Bernd Schoch's Olanda is showing February and March, 2020 on MUBI as part of the series Direct from the Berlinale.
It began with a picture-puzzle. When I was driving along the Romanian Transalpina on a round trip in 2012, I arrived at an intersection in Obarsia Lotrului after a never ending and uneventful route through the forests of the Carpathians. This tourist destination, an initially romantic-looking campsite, with campfires, playing children and clothes hung out to dry, upon closer inspection revealed its economic necessity. I saw people cleaning huge amounts of porcini mushrooms, chanterelles and blueberries, which were piled up in large heaps on tarpaulins on the ground, and transferring them into baskets and wooden boxes. This ambiguous image wouldn't let go of me.
Franz Kafka wrote in his diary about the picture-puzzle that (what) is hidden inside, which is both clear and invisible. "Clear for those who have found what they were asked to look for, invisible for those who don’t know even that there is something to be found."
So it is with the mushroom. In 2016, we were on the road for a research shoot and in 2017 for the whole picking-season from July to October with seasoned collectors who would easily spot a porcini mushroom in the forest from 30 meters away; and with others who would step on them with their large Wellington boots, if they even owned any, rather than finding them. And there was always talk of money. For people who have none it's a permanent issue; others are rarely heard talking about it. In the midst of the Carpathian forests it was like being on Wall Street. Prices rose and fell several times a day and the bundles of money of the few middlemen (collectori) became thicker and thicker, while those of the many collectors (ciupercari) became thinner. While the exploitative relations—between man and man, and man and nature (raw material storage) in the mushroom industry—are limited to a seasonal period, here the saws of the Romanian-Western European timber industry run at full speed all year round. The almost obscene visibility of this broken system with its exploitation and class relations made this place, for me, a predestined stage for an examination of our thoroughly capitalized present. And so, like the collectors' search for the mushroom, we searched for a narrative form that, on the one hand, captures the systemic nature of the situation, but on the other hand also leaves space for gestures of solidarity as well as the rhythm of everyday life in this temporary community.