Eef de Graaf
Documentary filmmaker Eef de Graaf took stock of the Netherlands’ testing grounds for the transition to a sustainable society: innovation driven by an increasing sense of urgency.
The Netherlands’ National Climate Agreement, which was signed in 2019, boasts ambitious targets: at least a 49% reduction in CO2 emissions in comparison to 1990 by 2030, and a 95% reduction by the year 2050. However, alongside political determination, practical projects will be required to achieve these goals. This means finding new, sustainable ways to produce energy and food. The industrial cycle needs to be closed, and waste must be eliminated. And all this has to be achieved in a natural environment increasingly dominated by rising sea levels, subsiding land and salinisation of farmland.
In the years leading up to the National Climate Agreement, documentary filmmaker Eef de Graaf explored the outer edges of the Dutch delta, from Zeeland in the southwest to the Wadden Islands in the north east. In Sustainable Islands she talks to scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers and concerned citizens struggling with water management challenges, experimenting with new food crops, transitioning to renewable energy and trying to combine necessary consumption with environmental restraint. They live and work on the many islands along the coast that function as both testing grounds and showcases for innovative projects. However, for De Graaf, these islands are also a metaphor for the individual efforts that desperately need to be connected, combined and scaled up in order to truly have an impact.
De Graaf originally trained as a figurative painter, and a certain visual sensitivity shines through in her documentary. She portrays Dutch landscapes the way Ruysdael, Van Goyen and other Old Masters did, focusing on the man-made landscapes under vast, cloudy skies. Unlike her predecessors, she is fully aware of the fact that this landscape is only ‘on loan’. During her period of filming the Netherlands experienced two of its hottest and driest summers ever, driving home the urgency of change.