Dode Hoek (or Blind Spot) is a Flemish thriller by Nabil Ben Yadir (Les Barons, 2009 and La Marche, 2013 ) shot in Antwerp, Brussels and Charleroi. Although Ben Yadir himself speaks French, the film is Dutch, with only scraps of French and Arabic. The director from Molenbeek even includes jokes about Wallonia, that will make the Flemish audience laugh out loud.
The film tells the story of the extremely persistent, violent and uncompromising Jan Verbeeck (Peter Van den Begin, known from e.g. King of the Belgians), who leaves his job as chief of the Antwerp drugs squad to become a fulltime politician in the extreme right political party VPV. On his last mission for the drugs squad, his private life gets thrown upside down by things from the past. A drug addict informant (David Murgia) turns out to not be who they thought he was. In an interview Jan Decleir, who plays the chairman of the extreme right VPV, called Dode Hoek a generic example of a thriller, in which destiny decides how it ends.
Dode Hoek stars some big Belgian names. For example Ruth Becquaert (Clan), who plays the new female chief after Jan Verbeeck, and Mathijs F Scheepers (Zot van A) as Verbeeck’s spokesman. Officer Ruud (Bert Haelvoet, known from De Helaasheid der Dingen) is an extreme example of loyalty to an individual, but he’s also simply despicable when it comes to moral and political justice. His opposite is officer (Jurgen Delnaet, known from Halfweg), who besides loyalty to the police force also embodies justice and honesty. Eventually, in my opinion, the strength of this film lies in its cast, moreover, in the outstanding acting performance of Soufiane Chilah (Black, 2015). His character Dries (written in the Flemish way and not like the Moroccan Driss) is even more political than Jan Verbeeck’s, who is like a father figure to him. Dries constantly rejects his cultural background and admits his identity crisis as a Moroccan in a police force. He explains this by his personal experience of not belonging by referring to the quartiers (boroughs), where they call him “schmetta”, which is Arabic for coward. On the other hand, in the police force, he will always be the “makak”, which is a dysphemism, or racist term, for Moroccan immigrants. Peter Van den Begin’s acting is flawless as always, but as a relatively new face in the Belgian cinema, Soufiane Chilah really blows you away.
Unfortunately, the scenario of Dode Hoek is rather weak and sometimes incoherent, which may confuse the audience. On the contrary, it does leave you asking yourself some moral questions about racism, populism and media influence. A bit like Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s Image (2014).
To end this review positively though, I would like to point at the film’s beautiful visuals. DOP Robrecht Heyvaert (Black, D’Ardennen, Everybody Happy,…) proves himself a professional every single time. He provides Dode Hoek with lovely dark and mysterious establishing shots to set the atmosphere. The shots are also perfectly framed and full of alternating camera perspectives. So If you go and watch the film, pay close attention to the visuals.
Dode Hoek is in theatres across Belgium on January 25th.