The Accidental Wilderness
Director / Producer:
Jakobus von der Heyden
LIGHT & SHADOW
In the middle of Europe lies a mysterious wilderness that is irreplaceable for the migrating birds of Europe and beyond. Though it is a small nature reserve, it is greatly important and boasts an astonishing history. Feathered guests from all over the world travel through this refuge in the West of Germany. In spring, countless rare bird species rest in the small, watery wilderness to recharge their batteries before heading to their Nordic breeding grounds. Some travel up to 7,000 kilometers. Without natural wetlands along their routes, they would hardly be able to achieve this grueling feat.
The film by Christian Baumeister and Max Meis tells the past and present of this unique nature reserve just outside the city of Muenster in Westphalia/Western Germany.
This reserve is not only special because of its flourishing biodiversity, but also because it is manmade. This area – as large as 1000 soccer fields – was once the place where Münster released its wastewater. Until the 1970s, sewer pipes brought all of the city's dirty water into this open heathland. A jungle of reed plants cleaned the wastewater before it seeped and was filtered through the sandy ground.
Over time the sewage pipes were rerouted, and the landscape became a completely unintentional, manmade paradise for water birds. While valuable wetlands were sacrificed all over Europe for agriculture and urban development, the opposite happened here. An artificial water wilderness emerged. A haven for threatened species.
Told through engaging animal stories, the film reveals the diversity that has grown into this accidental wilderness. Super high-speed cameras allow insights into behaviors that would be barely noticeable to the human eye. The hatching of the small grass snakes is as mysterious as the courtship of the three-spined stickleback. With beautiful camerawork, the film also tells the intimate stories of the upbringing of Marsh Harries, Storks and Foxes.
Christian Baumeister and Max Meis dare to push the boundaries of the classic nature film. With historical pictures and spectacular aerial photographs, they tell the unique history of this wilderness made by human hands: its beginnings as a pre-modern sewage treatment plant, to the discovery of a natural paradise and the struggle of conservationists to preserve this water wilderness, whose importance reverberates across the continent.
The viewer is immersed in an unusual success story that lays bare what nature can achieve, if only left alone. Inadvertently, human civilization has created a unique natural paradise that today attracts feathered visitors from all over the world. At a time when intensive agriculture causes nature to wither and wild meadows to become agricultural steppes, this nature reserve has become an island that offers refuge and living space for some of the most threatened animals.