Film group premiering documentary on Holland


The waterways of Holland attracted the first settlers for their potential for trade and are featured in the film "Wilderness to World Class." Courtesy Holland Film Group

Holland is ready for its moment in the spotlight.

The Holland Film Group will debut its documentary, “Wilderness to World Class,” at 7 p.m., Dec. 12, and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Dec. 13, at the Knickerbocker Theatre, 86 E. Eighth St. in Holland.

The film is the culmination of 15 months of production work. Directed by Rob Byrd, of Moondog Productions, the documentary explores six key characteristics that have helped Holland become what it is today.

The story is told through historical data, images and interviews with approximately 30 people from different walks of life.

“(We wanted) people who can speak to those threads: business people, workers, first- and second-generation immigrant families, the Hispanic community, people of faith to talk about the faith community, philanthropists and so on,” said Ben Beversluis, the film’s scriptwriter and a former writer and editor at the Grand Rapids Press and Holland Sentinel.

The documentary explores both the historical bedrock and the modern dynamics of the community. It is intended to capture the events, personalities, natural resources and other factors that describe Holland, he said.

“Our goal is to inform and inspire viewers of all ages about the character of the Holland community and its continued success throughout its history,” said Howard Veneklasen, executive producer. “It was an idea that was born out of a desire to give back to the community that my family has been part of for more than 160 years.”

Following the premiere, the documentary will be used as a resource for schools, businesses, tourists, government and the community at large. Plans call for it to be shown in a new mini-theater at the Holland Museum and during special events such as Tulip Time.

The idea for the documentary began a few years ago when Veneklasen and his wife visited Ketchikan, Alaska. The couple went to a community center and saw a film about the Alaskan city.

“The thought occurred to me that Holland didn’t have anything like that,” Veneklasen said. “Maybe about 20 books have been written on it, but nobody has ever tackled the film aspect of it.”

With that vision, Veneklasen assembled an 11-member crew that included award-winning professionals and launched the Holland Film Group.

In addition to Byrd and Beversluis, other group members include: former mayor and city councilman Louis Hallacy II; documentary filmmaker Milt Nieuwsma; former Holland Museum executive director Chris Shires; historian and author Robert Swierenga; former Holland Sentinel editor and author Randy VandeWater; former television news anchor Tom Van Howe; Black River Schools educator Greg Dykhouse; and library director and longtime Holland City Council member Bob VandeVusse.

Holland Film Group joined in partnership with Holland Museum and the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area. In the process, the project gained more than $120,000 in support from businesses, community organizations, government and individuals, and continues to accept contributions from people interested in supporting the project.

“This is the first-ever production of this kind and this scale about Holland,” Veneklasen said, “and we are excited to show it to our community.”

Wilderness to World Class City from Robbie Byrd on Vimeo.

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