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Traces of Water and Oil

Project details

Audiovisual Design
Critical Studies

In Traces of water and oil filmmaker, Bobbie follows Melle van Maanen in a search through his family history. A history which is closely entangled with the colonial history of the Dutch East Indies, and what has influenced the lives of the Melle’s family for good. By the means of a voice-over and archival footage, there will be reflected upon the colonial history and the position in which Melle is placed.

What does it mean to be privileged? How do we reconcile with the dark side of history? And how can we debunk a divided society created by colonialism? Of course, Melle is not responsible for the past of his family. Nevertheless, he feels pressured in finding a voice in position to this history. How can we break free from history? Traces of water and oil is the result of research through the colonial past in the Dutch East Indies.

The idea for the film was created when Melle felt the need to research his family history. He was urged to know more about his family history when he earned a great heritage turning eighteen. The money he had earned, was gained in the oil industry by his great-grandfather in the Dutch East Indies. This personal family story tells how current society is formed by the colonial history.

Traces of water and oil uses the house, where Melle lived with his grandfather for seven years, as a starting point. The grandfather of Melle has passed away. Now the home where he lived for 60 years has been sold. Rooms filled with personal belonings, are now part of an inheritance that will be handed over to next generations. Filmmaker Bobbie used the house of Melle’s grandfather as a symbol to illustrate how heritage is handed over to next generations. How do we choose what stories to tell to next generations? And how will we tell them?

What are the similarities between personal inheritance and the dutch cultural heritage? Whom do we praise in history for their actions? Who are the faces frozen in time looking upon us in national museums? Traces of water and oil is the search through a fragment of history which raises questions about current society.

About the maker, Bobbie Wagenaar

I mainly focus on making documentaries. I use film as a way to research my topic, in which explorations of memory, time, history and the role of visual images are often key. By doing thorough research I try to fully grasp my subject. Eventually resulting in a collage of shot film material, archival footage and animation. Guided by a voice-over.