On the Track of Robert van Gulik

a film by Rob Rombout
Robert van Gulik (1910-1967) is one of the world’s most popular Dutch writers, but relatively unrecognized in his own country. A diplomat, Chinese specialist and scholar, he became famous with his detective series about Judge Tie, which in many ways, are projections of his own life: a permanent duality between his real life and the hero in his books.

Robert van Gulik (1910-1967) is perhaps one of the world’s most read authors from the Netherlands. This diplomat, Sinologist and scholar is mainly known for his detective novels starring Judge Dee.

The filmmaker Rob Rombout follows in his footsteps to discover the author’s legacy in his diaries, people he inspired and witnesses to his life. His books are in many respects projections of his own life. In one of his rare interviews, van Gulik let slip the remark: “ … Judge Dee, that’s me…” It can be difficult to draw the line between fact and fiction with a character like Robert van Gulik. In the documentary, reality and fantasy, past and present will flow into each other, at times imperceptibly. The film is a quest where the filmmaker takes us on a journey, by way of side roads, in the author’s tracks. At times by plane, by ship or literally on tracks, by train just as the writer himself often travelled. Fragments of his diaries, archive footage, stylized scenes with witnesses and the filmmaker’s own voice blend into a fascinating cinematic journey.

About the director

Rob Rombout is an independent documentary film-maker, teacher and lecturer. 
He co-founded the International DocNomads Master Program and is now course director for DN at LUCA, Brussels. Most of his films were co-produced and / or shown on international television channels and awarded in several festivals. Rob Rombout was during 10 years vice-president of the Belgian Committee of the French Author Organization SCAM. He was member of  film-commissions in Belgium & France. He is member of the advisory board of the the American University of Technologies in Beirut.


written and directed by
Rob Rombout

Director of photography
Stef Tijdink
Benjamin Wolf
Stefano Bertacchini

edited by
Adriana Moreira Oliviera

sound engineer
Yves Goossens-Bara

Frank van den Engel

Awards & festivals

Official selection Nederlands Film Festival
Utrecht, Netherlands, 2017

Official selection Brisbane International Film Festival
Brisbane, Australia, 2017

Official selection Phnom Penh International Film Festival
Phnom Penh, Cambodja,  2017    

Official selection Five Continents International Film Festival
Puerto la Cruz, Colombia, 2017

Official selection Västerås Filmfestival
Sweden, 2017

Official selection Oslo Independent Film Festival
Oslo, Norway, 2017

Official selection Sose International Film Festival
Yerevan, Armenia, 2017

Official selection ARFF Barcelona
Spain, 2017
Official selection Peloponnisos International documentary Festival
Kalamata, Greece, 2018

Official selection FIFA
Montreal,Canada, 2018
Official selection DocFeed
Eindhoven, Netherlands, 2018

Production Details

an Off World production

in coproduction with
Zeppers Film & TV (NL)

with the support from
Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF|FILM)
le Centre du Cinéma de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles
The Nederlands Film Fund
Belgian Federal Government Tax Shelter