Artist in Focus: Wim Willaert

At this year’s edition of the Short Film Festival in Leuven, the West-Flemish actor Wim Willaert (48 years old) is part of the jury, but also gets honoured in his very own short film-serie.

Wim Willaert is known for his outstanding acting performances in series like Eigen Kweek (2013) or feature films like Ex-Drummer (2007). Also to me he is one of Flanders’ best actors, who is able to play in all kinds of roles, not only the comical ones. Therefore he has a series of short films dedicated to him this year at the Short Film Festival. All of them are very different from one another in genre and style. But these are only 5 out of a full list of 17 short films, several television series and a handful of feauture films.
Welkom (2013)

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Welkom by Pablo Munoz Gomez tells the story of the Spanish migrant Jorge and his father. They face the issues of proper integration before they can make use of their rights as Belgian citizens. when Jorge simply  wants to build a henhouse in his garden for Maria, the so-called wife of his father. Consequently, this short is definitely sociologically relevant. Wim Willaert plays the caricatural role of a nationalist major of a Flemish village next to the border with Wallonia, who makes it very hard on the two men by forcing them to take Dutch classes even though they live on the French side of the country. Gomez’ short film reminds me a bit of a situation comedy, in which action-reaction and dialogues are key elements for the story-plot.

Solo Rex (2014)

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Solo Rex by François Bierry is a beautiful short film about the lonely woodchopper Erik, who is a drunk and therefore lost his driver’s license and what happens when he meets Kevin. The latter is the young choir master of the local street band, who cruises through the area riding tandem -very special concept! When Kevin falls in love with Jessica, a girl from the band, he asks Erik for help. What follows is a one day-adventure in which both Erik and Kevin will learn from each other, just like you saw in Disney’s Up (2009)!

Remarkable for Solo Rex are the beautiful compositions and perfect symmetry of the shots. Bierry most definitely pays attention to the mise-en-scène of his films.

N.B.: “Solo Rex” is the brand of chainsaw Erik works with, so that is where the title comes from.

Watch the teaser on Vimeo.

Wien for Life (2014)

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Wien for Life is probably the most briliant crime short you will ever see. Directed by Alidor Dolfing, it tells the story of 2 friends, Pierre and Jean, who finally get the chance to say goodbye to their miserable lives after a costumer in Pierre’s gasstation wins with Win for Life (Belgian Lottery).  The film’s characters are nearly pure caricatures and the violent action scenes are in the same style as Quentin Tarantino’s . The merry and bouncy final score is a complete oppossite of the film’s final sequence though, which is yet another typical Tarantino-element.
The human relationships in Wien for Life are all entirely built upon trust -or actually distrust and conflict. All the actors perform equally well, with a personal standing ovation for Mieke Dobbels, who really impressed me with her performance as Angie Lee, the dissolute girlfriend of Pierre, who eventually not really is who she seemed to be.
Alidor Dolfing stands for the 2 co-directors Nyk Dekeyser and the Dutch Mark Bouwmeester. Wien for Life is their first co-production, but it won’t be their last.

Check the website for more information and trailers.

Ijsland (2010)

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Ijsland stars Wim Willaert in an entirely different part from what we saw in the first 3 films. He now is a tormented soul, searching for a way to pick up his life again after he went to prison.

Ijsland is Gilles Coulier’s first short film and there is something we can call the ‘golden alliance’ between Coulier and Willaert. The combination is simply magical. 2015 was the year of Bevergem, a series on the Belgian national television in which Willaert also took part. The strength of Ijsland, as well as all the others of Coulier’s work, lies in its authenticity. Real human beings in real-life situations with real emotions. And on top of that, all the dialogues are in the local West-Vlaams (Western Flemish) dialect.

Overall, the atmosphere is very dark, because of the specific use of lightning and contrasts. Also, the entire story is set at night. The only moment we witness (day)light is in the final sequence. In my opinion Ijsland ends as a closed narrative, in which love conquers all.

Check the trailer on YouTube.

Lilith (2013)

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Lilith by Maxim Stollenwork is a plot-driven fantastic horror short film about the young woman Lilith, who tries to fit in society, despite the fact that she has supernatural powers. One night she meets a young prostitute and from then onwards things get out of hand.

The end is surreal and horrific. When you want to know what happens to her customer ‘Horny Hans’ (performed by Willart), you should go and watch Lilith.      

Check the Facebookpage for more information.

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