There’s an uncanny kind of shock value to hearing a friendly, old-timey television announcer speak of how the “simple people” of the Netherlands Antilles were rescued from “primitive living conditions” when large oil refineries appeared on the islands, ending their “deficient medical care and lack of hygiene.” This compilation of archival material centering on the neocolonial ties between Dutch multinational Shell and the islands has a knack for exposing these kinds of tensions.


The film is part of a larger collaborative project on concepts of freedom, initiated and developed by researcher Egbert Alejandro Martina and multimedia artist Miguel Peres dos Santos. The project investigates the ways in which geography, architecture, and the law produce ideas about freedom and how those ideas can order physical space. The wider research project takes in many subjects, but always returns to a central idea: that the celebrated Dutch freedom only existed, and exists, via other people’s lack of freedom—whether explicitly through slavery or the more pernicious exploitation that is part and parcel of the neoliberal world.


(from the IDFA catalogue, 2021)