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American Women's Club of Hamburg

Belgium - Land of the Film Fans

Even though cinema-going flourishes in all of Belgium, it is an especially popular activity in Brussels. The mainstream cinema scene in the capital is dominated by the mega UGC and Kinepolis chains with their multi-screen complexes, which show films in their original language version with French and/or Dutch subtitles. The majority of films for children are dubbed. In addition to the major cinema chains, there are a great number of smaller arthouse cinemas dedicated to presenting Belgian and world cinema. During the 1990s Belgian cinema finally took flight in gaining international prominence with such films as Man Bites Dog (with Benoit Poelvoorde), Daens (directed by Stijn Coninx) and Rosetta (directed by the Dardenne brothers). In 2000, Dominique Deruddere's Everybody Famous! was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Belgium also annually hosts several film festivals, the most important among these is the Flanders International Film Festival in Ghent. (reference information from WIKIPEDIA). Compared to Germany with 82 million people, neighbouring Belgium is a small country with some 10 million-odd inhabitants. This parliamentary kingdom boasts three official languages: Dutch, French, German, plus a handful of regional dialects. I am intrigued by the diversity of films coming out of this small country with Brussels not only the capital of Belgium but the capital of the European Union.

The following Belgium films were shown at this FilmFest Hamburg: The Vampire Party (Luxemburg, Belgium, France), Wall to Wall, Eldorado, Cut Loose, Happy Together, and Missing Persons.

Three Belgium films at the Filmfest Hamburg impressed me by painting three extremely different (as in opposite) pictures of the country, in fact they don’t even speak the same language. Happy Together is filmed in Flemish (Dutch), Eldorado in French and Cut Loose mixed both languages. Brussels, the capital, is situated in the predominately Flemish speaking Northern part, but the language actually spoken by the inhabitants of Brussels is mainly French. I have meanwhile learned that there is also a German speaking minority of about one million living in a small part in Eastern Belgium that need to be counted too. I felt a bit confused.
 
One thing the two first films in question have in common is that both script writers have been inspired by actual facts. Happy Together introduces us to a smooth and ambitious man in his best years with his good looking wife, living in a tidy and modern house. Two well-groomed children join them at the dinner table where healthy food is served. Affluent friends are around or are met at garden parties. Small-talk is flowing easily. Life is so good, or so it seems.

In Eldorado we meet a not-so-well-dressed, slightly overweight loner. His home is an untidy mess. Any enthusiasm or ambition for his job or life in general has long gone. Cheap meals are taken at the road house. His meeting with another lost character, a desperate drug addict breaking into his house, brings some diversion. He even takes an interest in the lad. But life is not so good.
(At the German premiere Bouli Lanners, director and lead actor, told us that his scrip was based on a break-in he had experienced, felt pity with the miserable thief – only to be robbed again by the same fellow.)

Cut Loose
follows a young Belgium couple looking for an apartment in a multi-cultural suburb. There is the pretty but jealous fiancé, the uncertain son of a solid and traditional family with an energetic father. There are the emigrants bringing their old habits to the new country. Some newcomers speak Dutch, some only understand English (not an official language). But not only the emigrants have their problems with the strict rules and regulations. Life is complicated.

I was amazed: Is this all happening in the same small country we are looking at?  

For detailed reviews of the above films please refer to the Film Review section or type the title into "Search"

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