The Dutch film director Bert Haanstra (1916-1997) has made several films about animals that have been distributed internationally. His documentary Ape and Super Ape (Dutch: Bij de beesten af) from 1972 was nominated for an Oscar. He had previously won an Oscar for his documentary glass (1958). In this article historian Hans Schoots researches the production and the Dutch reception of Ape and Super Ape and considers its place in the debate on ‘nature and nurture’ of the seventies. Inspired by the ethological views of Konrad Lorenz and Niko Tinbergen, among others, Haanstra sought in his film for parallels between human and animal behaviour. In the polarized atmosphere of the seventies, this lead to sharp criticism by the believers in ‘nurture’ and praise by those who believed in ‘nature’. Ape and Super Ape was intended and received as a warning about ecological catastrophe.

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis

Schoots, Hans. (2009). Bert Haanstra's 'bij de beesten af'. Een dierenfilm in de turbulente jaren zeventig. Tijdschrift voor Mediageschiedenis, 12(2), 105–124. doi:10.18146/tmg.565