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‘The Empire Project’ (Unintended Consequences Of Dutch Colonialism) At NYFF Convergence

'The Empire Project' (Unintended Consequences Of Dutch Colonialism) At NYFF Convergence

A project that I’ve been tracking for about a year now, will be making its World Premiere at the New York Film Festival, as part of its NYFF Convergence sidebar, which will run on Saturday, September 28 through Monday, September 30

Building on the success of last year’s debut, the second edition of the event for the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s year round programming commitment to transmedia, will be presented at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center and the Walter Reade Theater with three days of panels, workshops and “immersive experiences.” This year’s edition will also feature a special secret event to close out NYFF Convergence that will be announced at a later date. 

Titled The Empire Project, the multimedia work (part documentary, part multi-channel video projection, part design installation) from Dutch-American filmmakers Eline Jongsma, Kel O’Neill (who’ll be appearing in person at the festival) centers on what they call the unintended consequences of Dutch colonialism, asking the question: Has colonization brought only misery?

Obviously that suggests that the work sees some *upside* to colonialism and will explore that in their documentary.

The filmmakers traveled to 7 former Dutch colonies, in 2010, 2011, and 2012, including: Brazil, Suriname, Ghana, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India, and South Africa, and while in each of those countries, interviewed select residents, asking for their POV on the fact that their homeland was once colonized, and how they view existing remnants of that colonization.

Not-so surprisingly, they don’t all view colonization and its effects the same way. Apparently, they don’t all view colonialism entirely through a negative lens, suggesting that it’s not so black and white.

But as the filmmakers note, the background of each person influences their POV.

There’s photographer Isaac Vanderpuije who comes from a privileged family who made good money trading Ghanaian slaves; there’s James Libretto who’s a descendant of slaves, and he’s still digging for gold in Suriname; and there’s Rayanne Reinholz, whose ancestors immigrated to Brazil when slavery was abolished, and were among the many low-paid guest workers who had to take over the heavy work; and others…

But one thing they all seem to agree on is that their colonial histories, no matter how varied, serve an importance purpose in the present-day lives.

Here’s NYFF’s summary of the documentary.

A hidden synagogue in the mountains of Indonesia. A Dutch-style village in the Sri Lankan rainforest. A white separatist enclave in the South African desert. These are just a few of the communities brought to light in Empire, an immersive documentary project that examines the still-unfolding legacy of Dutch colonialism. Shot in ten countries over four years, Empire employs a broad range of storytelling techniques—including nonfiction filmmaking, multi- channel video projection, and experience design—to unearth the contemporary aftershocks of the world’s first brush with global capitalism. Empire’s videos and installations will be on display throughout NYFF at several venues on the Lincoln Center campus including the Film Center, Walter Reade Theater, and Alice Tully Hall. Viewers are invited to chart their own course through the work, and to draw their own thematic connections as they go and then join Directors Eline Jongsma and Kel O’Neill for a discussion about the genesis of this one of a kind experiential documentary.

To find out how exactly, you’ll just have to wait for the documentary to reach your neck of the woods.

For those in NYC, it’ll screen on Saturday, September 28 at 4PM.

For location and ticket info click HERE.

Here’s a sample of what to expect via 2 intriguing clips, and poster:

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