‘We don’t want to put Tanja Nijmeijer on a pedestal’

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Tanja Nijmeijer is a young Dutch woman wanted for her membership of the FARC, a Colombian terrorist organisation. It’s the nightmare of many a parent: a daughter who makes extreme choices to follow her ideals. And soon, the lead character in a television miniseries.

Jeroen Beker of production company IDTV Film says: We got the idea when a colleague and I became fascinated with a photograph of Tanja Nijmeijer where she is sitting in the jungle wearing a hat.

"That’s when we started to dig deeper: What is this? And what is happening here? We became intrigued by the question why somebody would do a thing like that. To us that was an excellent point of departure for drama.”

The two-part mini-series "‘Eileen’ is based on Tanja’s life but is not a documentary. “We are not looking for the truth”, Mr Beker says. The drama series, with Young Dutch actress Sophie van Winden in the lead role, focuses on the question of how far one should go to realise ones ideals.

In the series, Eileen is disappointed in her parents, who do have ideals, but don’t act on them. “We want to show what makes a person decide to leave their friends and family in the Netherlands behind to go fight in Colombia.”

So what about the risk of turning Tanja into an icon, which could motivate other people to follow her example?

"Yes, that could be a risk, but we won’t be able to tell till after editing. However, it is certainly not our intention. We don’t want to put Tanja on a pedestal.”

The mini-series is to be screened for the first time at the Nederlands Filmfestival (Dutch Film Festival) in Utrecht in September and will later be broadcast on Dutch television.

Earlier, Colombian author León Valencia made an attempt to reconstruct Tanja Nijmeijer’s life. Together with Dutch author Liduine Zumpolle he wrote the book ‘Tanja, a Dutch woman in the FARC’. He says he understands that the story is an interesting subject for a drama series.

‘She is a beautiful woman, a woman with a radiant smile, and in many respects an intelligent woman. She sings and plays guitar, but at the same time so convinced of terrorism and violence.”

Mr Valencia is aware of the risk of Tanja being presented as a myth, but he also believes the mini-series could serve as a warning to other young people. Mr Valencia, a former fighter, says that would be a good thing. He hopes the producers succeed in holding up a mirror to their viewers without too much moralising.

Just like in the Netherlands, Tanja generates widespread interest in Colombia as well. Colombians feel it’s exceptional for a young woman from a rich country to come to Colombia to join the struggle. And she is still unharmed, even though she would appear to have been very close to the fighting on numerous occasions.

This only serves to make her more intriguing to Colombians. As a result, Mr Valencia is convinced there will be widespread interest in the television series.