Ronny Lam


Filmtip: The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island


A group of Greenpeace pioneers looks back on their activists’ life. Once they belonged to the crew of the famous ship Rainbow Warrior and took part in a series of successful actions until a bomb attack put an end to it. Now they are living together on Waiheke, a small New Zealand island. Advancing age causes them to make up the balance: have their ideals proven to be tenable, and what has their activist past achieved for the world and for themselves?

By coincidence I ran into the start of a documentary yesterday, a documentary about the foundation of Greenpeace and their first vessel the “Rainbow Warrior”. These founders, interviewed in 2009, are now living in New Zealand, Waiheke Island, looking out over the bay where they sank the Rainbow Warrior after the French secret service bombed it.

Apparently this bombing, in 1985, was the start of Greenpeace as we now know it. Greenpeace raised 15 million dollars worldwide which made it possible to grow it into a worldwide organisation. To the original founders it felt like a multinational fighting for other causes than the ones you can fight from and at the sea. So only one of them stayed in the new organization.

The most impact on me, and them, was the evacuation of the inhabitants of Rongelap. The island in the Pacific Ocean was used for nuclear testing in the early fifties. After a radioactive fallout the US didn’t tell the inhabitants and told them to return to the island, exposing them to the radioactive contamination. The US was accused of medical experiments to these people several times. Many residents developed thyroid-tumors, and children died of leukemia. In 1985 Greenpeace moved those people, with all kinds of scarves, to an island 180 kilometers away in three trips. They moved every sole including houses and everything. The crew of the Rainbow Warrior can still get mad about how crewel mankind can be.

This documentary struck me and made me want to know more about the original Greenpeace. I have a lot of respect for these first two crews and I can understand that they cannot identify themselves with the new multinational Greenpeace. This documentary can be watched the next two weeks on the Dutch Uitzending Gemist and on the website of the VPRO Holland Doc.