The documentary ZAAD is the autobiographical story of filmmaker Dries Meddens. Searching for identity and fearing genetic heredity, he digs into his family history.
After his mother passed away, Dries discovers his father’s bipolarity. The care this mental illness imposes in his young adult life leaves no place for mourning over his mother’s death. Countering the way society and psychiatry crudely and ruthlessly treat his father absorbs all his attention. Eventually – while in a closed section of a mental hospital – his father dies of a heart attack.
Emptying his parent’s home, Dries discovers, among an overload of left behind projects of his father, an old letter from his grandfather. The man appears to have led a very busy and productive life. He was the founder of an internationally renowned seed breeding company (Nunhems Zaden, now owned by BASF) and still had time to paint, write diaries and be the father of 11 children.
At first Dries is happy about his discoveries and feels a strong link to his grandfather. But the more he digs into the past, the less he can avoid a growing fear that his father's psychiatric illness might be hereditary, from grandfather to father to son. And what then germinates in Dries' children?
Browsing through film and photo archives, with dramatic and sometimes hilarious findings from three generations of family history, Dries looks for answers, but his search only leads to more questions.
Ultimately, Dries decides to go and see a psychiatrist. These visits, combined with the viewing of his archival material help Dries look at bipolarity with new eyes. He realises that the most powerful treatment is already within his reach.
Dries Meddens (1970, the Netherlands) is a producer and director. He left his work as a woodworker-designer to make films. After several film projects and moving to rural France, he made his first short film, Ciel (2014) that was seen in Cannes Short corner, the Netherlands Film Festival and Verona’s San Gio Festival. From then on, film became his main focus, and in 2015 he moved back to Ghent to live closer to a lively cinematic scene. That same year he started his own company Idiot Productions.
Earlier still living in France, he had begun filming the revival of a London based rock group, Terminal Cheesecake. In 2018 he completed the 36 minutes film Wages of the imagination about Terminal Cheesecake and the urge of making music. The film premiered at IFFR 2019.
Meanwhile he began his research on his grandfather (1880-1929) and his father (1928-2004) with a film in mind about ‘three generations borderliners’. The family research resulted in a short film Nowadays inspired by a letter his grandfather wrote 100 years ago, a first draft moving towards a bigger project. ZAAD, his first feature length documentary.
ZAAD is a counterbalance to a society driven by speed and individuality. Through personal family history, concepts such as illness, identity and the malleability of life are questioned. ZAAD encourages reflection and makes unexpected connections between behaviour, family secrets, self-portraits and psychiatry.
While the western world usually objects to anything and anyone who acts weak, I want to use my unique family story to shed light on the beauty and strength that lies in vulnerability, in expressing feelings or going against the current towards an ideal. The history of three generations of ‘Meddens’, autobiographical doubt on mental health, and a series of consultations with a psychiatrist are the ingredients for this film. The film offers an intimate insight that relieves the viewer from the idealized picture the outside world presents us with.
A humble attitude towards the immense variety life offers seems to me the only way out of the current disruptive era.
Directed by Dries Meddens
Writer – Dries Meddens
Editor – Leen Anthonissen
Dop – Benito Strangio
Animation - Stephan Balleux
Music - Maarten Meddens & Arthur Flink
Sound design – Etienne Curchod
In co-production with seriousFilm (NL) and VRT-CANVAS
Supported by Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF)
With the support of the Tax Shelter System of the Belgian Federal Government
Language: Dutch, French
Subtitles: English, Dutch, French