I WAS ONLY 14
NETHERLANDS 12 MIN
While a 86-year-old woman looks back on a life-changing event just after her fourteenth birthday, we look into the eyes of girls who are fourteen years old now, full of stories of their own and with their open glance forward.
FROUKJE VAN WENGERDEN
Completed her Bachelor Media & Culture Studies at the University of Amsterdam and her Master Filmstudies & Visual Culture at the University of Antwerp. In 2016 she graduated from the Netherlands Film Academy with her personal roadmovie documentary Bring me South. She completed an internship at the Dutch Documentary Production Company Een van de jongens and made the short experimental film Moving Landscapes for the Dutch Broadcasting Company NPO Doc. Together with producer Julia Schellekens she won the Nieuwe Competitie, a young talent prize from the Noordelijk Film Festival, to realize their new film I was only 14.
- Noordelijk Film Festival - Opening film, Netherlands 2016
- Rotterdams Open Doek, Netherlands 2017
- Vrouw & Film - International Film Festival Assen, Netherlands 2017
- Euregion Film Festival, Netherlands 2017
- Shortcutz Amsterdam, Netherlands 2017
- Ammehoela Film Festival, FC Hyena, Netherlands 2017
- Hot Docs - International Premiere, Canada 2017
During my studies at the Dutch Film Academy, I started making some very personal films exploring the relationship between my father and me. At exactly the same age as my grandmother was when she lost her father, I found out that my father is not my biological father. By making these personal films I tried to get a grip on that event in my childhood. While I was busy making my graduation film on this subject, my mother told me the story of my grandmother and her father during World War 2.
I believe this has been a very traumatic experience for my grandmother. She had never even spoken to my mother about it, until recently. I thought that was strange, but also beautiful. Just like I myself had spoken very little with my parents about the things that my film was about, I discovered that my mother had spoken little with her parents about events that were important to them. Family can be so close that things have become a kind of self-evident. You don’t speak to each other about certain things even though they are very important to everybody. I think because you've developed certain patterns with family, where things happen as they do and no one comes up with the idea to change them. I realized that I, as a granddaughter, was in the right position to question my grandmother about these painful events. The idea that my grandmother was never able to say goodbye to her father was very moving to me. Especially since I was trying to let go of my father while making these films. I realized that everyone carries his or her own history along with them, which I thought was a nice starting point for the film. So the title I was only 14 refers to my grandmother, but also to myself. And perhaps to many more girls of 14 years old. Primarily I hope to convey the feeling of how a person can carry something like this, big or small, with them for the rest of their life. Such an event can change your life, because it is often something irreversible. But it also makes you who you are as a person. For my grandmother it’s this loss and the fact that she was unable to say goodbye to her father. Perhaps this caused a lifelong sense of nostalgia inside her. She knows that he will never come back while at the same time he lives on inside of her. I hope that people will ask themselves: do these girls listen to her story? What story do they carry on with them until they are old? And what story do I carry myself?
Speaking about film form, my cameraman and I were inspired by the differences and similarities between film and photography. In photography a portrait is a moment frozen in time, whereas in film it is all about time passing by. Looking for the place where these two meet, we filmed all the girls looking into the camera as if they were photographed, using 35 mm analogue film. We tried to create a ‘moving picture’ in which the girls look directly into the eyes of the viewer for a short moment. Showing their variety of personalities: confident or doubtful, playful or serious, light- hearted or penetrating, but all of them fourteen years old.
Short Competition 2017