Tu ne verras pas Verapaz (2002)

(Text and image from the producer's catalogue reproduced with kind permission from An van Dienderen)

Wie goat er mee noar Verapas? Who's coming to Verapas with us?
Doar moete wij niet wirke There's no need to work there
Eten en drenke op eu gemak, Just drink and eat if you want to
Sloape gelijk een virke And snooze like a pig.

This old song from Ghent, popular at the beginning of the last century, refers to an unfamiliar piece of Belgium's history: the former Belgian colony in Guatemala, Santo Tomas de Castilla. When king Leopold I bought a piece of Guatemala in 1843, his goal was not only to exploit valuable resources as was done in the Congo, but also to reduce the crime level in Belgium. To achieve this, he inspired rich stock holders to start up the 'Company of Colonisation'. Propaganda was vital: the Company handed out exotic engravings, fake letters supposedly written by Belgian migrants praising Santo Tomas as a land of plenty and representing Guatemala as a promised land. In this way they managed to deport the unemployed, losers, adventurers - rejects of nineteenth century society next to very few educated and experienced people.

An van. Dienderen and Didier Volckaert use this song as their starting point and look for the great-great-grandchildren of Belgian descendants in Guatemala. They bump into Belgian lions, originally shipped into Santo Tomas in 1843, Belgian descendants, some who do not quite know where Belgium is, others who claim to have brought Guatemala many economic advantages. The filmmakers participate and share this popular song with these Belgians. As a sort of poetic road movie, - leading the audience from "de Muide", Ghent to Santo Tomas, Guatemala, the film's aim is to offer a personal exploration of the urge for the green grass over the hill, the 'el dorado'. It hints at abstract concepts such as cultural identity, nationalism, memory, paradise lost, diaspora narratives, and nostalgia.



An van Dienderen and Didier Volckaert
Based on an idea by vzw de Hondsjaren


The film received the prize awarded by the Flemish and Walloon Community for the best Belgian documentary 2002 and 2003.


KunstenFESTIVALdesArts, Brussels - Margaret Mead Film and Video festival New York - Pacific Film Archive Berkeley - Viewpoint, Timefestival Ghent - Guatemala city: Festival de Cine Europeo etc.

Technical Specifications

Filmed with Betacam SP (DV+S8) in colour
56 minutes


Elektrischer Schnellseher
Subsidised by KunstenFestivaldesArts, Koning Boudewijnstichting, Stad Gent, Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen and Vlaams Filmfonds

[More films about Guatemala and the Mayas]

Opdateret d. 24.9.2005

Guide til Guatemala