Piece Comment

Review of RN Documentary: Hollands' Black Page

Hearing an old man cry is powerful. In this piece, we get to overhear a visit with Dutchmen recounting their still lingering feelings from time spent at war in Indonesia. I found this piece searching for Indonesia, and it gives a great historical perspective on the country's transition from colony to independent state. But more than that, it focuses on the post-colonial guilt felt by Europeans. Holland's hands are relatively clean when it comes to the imperialistic horrors this world has seen, but when we hear the carefully worded non-apology given by the Dutch government, we can see how little hope there is for state-sanctioned healing. Maybe the field of politics is not the place for open-hearted reconciliation. Maybe it is here on PRX, and in the field of audio art and documentaries that we can expect to find this kind of honest, powerful discourse.

Technically, this piece uses dramatic audio cues to recreate or suggest past events and memories. When combining news stories with dramatic special effects, it's a delicate balance of effectiveness, tastefulness, and verisimilitude. I think the producer should spend more time developing the use of special sound effects in historical pieces like this one. I really liked the Indonesian music at the beginning and end, perhaps using music to indicate location could be used to a greater effect in the future.

Overall, the piece lacks a certain punch. Like I said at the beginning, the footage of the man crying (twice) stands out and is definitely powerful, but the power of those moments could have been balanced and tempered by more contextual framing.