On Friday September 8th, I was invited to attend the prestigious opening night of Film FestivalsOstend 2017. This festival is among the biggest in Belgium and is also where the Ensors will be awarded, which are very important awards in Belgium. I was a lucky girl to receive VIP-invitations to this night, that gave us the opportunity to network, check out famous people, drink champagne, but mostly, to attend the long expected premiere of Gilles Coulier’s first feature film Cargo.
It was a special occasion for Coulier tonight. His feature film Cargo is set in Ostend and now officially was the opening film of the film festival in -yup- Ostend. Remarkable detail, the director as well as the DOP, producer and the cast wore the new Pink Ribbon. Pink Ribbon is the international organisation for breast cancer awareness. And by wearing the ribbon one expresses moral support. The Belgian design was released on September 5th. Very cool of Coulier and his cast and crew to support charity.
As said in the introduction, Cargo is Coulier’s first feature film after a couple of successful shorts called Paroles (2010), Ijsland (2010) and Mont Blanc (2013), and the popular TV-series Bevergem (2015). Cargo is produced by De Wereldvrede, which Coulier founded himself with his friend and actor Gilles De Schryver in 2013.
Cargo tells the story about a fishermen family and more specifically about 3 bearded brothers Jean (Sam Louwyck), Francis (Wim Willaert) and William (Sebastien Dewaele) and Jean’s son Vico (Chiel Vande Vyvere). Their father Leon Broucke (Roland Van Campenhout) falls overboard in the icecold North Sea right in front of his eldest son Jean. Leon is in a coma, leaving his son with a large amount of debt, which is the start of an unfortunate series of conflicts, resulting in criminality in order for Jean to give his 8 year-old a better future. The film contains several subplots about love, criminality and loyalty.
Coulier found some of the best actors to play the 3 brothers (Wim Willaert is one of my personal favourites). Their performances are very realistic and they speak the authentic West-Flemish dialect as we know from Ostend -Thank god for the subtitles ;)! The fact that all dialogues are spoken with an authentic tongue, makes the whole even more charming and adds credibility. I believe that the way you speak tells a lot about your identity.
Very remarkable is that Cargo is male-only, there are only a couple of women in the entire film, and they are only extras. Nonetheless, the brothers have a symbolic relationship with the -sometimes turbulent- sea, which is reffered to as a ‘she’. She is the only metaphoric woman in the this film, but is undoubtedly one of the protagonists.
I watched Coulier’s shorts and the TV-series and I can clearly find a specific style in both narrative and visuals. Coulier always works with DOP David Williamson, who is also known as the DOP of Peter Monsaert’s award-winning Le Ciel Flamand (2016). Coulier and Williamson are a very compatible pair, together they create a kind a kind of melancholic tristesse. I was impressed by the beautiful, yet simple establishing shots of the ship and the open sea. Most scenes are dark, strongly contrasting with the bright shots of the sea. The dialogues are in a dark and sober setting, almost without any colour.
Coulier worked long and very hard on this film, and I do think it was worth the wait. Cargo is a drama that moves you and teaches you about family values set in Ostend, the Belgian city by the sea.
PS: The organisation distributed fake Cargo-tattoos. Post a picture of your tattoo with #cargofilm to spread the news ;).
Cargo will be released in Belgian theatres on September 13th and is also selected for the San Sebastian Film Festival and the BFI London Film Festival.