Born as Martinus Wouter Koolhoven, Koolhoven graduated from Dutch film school in 1996 and almost immediately made an impact on the Dutch film industry with his 53 minute television film Duister Licht ("Dark Light") in which the slaughtering of a pig was shown. The film was nominated twice at the Dutch Film Festival.
It was his next (and first feature length) film however that established his name, also outside of the Netherlands. Suzy Q (also made for television) became the most awarded Dutch film of 1999 and established both Koolhoven's career and that of actress Carice van Houten, who Koolhoven worked with several times in the films to come.
Koolhoven started off with strongly stylized films that were all hailed by the critics, but never gained commercial success. In 2005 that changed when he went into the mainstream with Schnitzel Paradise, that not only got him rave reviews (both inside and outside the Netherlands), but was the highest grossing Dutch film of that year. The film was shown at many international film festivals (amongst them the Berlin Film Festival and the Karlovy Vary Film Festival where it was part of the Variety Critic's choice.) The film was sold to more than 20 countries, which is a remarkable amount for a Dutch film.
In the same year Koolhoven released Bonkers, which internationally became his most awarded film and performed well at the box office. He was also the first director to have two films in the Dutch box office top 20.
''n Beetje Verliefd (2006) (Happy Family) was his third hit film in two years time, earning him another Golden Film. It was followed in 2008 by Oorlogswinter (Winter in Wartime), a Dutch movie based on the hit novel by the same name, written by Jan Terlouw, which went platinum. The movie was praised by almost all critics (including Variety that wrote a raving review) and was an enormous success at the box office, being the number one movie at Christmas 2008 in The Netherlands. Winter in Wartime grossed more money than all previous movies Koolhoven made together. The movie outgrossed competing movies like The Dark Knight and Twilight and was the Dutch entry for the Academy Awards. It made the shortlist of 9 movies, but failed to get nominated. The movie is being distributed in the United States by Sony Classics.
Martin Koolhoven was one of the "New Faces In European Cinema" as presented at the AFI festival (Hollywood) in 2004.
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