Béla Hollande in Transit
I'm just waiting for my flight back to the UK, sitting in Eindhoven airport watching airplanes landing and taking off and wondering whether this trip has been worthwhile .... I have been wandering around a cold sunny Amsterdam, spending time with one of my my oldest and best friends Nicole and her two children, seeing a mesmerising exhibition by Hungarian film maker Bella Tarr, in the architecturally stunning EYE film museum, briefly visiting my home town of Den Helder, eating and talking Dutch politics with my brother and his wife, going for a walk on the white sandy beach with my 76 year old mum ..... Of course it has been worth my while!
But we didn't get to talk much about the project. And we didn't get to talk with Marga, the person who might be able to help us developing our ideas. What we did do was talk about the forthcoming elections in The Netherlands and the possibility that Geert Wilders (PVV) might gain a significant majority of votes that would make it difficult for other Dutch parties to include him in the next government. I have decided to vote in Dutch elections for the first time in nearly 30 years. Partly because I'm still mighty pissed off that I wasn't allowed to vote in the recent referendum that resulted in Brexit, but also because I can't abide the idea that yet another demagogue may manage to convince enough people that his campaign, built on fear mongering and lying, will bring the power he so craves. My broher Edwin for whom I have so much love and respect, thinks that Wilders' ideology is not completely bonkers. Indeed, the man is clever; like Nigel Farage and Donald Trump he manages to constantly attract the attention of the media by being 'outrageous, controversial, simplistic and pretending to speak for those who are dis-empowered'. My brother admitted that he was fearful and that Dutch culture was under threat by this Islamisation of the country. What is Dutch culture? I thought it encompassed freedom of religion, freedom from persecution, tolerance of the 'other' (even though the word 'tolerance' isn't exactly friendly or welcoming). Dutch liberalism, openness, pragmatism - these, in my mind, are the cultural values that are under attack.
By writing this down I realise that we did talk a lot about the project, indirectly, but still we did.
On the way to the entrance door to the exhibition of Bella Tarr you walk along a dark long space. On either side of the space is a metal fence with curled razor barbed wire on top. Behind it we see a sign with the words 'State Border' in Hungarian, English and Dutch. You are walking through no mans land, you are state less, lost. Tarr is interested in the art of darkness: his films are bleak, shot in black and white. As you watch you can feel the wind, the rain, the mud, the destitution and emptiness of his suffering subjects, whether they are people or animals or the landscapes he frames and unframes. It is a 'true story, it didn't happen to the people in his films but it could have', like it really did happen to so many people recently, fleeing from war torn or extremely poor areas in our world. And of course, it is not a recent phenomenon. It has happened before, and before then, and before then... the most shocking thing about the recent mass migration is that it is still happening and that there are still people like Wilders, Farage and Trump who can convince so many that it is all their own fault and that it should be stopped because they are danger to us and our cultures. The same story all over and the same story we want to focus on in our project.
Here is the gate announcement. I have to go through and board and fly back home. It was worth my while. Next time in The Netherlands things might be very different. I hope not. All I can do is vote on 15th March.