November 3, 2013

Documentary De Nieuwe Wildernis draws 400,000 visitors

Filed under: Nature by Branko Collin @ 1:33 pm

Dutch nature documentary De Nieuwe Wildernis has managed to lure 400,000 people to the cinema in just a month, Vroege Vogels wrote last Monday.

The documentary about wildlife in the Oostvaardersplassen (‘the lakes of those who sailed to the East’) was released on 26 September 2013. For feature films 400,000 visitors is considered pretty successful, but for a documentary it’s practically a miracle. As a comparison, last year Hollywood blockbuster The Hunger Games took the number 13 spot with 458,816 visitors.

Part of the attraction of Ruben Smit’s De Nieuwe Wildernis may be that there is very little original nature left in the Netherlands. Biodiversity is at an all time low in this country, the Mean Species Abundance having dropped from 40% in 1900 to 15% in 2000. The average MSA for Europe is 40%.

The nature reserve Oostvaardersplassen came about by accident. It is situated on the north end of Flevoland, the largest artificial island in the world. Originally reclaimed in 1986, the area was to be bordered by another artificial island, Markerwaard, and intended for housing business parks, but in 1986 the national government decided not to build the extra island. With businesses also staying away, nature took over. In 1986 the area was designated a national nature reserve.

See also: Searching and capturing that elusive horse wind.

(Photo: crop from the video)

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October 21, 2013

NPR remembers Bert Haanstra’s Zoo (1962)

Filed under: Animals,Film by Branko Collin @ 4:13 pm

In 1962 Dutch cinema’s golden child Bert Haanstra visited the zoo of Amsterdam, Artis, during a sun-filled period and filmed the visitors as they were laughing, yawning, scratching themselves, chatting and taking naps. Then he filmed animals doing the same thing and edited the result to contrast the two groups and perhaps to say “we are not that different, you and I”.

The result seems comedic, making fun of the little people that are closer to the animals that they themselves seem to believe. The film itself is not too clear about which position its maker chooses. The editing and some of the videography is clearly done for comedic effect (ostriches’ heads popping up, the walk of the penguin), but the powerful walk of the tiger and the jazz music by Pim Jacobs do not fit the label ‘comedy’.

American broadcaster NPR seems to like the humane explanation the best:

Magically, [the film] makes the cages, the trenches, the walls disappear, and what you get is a real zoo — a mix-it-up porridge of animal life, where all the animals, the mischievous little boys, the oh-so-shy monkey, the proud baboon, the wide-eyed girl and the yawning lady trade moods, glances, worlds — our differences melt into little moments of us being like them, them being like us.

The name Artis was originally the zoo’s nickname. It came from a text written over the gates, “Natura Artis Magistra” (meaning “Nature is the teacher of art”). You can watch the video on the NPR page or by buying the complete works DVD set.

Thanks Fred Yoder for the tip.

(Photo: screenshot of the documentary)

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November 19, 2011

“On the beaches of Texel only left shoes are ever found”

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 12:16 pm

The producers of the above video write:

Flotsam & Jetsam is a documentary based around the beachcombers of Texel, one of the largest Frisian islands north of Holland.

Due to Texel’s geographical position, tidal system and strong winds, an estimated two tons of Flotsam & Jetsam washes up on its beach each day.

The film follows the lives of the beachcombers (or Jutters as they are known), exploring their relationships and history as extraordinary people in extraordinary situations.

Beachcombers are people who ‘harvest’ flotsam and jetsam from beaches. I am not quite sure what the legal status is. Wikipedia claims beach combing is illegal in the Netherlands, but the only law text I could find (Book 8 of the Burgerlijk Wetboek, articles 550 and onward) seems to suggest that beach combing is a form of marine salvage, meaning that the owner of the goods can come and collect them up to two years after they were found, but must pay a decent wage in return.

The documentary is only 13 minutes long, and well worth your time.

‘Jutter’ Jan Uitgeest (73): “There are only eight of us left. Beachcombing is getting less popular because there aren’t that many finds any more. We are dependent on storms. Last year Terschelling had a large find of wood, and a container filled with snacks. On Ameland and Schiermonnikoog they found a container with mountain bike wheels and a couple of thousand coats, so that now the inhabitants of Schiermonnikoog are walking around in coats with nice fur collars.”

Link: Trendbeheer. Video: Vimeo / Flotsam and Jetsam.

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April 23, 2009

Family sues dictionary maker over inclusion of name

Filed under: General by Branko Collin @ 8:36 am

The Tokkie family is suing dictionary makers Van Dale—the Dutch Duden / Larousse / Webster / what-have-you—for 50,000 euro over the inclusion of their family name with the definition “anti-social behaviour.” The Tokkies are also suing weekly Revu according to Telegraaf (Dutch), although the newspaper doesn’t quite explain why.

The Tokkies gained national fame notoriety in 2003 when they had a friendly chat with their neighbours set their neighbours’ house on fire. This drew the attention of the IKON broadcaster who followed the family around for a documentary series (Dutch). Turns out that the few families that occupy that particular part of the Slotermeer neighbourhood in Amsterdam have been living in a state of war for twenty years.

The documentary drew the attention of the country, and while a court evicted the Tokkie clan for anti-social behaviour, the family capitalized on their newly gained fame by making a Christmas song, a carnival song and hiring themselves out as famous Dutch persons. But their fame dried up, and when earlier this month the city of Rotterdam introduced a behavioural test for anti-social tenants that it dubbed the Tokkie-toets (NRC, Dutch), the family declared it had enough of its bad image, and sued the dictionary makers.

See also: definition of Tokkie at

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December 24, 2007

Photographer Jan-Dirk van der Burg captures the mundane

Filed under: Art,Photography by Branko Collin @ 8:10 pm

Photographer Jan-Dirk van der Burg (Flash) tries to capture the out-of-the-way, the old-fashioned and the corny. Like a Dutch Paul Shambroom he visits backrooms to document commission meetings, office culture, hobbies and small passions.

His photos appear in the weekend magazine of Amsterdam daily Het Parool in a column in which young reporters Alma & Fanny ‘collect collectors’. This photo for instance is of a man who collects toy guns, a hobby that, as the collector mentioned matter-of-factly, greatly increases the time he spends at airports, as he always gets picked out of the line by customs.

According to an interview on his website, Van der Burg started to try and capture the rift between people and their environment after he had visited modern office buildings that were furnished like playgrounds yet where employees were unhappy. In order to keep the interior design unblemished, people weren’t even allowed to put up their own pictures.

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