Together with film-making group ReRun Productions, we produced a series of documentaries on the world-views and environmental philosophies of indigenous peoples, as well as films on philosophers such as Jacques Ellul and Arne Naess, who provide a critical analysis of techno-industrial society. These films include, among others: The Earth is Crying (1987), It’s Killing the Clouds (1992), The Betrayal by Technology (1992), and The Call of the Mountain (1997). For more, see below.
Here is an overview of some of interviews I conducted in the context of making these documentaries, amongst others with philosophers Arne Naess (Norway), Jacques Ellul (France), Ton Lemaire (Netherlands), and artist Antony Gormley (United Kingdom).
The Body as Teacher (‘Het lichaam als leraar’)
On the beginning, the end and the infinity of the body
“The body is more interesting than a rock because it contains a mind”, says British sculptor Antony Gormley, who has been using his body as the basis for his work for thirty years now. He calls the body the place where everything happens; it contains the essence of our existence. Birth, death and detachment from the body play an important role in his work. Gormley, learns from his body whenever a plaster cast is made of it for a statue. “If you accept this state of immobility, your mind becomes incredibly free!” “Everybody is the result of another body, and eventually we merge again with the large all-encompassing body of the cosmos.” Can this body have any significance after we die?
While Gormley’s body is immortalized in metal, and will, therefore, outlive him, some people make their body available to the anatomy classes of medical students. Lee Ning Ning is a young doctor in training who initiates us into the special approach to the body in a hospital in Taiwan. The dead body isn’t reduced to a mere object, but in according with Buddhist tradition the person who belonged to it is cherished as a source of life. He is referred to as the silent teacher.
2010, director/camera/editor: Pat van Boeckel. Interview with Antony Gormley: Jan van Boeckel. 30 minutes, in English, with Dutch subtitles.
The Call of the Mountain
Arne Naess and the Deep Ecology Movement
1500 metres above sea level, on the slope of the mountain Hallingskarvet, stands Tvergastein, the cabin of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess. In his life he has spent nearly 12 years in this hut, where he wrote several books and essays on philosophy and ecology. In this film, Naess tells about the concept of deep ecology, which was first introduced by him in 1973. One of the basic tenets of deep ecology is that nature has a value in itself, apart from its possible use value to humans. Next to being a famous mountaineer, Naess has been a longtime activist in the environmental movement. He gives an inspiring account of his participation in blockades to prevent the Alta river in northern Norway (the area of the Sami, an indigenous people) from being dammed. With contributions by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Vandana Shiva, Bill Devall, George Sessions and Harold Glasser.
1997, 50 minutes, English. Link to film subtitles (only in English).
The Betrayal by Technology
A Portrait of Jacques Ellul
“Technology forces us to go faster and faster. One does not know where one goes. The only thing that matters is the speed.” French philosopher Jacques Ellul has analyzed modern Western society on basis of the premise that technology has become an autonomous, all-determining factor. In 1950, Ellul finished his manuscript La Technique ou l’enjeu du siècle (‘The Technological Society’), his seminal analysis of the way technology shapes every aspect of society. As contemporary thinker, he was strongly influenced by Kierkegaard, Marx and Barth. After a life, in which he wrote close to fifty books, Ellul died in the summer of 1994, at the age of 82. The team of ReRun Productions visited Ellul in 1990. During five subsequent days, long interview sessions were held with him in his old mansion in Pessac. The Betrayal by Technology is one of the very few existing filmed recordings of Jacques Ellul speaking.
1992, 54 minutes, French. Link to subtitles: Dutch and English.
Twijfel aan Europa (‘Questioning Europe’)
A portrait of Ton Lemaire
Ton Lemaire is a Dutch anthropologist and philosopher who left the Netherlands in the 1980’s to start a new way of life in southern France as organic farmer. Ton Lemaire lives almost completely of his own grown food. He uses hardly any mechanical or electrical facilities. In this film, Lemaire explains why it was impossible for him to stay in the Netherlands and what his view is on the current ecological and spiritual crisis of the West. Western man, believing in perpetual progress, has set all his hopes on the future. And because of that, he has sacrificed much knowledge and many traditions. This means, that in case the industrial system would collapse, he could be standing with empty hands. For Lemaire it is of utmost importance that archaic cultural elements, which have been set aside by the dynamic of progress, are regained in time, to help correct the course our culture is taking at the moment.
1996, 50 minutes, Dutch. Link to film subtitles (only in Dutch).
It’s Killing the Clouds
A Confrontation between Aboriginal Dreamtime and Westerners’ Dream of Progress
In 1988, non-Aboriginal Australia celebrates 200 years of European settlement. Aborigines rally in protest, but their voice is lost in the media reports. What prevents Westerners from understanding Aboriginal culture? Where did the two grow apart? The film suggests that a major difference is that the Western tradition disenchanted nature. Man placed himself outside and above nature. A new work ethic evolved, which holds the belief that ‘labour sets one free’. Rather than nature, technology is our new realm of the sacred. As French philosopher Jacques Ellul says in the film: ‘Technology is intolerant, it only accepts itself. All myth, all wisdom, is being eliminated.’ It is Killing the Clouds is a poetic quest for meaning in our time.
1992, 150 minutes, Dutch, English. Link to film subtitles: Dutch and English.
The Earth is Crying
Five hundred years after Columbus, four Native Americans ‘discover’ the Netherlands
The group visits a nuclear power station, an anthropological museum, a zoo and a peace camp. With Leslie Marmon Silko, Floyd Red Crow Westerman, Bill Wahpepah and John Graham.
1986, 75 minutes, Dutch, English.