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19 June 2019

‘For me it’s all about the natural values in Kinderdijk’

His latest project is intended as an ode to the Alblasserwaard’s natural beauty. Over the coming two years, filmmaker Stijn Philips will allow the splendour of his native region to amaze him. This month, Kinderdijk is his base of operations. “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

The sheer variety in pitch among the songbirds is impressive by itself. Sedge warblers, savi’s warblers, reed buntings, and cetti’s warblers – to name but a few members of the choir singing to welcome us – all produce their own distinctive sound. There’s not a breath of wind to stir the wisps of fog drifting above the reeds of the Nederwaard’s Upper Basin. They vanish soon enough, however, as the warm summer sun starts to peek in from between the mills of the Overwaard just before half past five.  “This is simply glorious”, filmmaker Stijn Philips muses. “It just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Absolute focus, just after sunrise. (Photo Richard Slagboom)

Absolute focus, just after sunrise. (Photo Richard Slagboom)

36-year-old Philips, who works a cameraman for the Dutch TV show Early Birds among other jobs, grew up in nearby Giessenburg. At the age of twenty, he left the Alblasserwaard to study in Utrecht. Although he still lives in the city, he continues to be captivated by his native region; now more than ever, in fact. “The older I get, the more I get to appreciate the polder countryside. Back in the days, when I had to cycle to school in Gorinchem out in the rain and the wind, I used to curse these polders often enough. But it’s so quiet here, I’ve really come to see the Alblasserwaard as the true green heartland of the Green Heart area.”

Crowdfunding

Philips used crowdfunding to raise the money he needed to capture his love for the Alblasserwaard on camera. He also received support from the South Holland Provincial Authorities, the Alblasserwaard Bird and Nature Society, and various municipal councils. By late 2020, or possibly early 2021, he hopes to release a documentary featuring only images of Alblasserwaard wildlife in movie theaters and on national television.  “I have a script ready, but I also want to allow events to take me by surprise. I like to just watch and be amazed by what is unfolding right in front of me. I’ll be shooting throughout all seasons, and of course, I will be featuring all the animals the region is so proud of, and for which so many people are really making an effort here.”

The film is scheduled to premiere by late 2020 or early 2021. (Photo Richard Slagboom)

The film is scheduled to premiere by late 2020 or early 2021. (Photo Richard Slagboom)

Binoculars

On the camera boat of the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation, Philips is joined by Richard Slagboom. This Nieuw-Lekkerland resident is the owner of ecological research and consultancy agency Arvalis Nature & Landscape,. He is also an avid volunteer at the NWVA bird and nature conservation group, and he knows the Kinderdijk basins like the back of his hand. His chief bird-spotting instruments are his keen ears, as he uses his binoculars to direct the filmmaker to the specific reed stem where one of his feathered friends just happened to land.  Taken together, these Kinderdijk basins and the outlying polders make up one of three protected Natura-2000 areas situated in the wider Alblasserwaard region.

Philips: “The story I want to tell here isn’t so much about the cultural or historical value of Kinderdijk and its mills. To me, it’s all about the natural developments that are going on around them. That story is less well-known, and that makes it all the more beautiful. Kinderdijk is a truly unique place in the Alblasserwaard.”

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