From #ANGRY to #ACTIVIST
TIM HOFMAN KNOWS HOW TO MAKE AN ENTRANCE: he recently delivered 250,000 signatures to the Dutch parliament in a shopping cart. The compelling scene—Hofman and nine-year-old Nemr Salim [read our profile on Nemr here] nonchalantly wheeling the cart to the parliament in The Hague—is captured in Hofman’s documentary Terug Naar Je Eige Land, or “Back To Your Own Country.” Their goal? Ensuring Nemr’s ability to stay in the Netherlands.
Hofman is a young, no-nonsense TV presenter and producer, poet and writer, documentary-maker and activist, who sports both a beard and tattoos. He has received several awards recognizing his status as an “issue-raiser,” whose documentaries don’t just report on issues, but aim to force government action.
“We live in a democracy where someone can start citizen initiatives and make documentaries. Why would that be a bad thing?” Hofman says. “You can always push back when you feel someone overreaches with his or her power. Power does not reside in The Hague or Brussels, take note of that.”
Case in point, the shopping cart full of signatures advocating for the Dutch government to renew a program known as the “kinderpardon,” which would allow the children of refugees, like Nemr, to stay in the Netherlands as long as they had already spent five years living in the country. Hofman’s ability to undergird Nemr’s signature campaign with compelling visuals was instrumental in getting the government to compromise, and grant a “kinderpardon” to most of the 700 children whose residency status was unclear for so long.
Hofman relishes his ability to be a bridge between the young viewers who watch his shows and politics. In 2016, Tim was involved with the De Stembus campaign, which aimed at getting more young people to vote for the Dutch national elections. This inspired other campaigns, including the #ProveThemWrong campaign, aimed at increasing youth turnout for the 2019 European Parliamentary elections.
“Young people sometimes need a kick under their butts to get out to vote,” he says. “They should know what politics means for them in their daily lives. If you don’t vote, what will you lose? If you do, what can it mean for you?”
Hofman likes to push people’s buttons and is not afraid of controversy. For example, although the 30-year old doesn’t do drugs himself, he campaigned for less strict drug regulations and safe drug use (the campaign was called “One Pill Doesn’t Make You A Criminal”). His YouTube show, #BOOS, or “ANGRY,” has a very direct way of helping viewers express their frustration with companies for poor service. Hofman and his guest just show up unannounced, cameras rolling, and shower the offenders with an ironic confetti drop. This often leads to pretty tense situations, though Hofman says all his campaigns are rooted in a “desire for equal values and therefore freedom.”
“You can always become active, even without a team,” Hofman urges young people who want to take action on behalf of a cause. “Use social media, get a group going, get your story straight, make videos, organize events, and just work hard.” Coming from Hofman’s lips, the words feel real, and not like the hackneyed end of a campaign stump speech. He really wants this generation to get up and make a stand, whatever that stand may be.
Hofman concludes: “We make these documentaries in our own time, with little to no budget. We have a big mouth, and sleep very little.”
This article appears in Are We Europe #4: This Is Not An Elections Issue