Bert Stroo (1965-2017)

bert stroo

This morning I heard the sad news that my friend Bert Stroo died. The news reached me quite late as Bert had died already one month ago. I must have been buried in my work, as today I noticed that a few people have mentioned his passing, such as his good friend Jan Rot, for whom he wrote songs too. In addition of his translations of balloon texts for Donald Duck – which he did for many years – Bert was subtitle writer for film and TV; recent titles were e.g. Despicable Me and Straight Outta Compton. He also translated some 40 books. In 2005 he was one of the first to graduate from the Scriptschool (Script Academy), resulting in his screenwriting and dialogue adaptation for TV (e.g. Grijpstra en de Gier, In therapie). For years he planned to write a script for a fiction film on Gert & Hermien, two famous Dutch folksingers, to be filmed by Pieter Verhoeff. He also co-wrote the script for Blue Mauritius (Charles Henri Belleville), which at present is in pre-production.

I met Bert decades ago. We shared a love of cinema and cinema history, in particular the books and films by Kevin Brownlow. Bert knew about my work at the EYE (then called Nederlands Filmmuseum or simply Filmmuseum) in the early 1990s and my research in early cinema. He was particularly interested in the phenomenon of the cinema lecturer, or ‘explicateur’, as he was called in the Netherlands, on which I published with Ine van Dooren, my former colleague at the Filmmuseum, the article “Ladies and gentlemen, hats off, please!” Dutch Film Lecturing and the Case of Cor Schuring (Iris 22, Autumn 1996). This inspired Bert to research the Dutch explicateurs himself and follow the thread with research into intertitling in the Netherlands, the introduction of sound cinema in the Netherlands, and the various experiments with subtitling, leading up to his own profession. The digging in the roots or prehistory of his profession if you like, stuck to him, and so like a fox terrier he threw himself onto the pre-war Dutch film magazines such as the Nieuw Weekblad voor de Cinematografie to deepen his knowledge. With a grant from the Thuiskopiefonds Bert managed to finish his extensive research, which resulted in some publications, for instance his article Filmvertaler of filmverteller from 1997 in Filter, journal on translation. In subsequent years he gave lively and anecdotal guest lectures – within my film history courses – on the developments from cinema lecturing, through intertitles and early subtitling, to post-war developments in subtitling for film and TV, and his own steps into the digital age. He also got enthusiastic about the research done by French film historian Claire Dupré la Tour on intertitling, so he joined me in visiting a special conference Intertitre et film, Histoire, théorie, restauration / Intertitle and Film. History, Theory, Restoration at the Cinémathèque française in Paris, organised by Dupré la Tour in 1999. It was then that I discovered that Bert couldn’t stand flying. As he was always cheerful and optimist – his regular greeting was: Alles kits? [Everything okay?] – he laughed away his flight sickness afterwards. We had a good time in Paris, that is: till the return flight came. I really felt sorry for him and was surprised as Bert was always tiptop in condition, went to the gym ever so much and only ate healthy food. When I met Bert for the last time in Berlin in November 2014, he was still in perfect shape, so I really envied him as I wasn’t anymore. We had a lengthy conversation on past, present and future. His work as subtitler had become easy because of package deals. But the Berlin cold was getting too much for him, so he planned to move back to the Netherlands. End of last year he returned, but last month a sudden disease took him away within 24 hours. Bert was only 51. He will be missed.

~ by Ivo Blom on March 29, 2017.

2 Responses to “Bert Stroo (1965-2017)”

  1. I was shocked to learn of Bert’s passing the other day and deeply sadden. He was indeed a sweet man and very kind. I’m actually the executive producer of The Blue Mauritius and would like to be in contact with whomever is in charge of his estate or his family. Can anyone help?

    • Dear D. Davis,

      I will ask his friend to contact you. I will forward your mail address.

      Kind regards,

      Ivo Blom

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