A picture poem by Chris Teerinck

"THE WASTE LAND" is a film that delves deeply into the complex tapestry of the famous poem by T.S. Eliot. Written in a time of crisis and uncertainty, The Waste Land resonates with the challenges of our own era, such as climate change, political instability, and the quest for 'new' meaning in a rapidly changing world. In the film, the layered voices of writers, scholars, and philosophers like Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer, Guy Standing, Vandana Shiva, and Richard Sennett add depth to Eliot's poetry and create a call for reflection and action. It is an intellectual exploration of a literary masterpiece and a dialogue between poetry and contemporary reality. An emotional journey that encourages understanding the deeper meaning of Eliot's words in the light of the challenges of our own time.

About the director

Chris Teerinck's filmography:

THE WASTE LAND, (104 min, 2024).
RAIN, (14 min. 2019) remake of the famous film “Regen” by Joris Ivens.
SOL LEWITT, (71 min. 2012). Feature length documentary about the American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. Awards: Prix du Meilleur portrait, artFIFA; Montreal. Filaf d'Or, Perpignan.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE LIGHT, (92 min. 2006). Feature Length documentary about Jonas Mekas and the Anthology Film Archives in New York.
SONGS ALONG A STONY ROAD, (75 min. 2011) Feature length documentary about music as part of the daily life of the Hungarian minority in Romania.
GATE 70, 2009, 18min. Short film about the 'here and now' in a 'non-place': a bus stop on the edge of Schiphol.
MOJAVE, (52 min. 2003) Documentary about residents of one of the most extreme living environments imaginable within the Western world, the Mojave Desert in the U.S.
EXIL, (17 min. 1995, 16mm). Short documentary about how refugees in a camp in the Sahara give meaning to their existence in the unliveable environment of the desert.

Director's Note

Between the first line, "April is the cruelest month," and the last line, "Shantih shantih shantih," there are about four hundred lines of poetry, filled with quotations, references, and shifting perspectives. The Waste Land is one of the most important poems of the last century, but also one of the most challenging. Dante, Shakespeare, Ovid, the Upanishads, but also popular songs – T.S. Eliot incorporated them into his work. And for a hundred years, we've been trying to guess what it exactly means. The Waste Land is something you feel more than you understand.

I didn't want to make a film about a poem, or give my interpretation of it, but what if you consider it as a space, and you can invite others into that space and ask them what it means to them, what it does to them? So, if you go through the poem with different people, you can arrive at something where the present and the contemporary naturally crash into the film, and you can involve everything. I had the idea that there should be a war correspondent, a scientist, writers, you name it. That was the key. But it wasn't enough; something else had to happen, and it took a long time for me to figure out what that was.

During a vacation in Death Valley, in a landscape where nothing moved because there was nothing that could move, I finally found the solution: photographs. I had to make the film using still images instead of moving pictures because it provides a way to translate the poetic experience of reading into a cinematic language, away from the traditional documentary form. I found it interesting to select moments that we look at longer, which allows you to form a different kind of relationship with someone or a situation because you freeze time and also stretch it out.


Featuring: Michelle Taylor - Tatjana Gürbaca - Ilja Leonard  Pfeijffer - Prue  Shaw - Alan Buckley - Qiu Xiaolong - Carolyn Steel - Lyndall Gordon - Guy Standing - Miriam Rasch - Roz Kaveney - Lieven De Cauter - David Greene - Richard Sennett - Vandana Shiva - Jean-Paul Garnier - Jake Bonham - Anna Cantwell - Chris Keulemans - Tobias Müller - Rebecca Bryant

Written, directed, photographed and edited by Chris Teerink

Sound design & re-recording: Raf  Enckels

Sound: Kwinten van Laethem, Bram Meindersma, Fokke van Saane

Music  written and  produced by Blaudzun

Awards & festivals

World Premiere: IFF Rotterdam 2024

Production details

A production of Doc Eye (NL) and Associate Directors.

Supported by the Netherlands Film Fund and Flanders Audiovisual Fund.