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Interview 'Brothers in Rivers'

Documentary 'Resilience':
how to keep a river beautiful and clean

Nick & Dick

Film and tv producer Nick Versteeg, born in the Netherlands and living in Canada for some decades, is working on a documentary on the Canadian Cowichan River. Together with his wife Elly he lives on Vancouver Island, where the river flows almost in his backyard. 

Nick happens to be the younger brother of Dick Versteeg, the editor-in-chief of the magazine Travelling along Rivers. A good opportunity for an interview under the motto: Brothers in Rivers…  

(photo: Nick and Dick as kids on the river Giessen)

Nick filming on the river



Why a movie about Cowichan River?

Nick Versteeg: “I was asked to create a five minute promotional video on the watershed of the 45 km long Cowichan River, a large area about 60 km long and 20 km wide, from where we get our drinking water.
After listening what they wanted to promote I suggested a full documentary for the people who live here on the issues that we face and educate them on how we can keep this area clean.

At the end we got an agreement about the funding of three organizations: Living Rivers, the BC (British Columbia) Salmon Foundation and The BC Wild life Federation."

How is the structure of the film?

‘We first follow the flow of the water from the lake - which is also the source of the river - to the estuary and show all kinds of hot issues. Such as the lake itself, being very deep and used by people who live around it. Another issue is he harvesting by forest companies around the lake and the use for storing our drinking water. There is also the Weir, a kind of dam that most people like to make higher, to store more water in the summer for the dry season." 

"The river itself often has to deal with low water. In autumn no fish can enter for spawning if the level is too low. In the next part of the film we show all the things that are happening to fix the problems. Mainly community groups are working on solving problems and challenges such as cleaning the river and estuary, taking out huge gravel deposits and working with the farmers to change their ways of composting the land."

Why the title ‘Resilience’?

“I choose this title because we all can be resilient, everything comes back. Nature is resilient, we all can cope with adversity and stress, but if we do the right things it will restore itself again.“

The trailer contains an intriguing quote of biologist Tim Kulchyski: ‘I grew up, influenced on a daily basis, on what happened in the river’.  This sentence seems to be essential for the entire movie: respect and consciousness. True?

“Tim is a so-called First Nations Person. He is a young aboriginal who links the stories. He grew up along the river, saw what the first white people did to the river (industry), how we overfished, destroyed the clam and oyster beds in the bay by polluting the bay.... And yes it’s right, I saw a lot through his very thoughtfull words.”

Do you consider the issues around the Cowichan River as representative for other rivers in the world?

“So true. We have to start looking at the bigger picture. Can Nature and Industry work together? Global warming and the changing of our climate. Dikes and protection. Clean drinking water and the fish returning.

I think we are still very lucky that we have such a spectacular and relative pretty clean river, but with working together we can make it better and keep it beautiful.”

Does the movie also refer to the role of today’s growing kids?

“Yes, its a message to them... The River Cleanup Day was a great example where they all helped to take the garbage out of the river deposited by people who don’t care.”

How about your personal feelings after producing this movie. Did it change the way you were looking at this river before the production?

“What I felt the most is that we are living in an area where people really care. I talked to many compassioned people that like to make changes for the better, volunteers to plant eelgrass in the bay, showing home owners how to take care of their property along the lake and river. The trips I made on the river were fantastic, I realized better than before, what a beautiful place we live in. The absolute highlight was to see hundreds of salmon returning to the spawning grounds.”