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Dearest Fiona

Filmstill from "Dearest Fiona" by Fiona Tan. Old image of a family on a wooden pontoon. In the distance, we see a mill and some houses. The clothes, the vegetation and the water are hand colored. The rest is in black and white.
© Fiona Tan, Antithesis Films
  • Director

    Fiona Tan

  • Netherlands / 2023
    100 min. / Original version with German subtitles

  • Original language


In the collection of the Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam, Fiona Tan researched silent, documentary archive material dating from before the 1920s. The material she found there depicts everyday life and above all the hard work only slowly being made easier by machines. Dutch women in traditional costume, winter scenes, harvest labour, fishing, land reclamation, trade and harbour work. Tan, who is of Indonesian descent, came to Amsterdam from Australia to study in 1988. During this period, Tan’s father sent her letters in which he vividly reflects on private affairs, the family dog, his grandson, global politics and the competition between economic systems. The combination of these letters read out in voiceover with the archive material from a completely different time is perplexing at first. The images do not serve to illustrate or validate what is being spoken. What emerges instead is a kind of audiovisual stream of consciousness - heightened by the artful soundtrack - that is open to associations, coincidences and the discovery of subtle connections: between image and sound, then and now, the Netherlands and Indonesia, trade and colonialism, father and daughter. (Anna Hoffmann)

Production Fiona Tan. Production company Antithesis Films (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Director Fiona Tan. Screenplay Fiona Tan. Editing Nathalie Alonso Casale. Sound design Hugo Dijkstal. Sound Hugo Dijkstal. Voice-over Ian Henderson. Production manager Marty de Jong.

Fiona Tan, born in 1966 in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, she studied visual arts and now works as an artist and filmmaker in the Netherlands. Her work has been presented at numerous solo exhibitions around the world. Many of her works are also represented in public art collections. Following HISTORY'S FUTURE (2015), which was screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and ASCENT (2016), which premiered at Locarno, DEAREST FIONA is her third feature-length film.

Films: 1997: May You Live in Interesting Times (60 min.). 2000: Kingdom of Shadows (50 min.). 2015: History’s Future (95 min.). 2016: Ascent (80 min.). 2023: Dearest Fiona.

Bonus Material

Director's Commentary, Essay, Image Gallery, and Video Essay

  • Filmstill from „Dearest Fiona" by Fiona Tan. Old picture in black and white of two workers pushing a wheelbarrow on a beam over the water.


    Brian Jacobson on the layering of history in Fiona Tan’s DEAREST FIONA

  • Filmstill from "Dearest Fiona" by Fiona Tan. Old picture of a group of people working in a flower field.  The flowers and the sky are hand colored. The people are in black and white.

    Director's Statement

    Fiona Tan on the archives—both personal and institutional—that informed DEAREST FIONA

  • Video Essay

    A video essay by critics Jan Pieter Ekker & Dana Linssen about an earlier iteration of DEAREST FIONA

  • A photograph of four letters, partially layered on top of each other. They are all handwritten in English with blue ink in a small, refined cursive. The bottom letter is on lined foolscap. They are all dated between February and April, 1990.

    Image Gallery

    A selection of the original letters that serve as source material for DEAREST FIONA

Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media
  • Logo des Programms NeuStart Kultur