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Mother Dao the Turtlelike

Moeder Dao de Schildpadgelijkende

Director, Script: Vincent Monnikendam
Editing: Albert Markus
Sound Composition: Jan-Dries Groenendijk
Producer: Rade Milicevic
Production Company: NPS-TV
P.O.Box 444, 1200 JJ Hilversum THE NETHERLANDS
Phone: 31-35-773585 / Fax: 31-35-775158
THE NETHERLANDS / 1995 / Indonesian / Color, B&W
35mm (1:1.33) / 90 min

Vincent Monnikendam

Born in 1936 in Hague, the Netherlands. For 30 years from 1964 onwards, worked as director, producer, editor of documentary film for NOS-TV and NPS-TV. In 1995 went independent, and continues his activities as a documentary filmmaker. Most of his works concern issues such as immigrants and race problems. They include: District 69, depicting the life in the immigrants ghetto in Hague; The Ten Token, a five-part film on Turkish and Greek immigrants in the Netherlands; and The Illegals, a documentary on illegal Turkish and Moroccan workers in the Greenhouse industry, for which Monnikendam spent 6 months living amongst the workers. In 1995 completed Mother Dao the Turtlelike which took 6 years in production, and was acclaimed at documentary film festivals all over the world.


Director's Statement

More than 260,000 meters of 35mm documentary nitrate film footage from the Dutch film archives served as the source material for this documentary. In a span of ninety minutes the film aims to show how the Netherlands administered its colony as a colonial enterprise and what the relations were like at the time. The usual commentary has been omitted and in its place poems and songs in Bahasa Indonesia have been included in a digital sound composition.

In Mother Dao the Turtlelike, the viewer sees how the colonial machinery in the 1920s was implanted in a world so different from Western Europe. He or she will witness various phenomena and aspects of that colonial enterprise - then at its peak - which, thanks to cinematography, were recorded. The shoots for the more than one thousand 35mm nitrate documentary films took place in the Dutch West Indies between 1912 and about 1933. All belong to the collections of the two Dutch film archives, and in the meantime the main corpus has been preserved.

The documentary starts with a shortened version of the legend of the inhabitants of Nias, an isle to the West of Sumatra. It was told that the earth was created by Mother Dao. When standing on the beach, the inhabitants of the island could see the horizon half curved like the shell of a turtle. So they called the creator of the world 'Mother Dao the turtlelike.' At some point in time eternal, she collected the dirt off her body and kneaded it on her knee into a ball. That was the world. Later, she became pregnant, without knowing a man, and gave birth to a girl and a boy. They were the first people and they lived in a fertile world. And it was this fertile world that attracted the Europeans, and especially the Dutch, in their colonial endeavors.

Mother Dao the Turtlelike has been screened at forty-eight international film festivals and has received eighteen awards and prizes, among them five Golden Awards. The film was proclaimed the best Dutch film of 1995.


Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival Organizing Committee