Science - March 30, 2006

PhD student makes film debut

People who grew up in the Netherlands take many things about their country for granted. Therefore the ministry of foreign affairs invited five foreigners living in the Netherlands to give their view on the country for a documentary. Ganesan Palaniswamy, a PhD student at the Laboratory of Organic Chemistry, was one of them.

Ganesan went to The Hague for the official premiere last week. ‘It was quite exciting. Officials who’d already seen the film greeted me when I entered the hall, as they recognised me. Also there were ambassadors from twenty countries.’ He saw the film for the first time and liked the result. ‘It’s done very professionally.’ He now has a copy of the film and has shown the film to friends. Monday 27 March he invited his colleagues to watch it during the coffee break. They laughed when they saw shots of lab. ‘It was a simple lab setting and had little to do with my work,’ he explained later.

Beside Ganesan, who’s from India, people from Australia, Egypt, Rwanda and China were interviewed about what they regard as typical of the Netherlands. ‘As one part of the film is about agriculture they immediately thought of Wageningen. They ended up with me, although I’m working on organic solar cells. But then they made the link with renewable energy sources like windmills.’ The result of the shootings, that took place last summer, is an artistic film about water, architecture, agriculture, art and daily life.

The film paints a very positive picture of the Netherlands. This is not a problem according to Ganesan. ‘Every country has its own positive and negative aspects. But it’s very understandable because it’s made by the ministry of foreign affairs. My country would have done the same.’ The one thing really missing is the rain, he says. ‘In the film it looks like it is summer the whole year.’

Ganesan really likes Wageningen, although he had a hard time during the first months after his arrival in the Netherlands, in 2002. ‘I had never been away from home for such a long time and I missed my family.’ But he settled in and now really likes the open culture. ‘When I’ve been away for some weeks I’m always glad to be back in Wageningen.’

For the documentary Ganesan went up in a hot air balloon, to get a good picture of the landscape and some windmills. ‘It was a great experience.’ In the film he comments, ‘Everything in Holland is so orderly. Even nature is designed on a drawing board.’

Ganesan was also filmed at work in the lab, cycling along the dyke and in his corridor. As typical Dutch food he mentioned lunch of a slice of brown bread with cheese, milk and an apple, and for supper andijviestamppot met spekjes, [endive with mashed potato and bacon bits, Ed.]. ‘I like andijviestamppot, but not every day.’

Copies of the film will be sent to all Dutch embassies and to the embassies in the Netherlands. It will also be sent to two thousand broadcasting companies for television. So Ganesan may appear on television in India as well. ‘I’ve sent a copy to my family. They’ve seen it and were very happy to see me in my day-to-day working and living environments. In addition they also learnt more about Holland. They’ll also be very happy if the film is broadcast on television.’ / Yvonne de Hilster

See www.vi5ions.nl for a trailer.

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