A poignant tale of race, family legacies and the desire to belong
Abandoned at birth by his Dutch father, Daniel Hoek was raised by his Ethiopian mother. Yearning for an absent father and teased for his pale skin, Daniel's resentment leads him to crime. While imprisoned on death row in Addis Ababa, he decides to reach out to his estranged European family. Yet while his siblings are excited to learn they have an African half-brother, Daniel’s father Joop Hoek remains unmoved by the contact. Daniel and Joop’s intertwining experiences reveal a racial and cultural divide than runs deep, yet they soon realise they have more in common than either would like to admit.
As a child, Daniel was bullied and beaten by other kids for his fatherlessness and lighter skin. "He’s half-caste. He’s a bastard" are remarks he endured daily. After agonising over his true identity, Daniel learns that his father is a Dutchman named Joop Hoek.
"She was pushed into my house through the toilet window", recalls Daniel’s father Joop with a glint in his eye. Daniel’s parents met when Joop was working for the sugar factories in Ethiopia. After a two year relationship, Joop decided to return to university in Holland "knowing I’d probably never return". True to his prediction, Joop never enquired after his son again.
The pair were eventually reunited in Holland years later. Devastatingly for Daniel, Joop concludes that "I didn’t give a hoot" about seeing his son again, and immediately asks for a DNA test to prove their relationship. His belief that "these people here [in Ethiopia] don’t have the same DNA. You have to learn to live with them" further estranges him from the son he does not care to acknowledge.
Yet Joop’s stone-cold reaction is complicated by his own family history. His own father also abandoned he and his mother when Joop was a young boy, never wishing to have anything to do with him again. He recalls that his parents "were constantly fighting", and is brought to tears by the memory that his father "was so angry that he hit me sometimes".
After a fraught stint in Holland working for his brother Michiel, eventually Daniel is encouraged to return to Ethiopia. Upon his return, he takes to inspiring his previous prison inmates, handing around the book he has written on DNA, suggesting that anyone should have the power to alter the course of their own life despite the pain they have endured. The Bastard is a complex tale of rejection, the importance of belonging and the power of cultural preconceptions.
“The Bastard’s imaginative cinematography and multilayered characters keep the surprises coming” – Full Frame
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection
Docville International Documentary Film Festival - Best Film
Millenium International Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection
Movies that Matter Film Festival - Dutch Moves Matter Award