‘It is the untold stories that are most moving,’ wrote JRR Tolkien, but Pastor Zwanine Siedenburg is moving precisely with the stories that would never have been written without her. She operates from the Red Light District, where she asks about the lives of people living on the fringes of society. At their funeral she reads their stories. After all, anyone who becomes a story continues to live a little.
It’s just one turn in the rather broad-based episode of Backlight, which is about the connecting power of stories. This need for connection is only increasing and we must look for it in an overall feeling of rudderless sailing on the ocean of life, the waves of which have only become higher since the pandemic. The message is: we need stories, especially now, for meaning and direction.
Zwanine Siedenburg – interviewed in this newspaper in August – knows better than anyone how to get those stories out. By real attention, not with the idea of scoring a story, but by listening, really listening. “Only then does someone feel seen,” she says. “Then someone feels understood. And then you notice that it has a healing effect.”
Healing in a different way is the Iranian-Dutch storyteller Sahand Sahebdivani, who provides training in the art of storytelling at the Amsterdam cultural center Mezrab. He learned it from his father and keeps Iranian culture alive with it. If I can’t go there myself, I’ll bring it here, he says.
Siedenburg again, who says that by knowing someone’s story, she can also better understand why someone does what they do and who they are. “And then I can have a lot of you,” she says.
This theme may seem a bit obvious, but it is not superfluous with the elections just around the corner. Consider it a call to the entire garrison in The Hague for the coming weeks. Listening, real attention, not just writing a story but trying to understand. The reward is connection – who doesn’t crave that?
More TV reviews? Read all episodes of Han Lips in our archive. Also read the weekly Sterrenstof section, in which we discuss the media week. Comment? [email protected].
Het Parool signs the TV reviews in the section Han Lips is watching TV from now on with the author’s name. The section will of course continue to exist, but the fictional character Han Lips has retired.