The Bastard

A poignant tale of race, family legacies and the desire to belong

The Bastard ​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.

“Brother, I have something to tell you... I’m here because I killed someone.” When Daniel Hoek is sentenced to death for murder, his Dutch half-brother Michiel Hoek immediately flies over to see him, overjoyed at the news that he has a half-brother in Ethiopia yet alarmed at his circumstances​. "For 1 second I hug him, 2 seconds, 3 seconds… thank you, God", Daniel recalls in bliss. Yet with Daniel’s avowal, suddenly an emotional reunification spirals into a dark reality, as Daniel and his family are forced to confront both past and future.

As a child, Daniel ​wa​s 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 decide​d​ to return to university in Holland ​"​knowing I’d probably never return​"​. True to his prediction, Joop never enquire​d​ 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 inspir​ing​ 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.

Reviews

The Bastard’s imaginative cinematography and multilayered characters keep the surprises coming” – Full Frame

Festivals
LaurelBig Sky Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelDocville International Documentary Film Festival - Best Film
LaurelMillenium International Documentary Film Festival - Official Selection
LaurelMovies that Matter Film Festival - Dutch Moves Matter Award
FULL SYNOPSIS

The Producers


Floris-Jan Van Luyn - Director

Floris-Jan van Luyn (1967) is filmmaker and writer. At university, he majored in History and Chinese. Many of his films and books have Asia as a backdrop. He made Diary of a Homing Pigeon (2014), The Emptiness and the Word (2012), The Rainmakers (2010), The Unforbidden City and Cybercoolies (2006). His film The Rainmakers won several prizes (Rome, Sheffield, Geneva, Trento and Louvain). Before he became a full-time filmmaker he worked for Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad as a China correspondent, editor and columnist.


Renko Douze - Producer

Renko graduated from the Utrecht School of the Arts in 2010 as a documentary director. During his studies, he was editor-in-chief and director for a series of short films, Sharpen your opinions. He also worked on Teleac’s family programmes How? Like this! and Absolutely Sure!. His graduation film, Going and Back, was selected by numerous (inter)national film festivals. Renko also co-directed the National Geographic Channel series Made in NL.


Hasse Van Nunen - Producer

Hasse is the founder of Breaking Ground, a platform for European student films created when she was in her third year of her studies. After Hasse graduated from the Utrecht School of the Arts in 2008, she wrote a screenplay for the television drama series One Night Stand. Next to her job at Een van de jongens, she also works for the broadcaster Human, for whom she produced the tv doc Among Women. Her short documentary What the cat sees was nominated for a Golden Calf at the Netherlands Film Festival.

Making The Film


Director's Statement

As a child of a Dutch father and an Indonesian mother I have always been interested in the exotic component of my heritage. For years, that quest has brought me to Asia, and closer to my mother’s world, thinking it was, at least in part, mine as well. Sooner or later, every child starts looking for his or her roots. For me, Daniel Hoek, the Ethiopian-Dutch protagonist of The Bastard, personifies such a quest. From when he was still very young, people have been telling him that he was different, a child of two cultures, not double but half. That is why he has never lost the need to be accepted by his father and his Dutch family. I am very much attracted to the irresistible pull of wanting to know where you’ve come from and I also understand the need for recognition. That is what attracted me to Daniel’s story, and to a longing that is, I think, universal.

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