saw the release of the documentary Asylum, co-directed with filmmaker Jefta Varwijk. From an ultra-subjective perspective the short documentary depicts David Brown’s hospitalisation and his attempts to climb out of his depression. The film won a Golden Calf Nomination.
His feature In Blue –starring Maria Kraakman and Bogdan Iancu– was shot on location in Romania and the Netherlands opened Film by The Sea, fall 2017. Was included in the prestigious Forum competition at NFF, in competition at Rome Film Fest. And won Best Feature in Austin. In 2018 it won three Dutch Academy Awards (Golden Calfs) for Best Actress, Best Screenplay & Best Direction.