‘Thinking differently is necessary’
Ton van Zantvoort follows designers Dave Hakkens and Nienke Hoogvliet, who try to improve the world with their projects.
In the documentary A World to Shape, filmmaker Ton van Zantvoort follows two young designers who, each in their own way, try to save the world. Dave Hakkens is the inventor of the modular telephone Phonebloks and of Precious Plastic, a worldwide movement to recycle plastic. Nienke Hoogvliet makes fish leather and textile paint from seaweed, among other things.
Why did you want to make this movie?
Ton van Zantvoort: ‘I was asked by the producer. Actually, I’m not much into design, but these two designers are working to improve the world. That inspired me. My films are also indirectly about that. I like to present the viewer with problems, such as in a documentary about the flower industry. That quickly becomes heavy. I hope this is different.”
Why did you choose these two main characters?
Dave sees the problems in the world as a challenge. I recognize myself more in Nienke, who carries the burden of the world on her shoulders. I asked them both what they would do in a world without problems. Dave said: “Then I wouldn’t know what to do”, while Nienke was relieved to spend her time on the beach. To her, it feels less like a choice, more like a moral duty. I liked those contrasting characters.”
To what extent does their methodology differ?
‘Nienke is trying to change the system from within, by inventing an alternative paint for the heavily polluting textile industry using seaweed. Dave tries to reinvent the system from the outside, by creating his own community on a piece of land in Portugal. His philosophy is that the major problems on the earth were created by humans in 150 years, so can be reversed in the same amount of time.”
Don’t you get cynical with so many good intentions?
“Well, I’m skeptical about where the world is going. That’s what most of my movies are about. I’ve been thinking in vain for twenty years that a sustainability revolution is coming. Now that I’m getting older, I’m less activist. Nienke and Dave did fuel the old fire in me. I have become more optimistic. You need dissenters to get things moving. For me, the person is always the driving force, the person and his motivation. In the script I deliberately played with the cynicism of the viewer, that you think in the beginning: this will never work.’
TARA LEWIS , OCTOBER 12, 2022