As many rats in Amsterdam as people? Or the rarely seen swift living in the bell tower of the Oranjekerk. Or the rarely seen peregrine falcon living 50 meters up on the side of a bank building. If you want to see Amsterdam through different eyes, you have to watch Wild Amsterdam. It gives you a whole different perspective of the city of Amsterdam. Gorgeous images and unexpected inhabitants of the city is what Wild Amsterdam is all about. Mark Verkerk: ‘I’d love for people to look at the city in a new way, if the movie does that I am happy.’
Mark Verkerk has been a filmmaker for over thirty years and won some great prizes with his earlier movie De Nieuwe Wilderness, which is also about wildlife in the Netherlands. But now he has chosen a location that might be a bit unexpected: the city of Amsterdam. With a cat as the narrator of the movie, it takes us through the city from dusk till night time when Abatutu the cat goes home again. Mark Verkerk, the filmmaker, tells us more about Wild Amsterdam.
It must have been quite a production, filming with animals and in the city? It’s a lot easier to make a film in nature than in the city; that’s for sure. It took us about 2.5 years to make this movie. There are many practical issues. For example, we had to place a camera in a martlet’s nest –at Oranjekerk- but you can’t disturb the nest at certain times. So, it takes really long to get everything ready. Literally everything was a challenge. These animals are so smart. They are used to dodging people. We thought they would be tamer.
You use a cat as a narrator, why is that?
‘We wanted to make a movie for everyone. Not just people who love nature documentaries. So, this is a movie that you can watch with your family. It makes it more approachable. And this cat, Abatutu is really quite the movie star here in the Netherlands.’
What was the biggest surprise for you?
The American Red Signal Crayfish for sure. Apparently, the Amsterdam city council gets a lot of calls every time in August when they cross the streets. People think they are scorpions that have escaped. It’s crazy how animals can adapt to different situations. We think it’s a pity that there is so much plastic in the canals – and of course it is – but coots, for example, make use of it. They even color code their nests. You see coots that love yellow and coots that love blue and decorate their nests in those colors. I can recommend it to everyone to just take a look now during springtime when they make their nests. It’s really funny to watch. Amsterdam is such a green city and it’s getting greener every year. There are four city ecologists working for the city on a fulltime basis.
Any future film plans?
‘We are looking at co-developing projects looking at the Rotterdam harbour and the coast. I’m interested to focus on places where people and nature come together. We think we live apart from other animals, but that’s not true. You can find nature just around the corner, especially in Amsterdam. We sometimes forget that Amsterdam has more water than Venice. It’s really a water city with its own unique habitats.’