Land of Change, The Zeeland Archives Project

Land of Change, the Zeeland Archives Project

What is it like to live in a region where everything is changing? How do you deal with the loss, but also with the new gains? A collage of portraits of inhabitants of West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen amidst the marches, mudflats and the ever-present wind.

A docu/fiction film by: Mirka Duijn & Nina Spiering

A coproduction of Zeeuws Museum and Serious Film.

Music: Tonnie Dieleman

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

This film is made for the Zeeland Museum. It is part of their ‘Islands Archive Project’, eilanden.net. The museum asked inhabitants of Zeeland to make films about aspects of or objects from/in Zeeland that they would like to be ‘remembered forever’. The films were stored in the Islands Archive.

The purpose of this request was to get a gestalt view of the present-day cultural identity of Zeeland. As we watched these (±1000) films, a question was raised: are the subjects filmed by the participants ‘remembered’ by being added to the archive? Can you glean any knowledge about the present-day cultural identity of Zeeland from it? We wanted to know if we – as filmmakers using our ‘film language’, adding ‘feeling’ to these images – could restructure and (re)visualize the contents of the archive in order to gain a deeper understanding of those contents. To achieve this, we took the films from the Zeeland archive as a base for a new narrative. Some of the found footage is used as-is, but most of it is repurposed around recurring themes. This new narrative consists of several portraits of inhabitants of Zeeland. We asked ourselves: why do they want their memories to be remembered forever? We decided to look at one area of Zeeland only, the area where most films in the archive were made: the region West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.

STORY

West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is a very secluded part of the Netherlands. It is not connected to the Netherlands by land, you can only get there over water or through a tunnel, and you have to pay for both options. Inhabitants of Zeeuws-Vlaanderen speak of ‘the Dutch’ as if they are from another country. The region even has it’s own flag and anthem. Over centuries this area has been in constant change. The geography, the sea and the constant battle against the seawater dictated most of the changes.

Nowadays the changes in the region are of a different kind. The geography still plays a big part in it though: just as in many other secluded area’s in Europe, Zeeuws-Vlaanderen is rapidly changing because of macro-economic changes. A lot of old industries are dying. For ages most inhabitants were farmers and fishermen. But now the fishing industry hardly exists anymore; it disappeared within the last 20 years. Next to that a lot of farmers are leaving the region as a result of the expansion of farms. Finally there is an enormous ‘brain drain’ going on. Young people leave, never to return: there is no work for them in the area. As a result the population is aging rapidly. These changes have been going on for years, but at this moment the inhabitants feel as if these changes are gaining momentum. They are right: the municipality changed its policy and therefore changes are accelerated.

The government tries to deal with the problems by focusing on a new industry: tourism. Polders are dug out to give space for artificial lakes and grand marina’s. Enormous tourist parks are being build, parks that have nothing to do with the region itself. Non-spaces where anonymous tourists can come, recreate and go home again. The inhabitants of the area are in the midst of this change: a lot is gone already, but new things haven’t started yet. They are in a vacuum between the old and the new. They are holding their breath while waiting for the tourists to come, being very dual about it: economical change is needed, but a lot of the inhabitants are afraid it is at the cost of their own culture. They are afraid they will loose their ‘identity’.

This film is a poetic collage of portraits of inhabitants of the area. Among them, for example, skipper Jaap Albrechtse (63). Due to oil prices he was forced to give up his work and sell his ship. And the 22-year-old Mariëlle Notebaart. At workdays you can find her behind the counter of the Texaco gas station. During festivities she has got an other job though: she is elected to be the towns’ ‘Shrimp Princess’, a new invention of the small fishing industry in Breskens to attract tourists to their town. Another character is Foort Lokerse (59), the head of the fish auction. He wants to turn his fish auction into a Fish Experience for tourists for whom he will place a ship on the roof of his building; it will be his own fish theme park. He hopes it will save the identity of Breskens as a fishing town.

The portraits of Jaap, Mariëlle, Foort and many others will form a mozaique. All portraits together form one story, the story about change in West Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. Sound and music are very important elements in this film. Broeder Dieleman, a rising artist from Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, made almost all the music for the film. His music, together with the sound of water, wind and seagulls, forms a base for the rhythm of the film.

FILM & PHILOSOPHY CONFERENCE:

http://www.film-philosophy.com

PRESS:

NPS, LIJN 1 / VPRO, DE AVONDEN / OMROEP ZEELAND / PZC & OMROEP ZEELAND @ FILM BY THE SEA / PZC