The invisible friend - Hans Busstra

Original Dutch film title:
52 minutes (television version) & 72 minutes (theatre version)

Personal film about religious doubt.

Can you put an end to your doubt, if the certainties of your upbringing elude you?

Filmmaker and parson’s son Hans Busstra hoped to make a documentary about the faithful whom are not hindered by any doubt and go on with life with Jesus at their side. He found them. Ultimately however he ended up mainly with himself in front of the lense. His film about religious doubtlessness became a film about his own deep-rooted doubt in faith.

In a road trip through the Dutch Bible Belt we meet Michael who shouts out the gospel to shoppers in Rotterdam, with Johan and his son Joop who paste the whole of the Netherlands full with ‘Choose for Jesus’ posters, with Jozef, an orthodox recluse, but also with Klaas Hendrikse, the Netherlands’ only atheist pastor. In conversation with these characters, Hans tries to find an answer to the question who God and Jesus are for him.

‘Why do you actually want to believe?’ asks his youngest sister who no longer believes. At his parent’s kitchen table it becomes apparent that the desire to find God has everything to do with his religious upbringing and his parents deep desire that all the children keep believing in Jesus as their saviour. In a conversation with his two older sisters it emerges that they too struggle with the faith they were brought up with.

For one and a half years Hans records video diaries. Somewhat self-mockingly he discovers that believing in Jesus is astonishingly similar to believing in Superman. Nevertheless he pictures Jesus as his invisible friend. Patrick, a good friend, breaks out laughing and tells the story of his nephew who fantasizes about an invisible friend. When that invisible friend Jesus however seems to manifest to Hans while driving in his car he is profoundly touched. During a pilgrimage in Assisi he decides to follow Jesus.

How do you do that in current day 2014 in the Netherlands? Nowadays there are Jesus camps in the Ardennes, where with other men under harsh circumstances you try to come closer to Jesus. Hans wades semi-naked through a cold river, allows others to pray for him and participates in a cross-procession but does not find the Jesus he is seeking.

The Invisible Friend is about the irresolvable struggle that the filmmaker has with the Christian faith. Every time when he believes that he has found God he seems to lose him again. Sometimes it drives him to desperation, but in this oscillation between faith and doubt can also peace be found?
Eric, a non-believing friend tells him comfortingly; ‘If Jesus truly concerns himself with you, then he will surely understand that you are searching’.


script & direction: Hans Busstra
camera: Hans Busstra and Job Kraaijeveld
sound: Hans Busstra, Daan Arens, Bert van den Dungen
editing: Albert Elings
sound design: Marc Lizier / Klink
image post-production: Amator
producer: Digna Sinke

this film is a co-production of SNG Film with EO televisie

this film is financially supported by:
Dutch Cultural Media Fund