Life is Long interview: Joan Jongejan-Sanders / by Adriaan Hogervorst

So this is the first in a series of interviews with the cast & crew for Life is Long. We kick off with Joan.

Can you start by introducing yourself?

My name is Joan Jongejan-Sanders. I was born in Perth, Australia to Dutch immigrant parents. As new Australians they were keen to integrate so I did not learn to speak Dutch until I moved to the Netherlands. Having possession of a dual nationality simplified my move by supporting my motive to get in touch with my roots, to live and work there. However, contrary to my original plans, my stay eventuated into making the Netherlands my permanent home.

Life is Long film

So tell us a bit about your role in this project?

I was cast for Life is Long as a bilingual step-mother searching to re-invent herself after the departure of her daughter and the break up of her latest relationship. As full time mother I can relate to this role. When the kids left home, it hit me harder than I expected. Overwhelmed by a sense of uselessness I began by soul searching, over-asserting myself, becoming too aware of time and age, distracting myself with singing lessons and taking a yoga lesson. Finally picking up on an old hobby gradually led to a vague sense of balance.

How do you relate to the young woman we get to know in the film?

In relation to the the role of the young woman, I find I can sympathise with her. I was brought up by a step-mother, and I left home at 17. Looking for work I travelled to Darwin in the Northern Territory two years after Cyclone Tracey completely destroyed the city. Due to lack of accommodation my first dwelling was a tent in Tent City. This was located on the waterfront. I can remember so well the chaos caused every evening meal time by the “Malaria Eradication Program”. Huge trucks full of pesticide would drive down the adjacent road and spray the area at 6.00 p.m.

While in Darwin I found all sorts of odd jobs from working on a prawn fishing boat to making french fries in a small backyard factory. To get to the french fries factory I would take a short cut through the bush. Often I would have to walk through small herds of feral buffalo not sure if they were aggressive or not, while at the same time trying not to think about the snakes in the grass.

Finally I got myself a “proper” job. I got placed for a secure position in a government office. Though very grateful for this new opportunity I threw it overboard when I got accepted for and completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Darwin community College. This was followed by my trip to Europe.

Finally, can you give us a little teaser about your character?

My character in the film is coming to terms with yet another broken relationship. Her relationship with her step-daughter is also in need of repair but mum is too busy sorting herself out. She does care about her daughter though, at least she thinks she does.