Are you there?

Maartje Nevejan

It can happen while you’re playing in the surf or sitting in your school classroom with your math notebook in front of you. According to doctors, at that moment, you have no consciousness, so you’re temporarily not there. However, you see, hear, and feel overwhelming and unsettling things. You wander through tunnels that turn into black cubes, or you’re stalked by a wolf until you feel its breath.

The filmmaker has experienced absences herself and raised a son who also had them. The film evokes the alienation and timelessness of absence experiences with poetic imagery and suggestive sound, delving into the fear and loneliness caused by others’ inability to comprehend these radically unreal experiences.

Through conversations with family members, young people who experience absences, and their collaboration with artists, the film explores this phenomenon as much more than a medical condition. A visit to Anish Kapoor and his work with Vantablack, the ultimate black that strips eyes and brains of any reference, raises questions about the boundaries of consciousness. It’s where body and soul seem to inhabit different realities.

Absences are often anxiety-inducing and challenging to live with, but they also hold a profound secret, a world of wonder. The mysterious non-being that lies at the core of our existence can, like the night sky, evoke both a sense of home and great fear. What are we more than our bodies? Where does that extra come from?

Best Feature Documentary Award of the International Biennial Dona I Cinema Valencia, Spain | 2021 
Vegas Movies Awards – BEST INSPIRATIONAL FILM | 2021
Winner Best Documentary at Film By the Sea |  2020
Winner Best Director- long documentary – Toronto Couch Festival | 2020
Nomination for Dutch Directors Guild Award | 2020
Inscience FilmFestival, Winner VakJury Award Best Documentary 2019 &
Nomination Student Award Best Documentary
Nomination for a Golden Calf for Best feature Length Documentary, NFF 2019