Producer: EMS Films 

Produced: 2013      Format: HD

Languages: English, Dutch 

The New Wilderness is a spectacle, an ode, celebrating the stark beauty of one of Europe’s most dynamic and productive wetlands. Situated just 20 miles north-east of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the Oostvaardersplassen is a unique experiment in letting nature run its course. In just 40 years, 6,000 hectares of newly drained polder have transformed into a home to some of Europe’s rarest birds including the magnificent white tailed eagle, not seen in the Netherlands since the Middle Ages; and some 1,000 Koniks, that make up the largest herd of wild horses in Europe.

At the heart of one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, the Oostvaardersplassen have become an internationally recognised symbol of Nature’s dynamism and resilience, and a pioneering example for the growing Rewilding movement, which Europe and North America are embracing to restore wilderness to marginal and degraded land.

Three years in the making and with more than 600 shooting days in the field, The New Wilderness first saw light as a visually lavish theatrical feature film, covering the cycles of life and death over four seasons in the Oostvaardersplassen reserve. The film was the smash hit of 2013, attracting over 700,000 visitors to Dutch cinemas after its launch in September 2013. The 3-part TV series adapted from the film went on to draw a further 1.6 million viewers when broadcasting on Nederland 1 in December 2013.

Using the latest techniques in time-lapse, underwater, aerial and macro photography, The New Wilderness explores the diverse worlds within worlds, highlighting the many connections between them.

Part 1: Spring - New Life
As the cold retreats and the days grow longer, new life slowly returns to the reed beds and grasslands. The marshland birds compete for territory and court their partners. The majestic sea eagle puts the finishing touches to its giant nest, while a kingfisher seduces his mate with a freshly caught fish. Thousands of greylag geese chicks leave the marsh to graze on the open grassland. A perilous adventure with the arrival of a large fox. Konik horses shed their winter coat and fight for their position in the herd. A rare black konik foal is born. We follow her antics as she grows up in the herd through the cycle of the seasons.

Part 2: Summer - First Steps
In the summer food abounds and the Oostvaardersplassen is bursting with life. The young kingfishers leave their nesthole and in a few short days must learn to catch their own fish before being driven away by their parents. After a spectacular summer storm, carp trek in large numbers to the shallows to spawn, with a fatal outcome once the water levels drop. The black konik foal is having difficulty feeding. A concern, because this is the season to thrive and build up reserves for the coming winter.

Part 3: Autumn & Winter - Survival
Autumn is announced with the spectacle of the rutting red deer. As the days get shorter, pressure begins to build on all the inhabitants of the Oostvaardersplassen. With the arrival of snow and ice, life comes almost to a standstill; the koniks huddle together for warmth, the kingfisher looks desperately for an open spot in the ice. And now the black foal is really struggling. Has she eaten enough during the summer to endure these polar conditions? But even the coldest winter comes to an end and a new cycle of rebirth begins.

The New Wilderness series challenges the old concepts of nature and wilderness. The bounty found here emerged in 40 short years, not through complex conservation strategies but simply because it was given the space to do its own thing. The New Wilderness celebrates the enormous resilience and creative drive of nature in the raw. In an age of seemingly unrelenting ecological breakdown, this new wilderness is a rare and inspiring beacon of hope. 

Broadcaster: VARA