Bert Haanstra directed documentaries and feature films. In addition to this, he was an ethologist and a photographer. He grew up in the areas of Twente and Salland, where he went to the Rijkskweekschool in Hengelo and trained for some time with a photographer. In 1934 he went to Amsterdam to work as a press photographer. During the Second World War he studied painting at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten (Royal Academy for Visual Arts) and he led a clandestine life as a spy photographer. He was part of the resistance group called 'De Ondergedoken Camera' ('The Camera in Hiding').
Since 1947 Haanstra was a professional filmmaker. He received many awards for his films and documentaries. His first film, De Muiderkring herleeft, was released in 1949. After that, more successes followed, such as Fanfare, Alleman, Bij de beesten af and Dokter Pulder zaait papavers. For his documentary Glas, Haanstra received an Oscar; his films Alleman and Bij de beesten af were nominated for Oscars. Many of his films have been shown at the Cannes Film Festival. Haanstra had a particular gift for portraying society in a witty way. He wasn't afraid to stage important parts of his documentaries or to have them played by actors.
His sons are also active in the film world: Jurre Haanstra composes film music and Rimko Haanstra is a director.
- 1948—Camera, Producer
- 1958—Director, Script writer
- 1960—Director, Editing, Producer, Script writer
- 1975—Director, Producer