With three titles at Cannes, the Belgian film sector is jumping high | Features

Three is the magic number for the Belgian film industry at Cannes this year. Filmmakers from the region directed three films in competition: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne Tori and LukitaFelix van Groningen and Charlotte Vandermersch eight mountains Lucas Donut Close.

bad boys for life Family drama, directed by Adel Al-Arabi and Bilal Falah the rebel It gets Midnight Screening, and Belgian producer Bert Hamelinck’s Caviar has produced Un Certain Regard pony warDirected by American Gina Gammell and Riley Keough. “It’s because of talent,” says Christian de Schutter, director of the Flanders Image promotion agency.

It’s also a happy coincidence of the timing and willingness of established Belgian producers to support young and untested directors – and continue to support them.

Producers like veteran Dirk Impens, along with Bart van Langendonk at Savage Film, Eurydice Gesell at Czar Film and Hamelinck at Caviar are at the forefront of Belgian boom, even if Impens cares little about any talk of a golden age.

“Over the many years I’ve been in the field, it’s always been, ‘You know what, it’s going well. “And two years later [it’s]“Oh damn, Belgian cinema is miserable, and everything goes to hell,” he says.

Impens’ product credits extend from Academy Award nominee Daens in 1992 to shoot a movie with Darden (I think about you), van Groningen (Close circuit broken) And now, Lukas Dhont. Impens had been at the heart of the Belgian industry for three decades and was planning to retire again in 2017, but then came the award-winning success of Dhont’s Camera d’Or girl In 2018, he decided to stay in the business a little longer to produce the director’s second feature alongside Michele Donne, the director’s brother.

“I was pretty sure Lukas had the potential to make a stronger movie than the first,” Impens says. “It felt like part of the responsibility to me to help Lucas prove to the world that his first movie wasn’t a coincidence.” to Michael Donut, Close It is his first credit and he is already in the Cannes competition.

Ongoing support

There are good practical reasons why Belgian filmmakers are booming and this boom may be sustainable: the Belgian tax shelter system, the support that local filmmakers receive through public funds including the Flanders Audiovisual Fund [VAF], which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and Wallimage, as well as regional funds such as Screen Flanders and Screen Brussels. It also helps that Belgian films are enthusiastically marketed by Flanders Image.

Another factor is the filmmakers’ choice of materials. after success girlLukas Dhont has been courted by everyone from top French producers to Hollywood studios and broadcast screens. He decided instead to stay in Belgium and do another intimate local drama.

“He chose to make a small story with a big impact. I think that was a very brave choice,” said Frans van Gestel, co-founder of Topkapi Films, Dutch minority co-producer in both girl And Close.

Peak exercise

In stark contrast, Van Groeningen and Vandermeersch ventured far from Flanders to adapt Paolo Cognetti’s novel. eight mountains. The film was shot in Italian, a language the two directors did not even speak when they started working on the project.

“We said we wanted to learn Italian to make this movie – and we did,” explains Van Groeningen. “Charlotte speaks better than me. I do talk a little but I understand enough to make the movie.”

They began writing the script in their native Dutch and then came up with an English version before eventually putting it into Italian. Vandermeersch says about eight mountainswhich explores the friendship between a boy from the city and the last child of a forgotten mountain village.

“I like that there is a clash between an old world and a newer world; the way of living in the mountains, the old way that has prevailed for centuries, is all disappearing,” she adds of the topic.

After they had completed the first draft of the script during the first closing, Van Groeningen asked Vandermeersch (an actress, writer, musician as well as a filmmaker) to co-direct.

Impens suggests that filmmakers like Van Groeningen, Vandermeersch, and Dhont thrive as much for their work ethic as their talents. “They are always willing to go above and beyond, it’s that simple. They never give up. They ask about the extra production days they ask for or the time they might spend, say, rating a movie – or their desire to learn a new language,” he says.

“I can relate. My brother always wants the best. Lukas wants to challenge himself, push himself to go a step higher than he did to him.” girl,” suggests Michael Donut, who produced Close Together with Impens.

It also helps that the new generation of Belgian filmmakers are thick-skinned. In order to make their films, they have to apply for funding to the VAF. This can be a brutal process. Last month, Impens was a member of the VAF jury, helping to evaluate offers from 23 filmmakers. “Out of 23 projects, only six were successful,” he reveals. “The choice, at a very early stage, is very intense, which means that 17 directors are very unhappy. They cannot continue. They have to forget their idea and find another project.”

Empains believes this rejection process “really helps.” When filmmakers are told by the VAF jury that their projects aren’t good enough, the best are encouraged to come back a few months later with another idea.

Lots of other filmmakers have amazing new projects too. Actress-turned-manager of Fairy Tails (which when it melts It will be released later this year), and Fien Troch, Jessica Woodworth, Tim Mielants and others anticipate new projects in the pipeline.

Van Groningen is optimistic about the future, and believes that success breeds success. “When you see someone succeed, or they arrive at the Oscars or Cannes, or distribute a film internationally and find an audience, it makes you think, ‘Yeah, it’s possible.’ People start to think bigger. You start to believe more and influence each other. Some are in the daring to dream and pursue those dreams.”

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