Drie Vrouwen

A post by Peter Jordens.

Starnieuws reports that the documentary Drie vrouwen–Over slavernij en vrijheid [Three Women–About Slavery and Freedom] directed by Ida Does recently premiered in The Hague, Netherlands. The film portrays three [contemporary] women: researcher Ellen-Rose Kambel, Winti priestess Marian Markelo, and heritage expert Valika Smeulders.

[…] In the film, Valika Smeulders leads a group of walking tourists along stately buildings on the Lange Voorhout and the Hofvijver in The Hague: “places where the elite of the Netherlands have been walking for centuries.” This leads to surprising revelations and new stories about the relationship between The Hague’s impressive cityscape and slave owners who acquired wealth through plantations and slave labor. Smeulders shows that in the official building signs any reference to the history of slavery is completely absent. The origin of the well-known Mauritshuis, now a museum, is also highlighted as a landmark of the very start of the Dutch slave trade.

Winti priestess Marian Markelo, a familiar face from the official [yearly] commemorations of slavery [in the Netherlands] received Does’ film crew in her dofo, her temple at home. It becomes clear that Markelo is a true heritage bearer. She sings ancient songs for the camera and in The Hague Historical Museum she provides poignant commentary upon antique paintings depicting black child slaves or pages. At the end of the film Markelo meets researcher Ellen-Rose Kambel. Then, the contact that Markelo seeks through Winti with the world of the ancestors leads to a remarkable moral apogee during a libation in Rusthoff Park in Sassenheim.

Ellen-Rose Kambel came across a picture of the Dutch slave owner of her ancestors a few years ago. “We’ve all seen those old paintings, but a photograph …! That made it personal,” says Kambel in the film. The researcher made it her mission to enter into conversation with descendants of this plantation owner, Jan Adam Charbon, who was [also] the owner of an estate that is now the public park called Rusthoff in the village of Sassenheim [to the northeast of The Hague]. The film shows how Kambel pursues this conversation. It leads to special, historic occurrences. For example, in the National Archives, Kambel and a great-grandson of Charbon together examine the compensation documents (deeds) which mention the fees that the slave owner received for Kambel’s ancestors. The film really brings home the very different perspectives of the two parties. Next, Kambel succeeds in having a memorial plaque placed in Rusthoff Park. “For all who ever lived in slavery, and for my ancestors. So that we not forget,” says Kambel. It is the first time that such a memorial plaque is placed in a Dutch village. Ida Does comments: “It was a hopeful experience to be able to film this. It happened totally unexpectedly. For documentary makers, these are really the best bits, when you are somewhere filming with your crew and feel: ‘We are now filming a historic event of great significance’.” […]

The Hague Film Commissioner Ing Lim calls the film “a masterful documentary” about “our history of slavery.” Claire Schut calls it “a breathtakingly painful, beautiful film. […] Ida Does has artistically interweaved the stories and experiences [of the Three Women] into a comprehensive account about a shared history: slavery and the colonial history of the Netherlands. [… She] has managed to wrap something unspeakably horrible in beauty, while remaining gentle and advocating recognition, reconciliation and a shared future. That’s an achievement. […] Her message is: recognition, healing and connection. Let’s hope that Ida Does and all who have contributed to this penetrating and gorgeous documentary succeed in their purpose.”

Ida Does (Suriname, 1955) has worked as an independent documentary filmmaker and producer since 2007. Her work includes: Amsterdam, sporen van suiker (2017), Poetry is an Island: Derek Walcott (2013), Peace: Memories of Anton de Kom (2012) and Mi a no mi, Ik ben niet ik, Trefossa (2008). Her films have won several awards.

For the full, original news article (in Dutch) about the film premiere, go to The complete film review by Claire Schut (in Dutch) is available at



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