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That Which Is To Come at Cannes' Quinzaine

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Geoffrey Macnab talks to seriousFilm's Marc Thelosen about his decision to board the ecologically-themed That Which Is To Come is Just A Promise, screening in the Quinzaine short programme.

That Which Is To Come is Just A Promise, supported by the Netherlands Film Fund, is an astonishing formal achievement and seems to unfold in a single, unending shot. The camera moves from right to left in slow motion across the waterlogged landscape of Funafuti, in the Tuvalu archipelago, showing the tides (affected by climate change) and the island's inhabitants. Studies suggest that the countryside we see filmed so evocatively in the film will be completely under water within three decades.

Innovative Dutch production company seriousFilm was approached by Flatform, the Milan and Berlin-based artists' collective, to join the project. That Which Is To Come is a complex co-production, also involving Dugong Film in Italy and Blueskin Films in New Zealand. The different partners, many miles apart, prepared for the production by making endless Skype calls. Marc Thelosen was the Dutch producer. No, he didn't get to go to Tuvalu in the South Pacific for the shooting of the film. That would have taken too much time and money. Nonetheless, he was heavily involved in the planning and post-production of the film.

Reinier van Brummelen, the Dutch cinematographer and visual effects artist famous for his work with Peter Greenaway, advised on the shooting of the film and took care of compositing and VFX. Blueskin Films in New Zealand organised the "micro crew" of just a few people who travelled to Funafuti, the main island of the Tuvalu archipelago, to make the film. It wasn't easy.

"It proved to be technically very challenging because they had to cover a very long distance and they were close to an airstrip," Thelosen remembers. Every time a plane landed or took off, the shooting would be interrupted. In the end, the filmmakers decided to shoot the entire film with the camera on a drone. They filmed the same identical sequence twice, once when the tide was high and the weather was "not so good" and then, two weeks later, when conditions were much better.

The material they captured was rich but flawed. Extensive postproduction, most of it done in The Netherlands, was needed to lick the project into shape. "It was not simply a matter of overlaying the
two shots. There was a lot of extra compositing in there and corrections of parallax and perspective, the producer points out, making the documentary seem almost as complicated as a sci-fi epic. The process, including the sound editing, took well over a year. But of course, audiences won't have any sense of the struggles behind the scenes when they see the film with its exquisitely stylised slow motion cinematography.

seriousFilm has now been in existence for 15 years. Thelosen runs the Rotterdam-based outfit with producer Koert Davidse. Specialising not just in documentaries but in installations, animation, interactive work and sometimes fiction, they have some intriguing new projects in the pipeline. One film soon to shoot is Tim Leyendekker's docdrama Feast which will reconstruct a notorious HIV case in Groningen.

"In the 80s, there were people in Groningen who organised gay parties. The people attending these parties, some of them were drugged and infected with HIVcontaminated blood," is how Thelosen describes the case which the film will address.

While preparing for this production, Thelosen is planning to travel to Cannes for the premiere of That Which Is To Come. He is also delighted by the news that Wallie Pollé's Windmill Film Distribution will release the film theatrically in The Netherlands.

SEE NL Magazine #35 May 2019 / Cannes - Annecy Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by Eye International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.

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