27 November 2007

De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe

Filming has wrapped on De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe. New Holland Pictures provided production services on this Dutch family film while they were in Australia.

Based on a classic children’s novel, the story revolves around three ship boys who were shipwrecked on a tropical island enroute to Batavia in the 1600s.

Filming in Europe was completed earlier in the year, and the Australian shoot picked up the tropical island and many of the Batavia scenes. Twenty-two Dutch cast and crew travelled to Australia for the shoot and were complemented by an Australian crew of 25, with extras being drawn from the local community.

Locations included Port Douglas and Fitzroy Island, with filming taking place on the replica ships the Duyfken off Port Douglas and the Bounty out of Sydney. The film is due for theatrical release in The Netherlands in November.

De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe

Willem Ysbrandtszoon Bontekoe (June 2, 1587-1657) was a skipper in the Dutch East India Company (VOC), who made only one voyage for the company (1618-1625). He became widely known because of the journal of his adventures that was published in 1646 under the title Journael ofte gedenckwaerdige beschrijvinge van de Oost-Indische reyse van Willem Ysbrantsz. Bontekoe van Hoorn, begrijpende veel wonderlijcke en gevaerlijcke saecken hem daer in wedervaren ("Journal or memorable description of the East Indian voyage of Willem Bontekoe from Hoorn, including many remarkable and dangerous things that happened to him there").

Bontekoe was born in Hoorn in Holland. In 1607, at the age of twenty, Bontekoe succeeded his father as captain of the ship Bontekoe. Ten years later, in 1617, the ship was robbed and Bontekoe ended up at a slave market. He was bought free, but his ship was lost.

In 1618 Bontekoe enlisted in the service of the Dutch East India Company. Bontekoe set out from his home port of Hoorn on December 28, 1618. His destination was the town of Bantam on Java; his ship was the Nieuw Hoorn ("New Hoorn"), an East Indiaman (i.e. an armed merchant ship).

After having put in at Madagascar, the ship sailed alone through the Indian Ocean. An accidental fire, caused by a shipmate setting fire to a cask of brandy, caused the gunpowder magazine to explode and sink the ship. The surviving crew and their wounded captain continued towards Batavia in two lifeboats. After a grueling journey, including an attack by hostile natives on Sumatra, they reached Batavia on Java. Bontekoe was given a new command and an order to harass the Chinese coast.

In 1625 Bontekoe returned to Holland. After his return, Bontekoe settled down in Hoorn to live a quiet life. On March 1, 1626, at the age of 38, Bontekoe married Eeltje Bruijnes.

He might have been forgotten had he not related his story to a publisher. The adventurous yarn, illustrated with etchings, was a bestseller in the 17th and 18th centuries and later became the basis of a very popular children's book by author Johan Fabricius, De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe (1923; nl); a film adaptation (nl) was released in 2007.



De Scheepsjongens van Bontekoe on the Digital library of Dutch literature
(In Dutch)

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