Kristof Hoornaert about “Empire” and the banality of human existence

!SPOILER-ALERT!

Empire by Kristof Hoornaert left me wondering about its content and the specific visual techniques. The first time you watch Empire, this short film seems very simple and empty, almost sterile. But there is so much more behind it, so that is why I talked with the director himself and his producer Wim Vanacker (Sireal Films) to get the answers to my burning questions.

12011367_1633372246921937_6119662385691733074_n

I found the loft where the family lives in to be very cool. But then there are little colour-elements like the pink dinosaur. It fascinated me, although it seemed so banal and out of place. Why exactly the dinosaur or other elements?

Well, when we arrived at the loft,the pink dinosaur was already there, and we considered this dinosaur an actual proof of human life inside the house, the fact that there is a family living there with a child that plays, watches television etcetera.

Props are very important in Empire, like the clock next to the window, which symbolises that our society is based on timing things. All we do is scheduled. ‘Time’ is something we seem to lack, but it is what our life is based on.

Why did you opt for Kris Cuppens and Ina Geerts to perform the main characters?

The answer is very simple. I wanted actors who are good enough to perform these parts, who are able to carry this film and help me convey my message.

I consider Empire to have a close-end, no matter what the husband decides to do when he comes home. Or he shoots himself, or he turns himself in by calling the police. His life is over, no matter what.

In the first version of the script, he killed himself, but then I canged the end, because I wanted him to live and carry the burden of what he did. I wanted him to carry it along for the rest of his life. That is even harder than killing yourself, I think.

The camera is very static and the audience almost automatically pays more attention to the audio than to the visuals. The only moment I felt that the camera was moving, was when the husband came in. From then onwards the camera zooms in on him, and the wife and son are left out. You only hear them. Why is that?

You only noticed the zooming in from then onwards? Actually, I started zooming in from the moment the mother started ironing, so right at the beginning. But for the audience it looks like going fast forward from the moment the father comes in. I zoom in, because in the end you can watch the city of Brussels and the square full of playing children through the window. That is to show the contrast with what happened inside and to show that life goes on outside of the loft . The loft is so serene and sterile, and outside there is movement, visualised by the playing children.

The child is barely visible, you only hear him. And the mother is filmedfrom behind. Why is that?

Because I did not want them to be ‘the’ child and ‘the’ mother, I wanted them to represent any child or mother. Consequently, I wanted the audience to be able to identify with the situation and the general image of a family, and not with individual characters.

I’ve read about your plans to make a feature film, called Resurrection? Will the feature be about the same issue as your short films (Kaïn, The Fall and Empire), namely existential crises? And will it be equally heavy-loaded?

Yes, that is what concerns me the most personally,  and what I feel I should tell the audience. Resurrection will also be about the human society and our relationships.

Thank you very much for the conversation!

Resurrection is now in pre-production and will be produced by Fobic Films. Hoornaert did not want to give any details yet about the cast, but that is yet another reason for us all to go watch the film after its relaese expected in 2017.

Some more information about Resurrection and Fobic Films can be found on the website.

“Umpire” – Leonardo Van Dijl: Interview

Umpire is the 2nd short film by Leonardo Van Dijl (24 years old). His 1st short called Get Ripped was his graduation film for Sint Lukas Arts School in Brussels and was also selected for the Short Film Festival in Leuven in 2013. Leonardo Van Dijl is a familiar face for fans of the festival. Umpire is up for competition in the Vlaamse Fictie 4-series.

naamloos (10)

Umpire tells the story of Axelle (Lilith Kempynck), a young promising tennis player who has a special relationship with her trainer Jeremy (Benjamin Ramon). He films the trainings with the girls, but also in their spare time he uses his handheld camera to capture their moments together. One day, Jeremy gets arrested and Axelle, unknowing of what happened, gets heared by the federal police. Afterwards, the trainer gets suspended and the rumours start.

The focus of this short film definitely lies on the young girls.  Therefore, there is the constant switch between what happened on and off the tennis field, and the hearings by the police. Mainly, it seems to be all about Axelle, but what you wonder about, is whether she was exclusive to him, or whether he also abused her 2 other friends (performed by Alexandra Lymarev and Mirthe Tavernier).

The film has an open end for both Axelle and the audience. For Axelle, because she is passionately waiting for Jeremy to come back, and for us, because we will never really know what happened and have to make our own conclusions.

I met Leonardo Van Dijl at the festival and had a talk with him about his work in general and Umpire in specific. From what I can tell, he is very ambitious, yet down to earth. The film and the conversation made me realise that this short film is not only about the young Axelle, but it tells the story of so many girls and women around the world, that it was even hard for me at times to imagine that Umpire is actually made by a man. The interview tells you why.

What does the title Umpire exactly mean?

An umpire is a judge in tennis games and therefore symbolically refers to Axelle. In the entire proces, she is the real judge, the one who has to decide for herself whether her trainer Jeremy crossed the line or not.

Aren’t you scared that people would mix it up with Kristof Hoornaert’s Empire, which is also selected in this year’s competition?

No, I’m not, although I first thought about maybe changing the title of Umpire, when I heard about Hoornaert’s film. But eventually, I stuck to what felt right. Also , what we do is so different, that I cannot really feel threatened by it, although we are in the same competition. It would have definitely been the other way around, when it was a film by another student.

Where did you find the actors? Did you do proper castings?

I did castings and first I casted Mirthe (Tavernier) for a role, when she told me she had a friend (Lilith Kempynck) who played tennis with her. Lilith thought she would be an extra, but she ended up in the main part and did great. Alexandra (Lymarev) I already knew from other projects.

You are from West-Flanders, but the actors are clearly from Antwerp. Where did you shoot the film and was this a conscious decision?

I made the film in the area around Brasschaat and Schoten, because of very practical reasons. Most of the actors are from Antwerp, except for Lilith, who is from Brussels. In that way it was very easy for everyone to reach the set and to reduce the costs for things like taxis. Another advantage is that these villages have plenty of sports clubs and tennis fields.

Also, I am in favour of a realistic approach. I don’t believe that different dialects in one short film add up to the film’s credibility. Once I knew that the actors mainly spoke AN or The Antwerp dialect, like Alexandra, I casted the others in this part of the country as well.

Is the story plot- or character-driven? Or would you rather leave this open to the audience’s own interpretation?

Umpire is character-driven. That is also why it has an open end. I want the audience to look at Axelle and to understand what she is going through in this situation. I wanted to highlight her point of view.

12109169_758280444299458_3708183235830331418_n (2)
Photo credit: Lara Gasparotto

A remarkable scene is the hearing at the police station, where the officers are shot from the back and serve as some kind of frame for Axelle, who is sitting in the middle. The officers are also out of focus. Any reason for this kind of technique?

Before I started the production, I did a lot of reading, especially on Laura Mulvey and her theory of the ‘male gaze’ in cinema. That is also why only the female officer asks questions, if you noticed that. Umpire is a film carried by women, not by men, but stll it has something voyeuristic, also because of Jeremy’s shots with the handheld camera. I use a lot of symbolism in the way of shooting the girls, like with a net between them and the camera, to keep a distance, but at the same time you still feel with them and become subordinate to this ‘male gaze’. It is a very fascinating thing.

Is there any moral message you’d like to convey with Umpire?

Not in that sense of the word, but I would like to point out that there is much more to sexual abuse than people think. They always talk about a culprit and a victim.  Sometimes it is a doubtful thing to talk about a victim, because they are unaware of that position. Just like Axelle. That is also why I chose a tennis club as social context, because these are the kinds of places where young people idolise their trainers, especially when they are handsome like Jeremy. They don’t always see whether their relatonship with their trainer is acceptable or not. I would like to point out how strongly these girls are manipulated and how they can struggle with the perception that they are complicit. That is why you see Axelle becoming mad during the hearing. She defends Jeremy in her very own way. The feelings of shame and guilt  often keeps girls like Axelle silent.

Next to short films, you also direct videoclips for Belgian bands like Clouseau, Oscar & The Wolf and School is Cool. Ar you going to stick to videclips and short films? Or do you have any ambitions to make a feature film?

Well, I would like to try everything. I love the videclips, but I also love making the short films, because those I can call my own. I’ll have to see what the future brings.

Thank you for the lovely interview, Leonardo!

Check the Facebook-page for more information.

Or check his Vimeo for more work and videoclips.

NB: In the night of December 4t, the VAF (Vlaams Audiovisueel Fonds) Wildcards were distributed. Umpire won a Fiction Wildcard, which is a fee of €60.000.

 

“Junk of the Heart”-Mieke Briers + Interview

BE15-2-9DF8Junk of the Heart is a short erotic psychological drama directed by the 24-year old Mieke Briers as her BA-graduation film for Sint Lukas School of Arts in Brussels and is now selected at the Festival in Vlaamse Fictie 1, the same series as Kristof Hoornaert’s Empire. Also, Brier’s film is in the running for the VAF Wildcard, which is a money fee rewarded to upcoming talent in the Belgian film industry. So this award could be the right push forward for young directors as Mieke.

Junk of the Heart is about  the only 17-year old Elise (Martha Vandermeulen), and the sexual experiments and experiences she has with a much older friend of 28, called Felix (Sid Van Oerle). Junk of the Heart opens very action-driven -a bit in the style of Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996)-, you immediatly get overwhelmed by a sex-scene accompanied by a heavy soundtrack.

12278711_1684433131793020_2073796417737904604_n

Mieke Briers attented her screening at the Short Film Festival and was very pleased to answer some of my questions about Junk of the Heart.

First of all Mieke, how did you come up with the idea to make an erotic film?

I first called my film a psychological drama, but I know that people expect melodramatic things to happen when you use such terms, and yes, Junk of the Heart is most definitely an erotic film. I was always fascinated with ‘boundaries, physical as well as emotional. And that is what the film is about, what are their boundaries?

How did you cast the actors? Where they friends of yours? Where they willing to do these kind of scenes from the very beginning?

No, at school people knew about my project, and one of my coaches introduced me to Martha (Vandermeulen), because she got casted once already and apparently she had this kind of hyperactivity and enthousiasm I needed for the part of Elise. Sid (Van Oerle) already performed in other projects and when I saw a video of him doing absurd things like imitating deers, I just knew he was the right guy for this part. They also didn’t mind doing the scenes, because the sex scenes are not explicite. I don’t think explicity is neccesary. Suggestivity can be so much more inticing, because you have to use your own imagination.

The use of a high-8 camera as an intermediate adds up to the multimediality of your film. Is that  a plain technical choice or is there another explanation?

I do believe that the images you get by using a high-8 camera are more authentic, and make things appear more ‘close’ to you. They look more familiar. In that way, all the sexual adventures Felix and Elise put on tape are a way to make the audience aware of their voyeurism.

Your characters, Felix and Elise, do they actually really love each other, despite the fact that they have a deal? Or do you like to keep this open for the audience’s interpretation?

That is partly for the audience to decide, but referring back to the boundaries-issues, it is Elise who pushes it too far and tricks Felix into jealousy. Also the end is very open in that sense, that you can see on one of their tapes that their game goes on ‘until the end’, but when is the end exactly?

The soundtrack of the film, was it Belgian?

Yes, the band are friends of mine and called Piquet. The song is also Flemish. I chose to use their music, because it is rebellious and up-tempo, so very suitable for the film.

What is a good film to you? One with a strong narrative, or a film that is more aesthetic?

A film with a strong narrative that attracts the audience surely has more to offer, because it can be suggestive and non-suggetive at the same time. Of course, good camerawork is important, but making poetic films rather than a narrative one does not lie in my abition.

Talking about ambitions…Are you going to shoot more shorts, or do you have the ambition and dreams to shoot a feature film in the near future?

 I would love to do a feature one day, but now I have to focus on my next short film, which will be my MA graduation film.

Thank you, Mieke, for the talk and fingers crossed!

Check the Facebook-page for more information.

“Geraldo” – Dirk Domen

Geraldo is a short film by the Antwerp director Dirk Domen and is selected at the Short Film Festival in Leuven in the Vlaamse Fictie 3-series along with 5 other very good films. I personally liked the fact that Geraldo is shot in black-white, or ‘in the style of Woody Allen’ like Domen himself calls it. This made the film stand out of the rest and adds some extra tristesse to the clown Geraldo.

geraldoAs a professional director of commercials and advertising for AXA Bank, De Morgen, Gazet Van Antwerpen (Belgian newspapers) and many more, this is his first short film I see. Domen managed to cast plenty of professional and talented actors for Geraldo. The title refers to the main character called Gerald, a very uncheerful person, who left his job as an oncologist to become a clown in the national touring circus.

Ben Segers plays the part of Geraldo, which was a relief to see he could also perform in more serious parts. On screen he more or less gets typecasted for the doofy roles, but when you have seen him on stage in the theatres, you would ‘ve already known he has so much more to offer.

Marie Vinck (Loft, 2008) plays the busty make-up assistant of the circus, and in my opinion she keeps on repeating herself, because her entire carreer she always seems to play the femme fatal in plenty of sexscenes. This time once again. Stefaan Degand (also in this year’s Niemendal) plays the role of the cynical and grumpy circusowner. We also see Ludo Hoogmartens (Groenten uit Balen, 2011) as Geraldo’s highly religious but hypocrit father and the very talented Katelijne Verbeke (Zot van A, 2010) as Geraldo’s mother, who also supported her husband in disadvantage of her own son by stating that ‘The Bible says that a wife should obey her husband’. She uses the Bible as an excuse for her past living in denial. Religion and hypocrisy become seriously intertwined in this short film.

The film frequently uses flash-backs to go back to Gerald’s (the clown’s real name) childhood, but the reality is many years later and his father is dying. The only thing that seems to matter to Gerald though is detaching from the man he despises and starting over again in the circus.

What attracted me the most in Geraldo is not only the choice of making a black-white film, but also the beautiful symmetry and balanced images. Domen’s mise-en-scène is flawless.

Check the site for more information and a trailer.

“Victor XX” -Ian Garrido Lopez: Interview

Victor XX is the 2nd short made by Ian Garrido Lopez (26 years old) and is selected in the Hola  Catalunyaseries at this year’s Short Film Festival in Leuven. The film is a project for the Spanish Arts School ESCAC and set in  Almeria, where Garrido himself comes from.

victor1I’ ve already watched Victor XX at the Cannes Film Festival last May, where Garrido was selected in the Cinéfodation-section. There he won the 3rd prize. What struck me most though, was that jury member Cécile de Freance, a Belgian actress, asked for a standing ovation for the main actress Alba Martinez, who performs the role of Victor. A girl, who questions her gender and sexuality. In her search for her identity she gets confronted with how it feels to fall in love, while you are actually a boy in a girl’s body. Also, the film depicts the difficulties of keeping a secret in a small village in contrast to the anonimity of the big city, where you can be whoever you want to.

The entire cast consists of actors without any previous experience, which Garrido himself explains by stating “that it is there, where the magic of the story lives. The story is built with people, not characters.”

I met Ian Garrido Lopez at the Short Film Festival to talk about his film.

12351180_799200460225748_674777409_n
Ian Garrido Lopez

Alba Martinez did an excellent job in performing the role of the transgender Victor/Mari. Where you already friends with her before you started the project?

No, I did some serious castings in Almeria, where I live, because I wanted to find the suitable person to express my feelings to the world, and to kind of play ‘me’. Alba was perfect for the part, because she looks a bit androgynous. She’s tall and quite muscular, that is because she used to be the junior champion in putting the shot when she was 16 years old, so she has very strong arms and shoulders. When we started the shooting, she already turned 18.

Nice! Was it hard for her to do the explicit scenes, like those where she films herself in front of the mirror?

No, she was immediatly willing to join us in the project, once she knew what Victor XX was all about. She wanted to help me in telling the world what I was going through, namely the search for my sexual identity.

So, like I already assumed, the story is autobiographical?

Yes, entirely.

Did you get any negative reactions on your film, because of the heavy subject?

Yes, of course there are always people who judge you, but nobody ever said something negative to my face. Mostly, I got positive reactions, also from other young people that struggle with their sexuality, like I did. They felt like I made it easier for them to talk about being a trandgender.

You won the 3rd prize at Cannes with your film. So what are your plans now?

I’m planning on doing another short film. But it takes time to do it properly, also the writing and collecting fundings. Although, since I won the prize in Cannes, getting funded has become easier. The money I won in Cannes, though, we split up with cast and crew. We also use it to travel around to promote Victor XX.

And also, I don’t have that much time right now to be creative, because I am doing all the travelling, which is an amazing opportunity! And I’m so grateful. Cannes was my first film festival ever, and look where I am standing now, I recently even went to Seoul in South-Korea!

Thank you, Ian, for the nice talk! I wish you nothing but the best in the near future. You’ve got my full 100% support and respect for reaching out to a thematic that is not always so easy.

 

 

victor5

Check the website for more information.

Arabilicious-Arab Cinema Reloaded

Arabic Cinema is the latest new focus at the Short Film Festival of Leuven in co-operation with the Swiss short film festival Kurzfilmtage Wintertuhr. The initiative is nothing but relevant in the time and context we live in. Due to migration, all kinds of people live together, no matter the race, religion or sexuality. And therefore, I think films can offer us more insight and cultural understanding. The specific kind of humour or way of narrating is a matter of “Love it or hate it”, but still all of the films in this series were very different in many aspects.

Since September, I study Arabic at university, which is mainly focussed on Fusha, the Standard Modern (Egyptian) Arabic. Consequently, I really tried to compare the different variants and dialects in these 6 shorts, which wasn’t easy to do. Indeed, only in the Egyptian films I managed to understand some bits of it

Thematically, the Lebanese films seem to contain more modern and liberal ideas, also filmtechnically they are more sophisticated like for example the special effects in Ercevax. But all 6 of the short films do point at deeply rooted sociological problems in a witty way to make the thematic less heavy. In my opinion, there are 2 ways of interpreting from our Western viewpoint. These short films either show us the Arabic encounter  with a -for them- Western culture, like our pop culture -or death metal to be precise- for example in Heavy Metal Drummer or Silence Radio. On the other hand these films are a perfect proof of the fact that the Arabic world is not so different after all and does not only consist of the stereotypical ‘deserts and camels.’

Here is a short overview of the shorts in the Arabilicious-series.

Sometimes

Sometimes is an Eyptian short by Mahmood Soliman, made in 2008. It tells the story of a bus driver who constantly kicks people out of his bus, whenever their behaviour is not compatible to his rules. In the end it becomes clear that the story symbolises the power of love, acceptance and tolerance.

A beautiful message indeed, if it wasn’t for the technical flaws of the film like wrong subtitles, asynchronical sound and simply a story plot on the verge of pure absurdity. But Sometimes is a good warm-up to get in the mood for some more Arabic vibes.

Heavy Metal Drummer

Heavy Metal Drummer is a 2005 production by a UK co-directors  Toby Macdonald and Luke Morris. One can clearly notice the Western influences when it comes to story-telling. Macdonald and Morris use a voice-over to lead us into the mind of a young Arabic boy who starts his own music band. He feels like his musical orientation is neglected and like he has to conform with the cultural traditions. He wants to be a rockstar, that’s for sure!

Watch Heavy Metal Drummer entirely on YouTube.

A Resident of the City

aresidentofthecityA Resident of the City is an 2011 Egyptian film by Adham El Sherif and to me a balad -or rather protestsong- for his city Caïro with dogs as the main characters. These dogs are metaphores for the citizens of the city and how they are so small as individuals. The film is shot like a documentary with a voice-over for the main part, namely the dog Boss. Along with his friends Zyga and Candy they own the city and have to defend their territory like real dogs do, even when it gets stacked with new buildings. The dogs symbolise the position of human nature in opposition to imperialism and urbanisation.

Visually, A Resident of the City is very beautiful, with loads of close-ups and contrasting images of light (day) and dark (night), by this, the director creates a warm atmosphere. You can almost feel the heat of the city through the screen.

Watch the entire short film on Vimeo.

Ercevax

naamloos (3).png

Ercevax is a 15-minute Lebanese film from 2014 by Oliver Bou Eid in the same style like Robert Zemeckis Back to the Future (1985). Althought this one is more a version of ‘back to the past’. Bou Eid uses a lot of special effects and his story plot has high complexity level, although the goal of the head character, a scientist, is to go back into time to cure his son from a mortal disease with a medicine called Ercevax. This short film shows no differences from what we are used to in American films. It is very action-driven and has plenty of modern montage techniques.

For more info, visit the Facebookpage of Ercevax.

De L’Autre Côté

naamloos (2)

De L’Autre Côté is a Moroccon film by Youssef Maman and tells the story of a man and a woman who incidentally happen to look for a lift across one another. There is a sexual tension between the two. Consequently there is only one question: where can they go have sex? The film ends by them asking each others name, which to me points at the superficiality of modern relationships and how easily physical attraction i.e. lust dominates over emotions.

Maman makes his film worth watching by the beautiful compositions of his characters in the empty sandy landscape.

Silence Radio (The Song Remains the Same)

naamloos (5)

Also in 2015, the Lebanese director Reynald Bassil made his short film called Silence Radio (The Song Remains the Same) about a boy Elie living in the liberal 70’s, which period seriously clashes with his traditional environment and upbringing in Beirut. The story is set several months before the civil war. His life is dominated by music and the local radio presenter Sam Debs.

Elies’s coincidential reunion with one of his youth friends serves as a frame to the main narrative. Silence Radio has a pleasant narrative pace and is very character-driven. Bassil uses a voice-over to make the audience experience what goes on in Elie’s mind. And then there is also the typical status of a radio presenter as a role model for the younger generation. He is the one who teaches them about music and in the 70’s also mostly makes them acquainted with certain anticultures. Elie gets trapped between going his own way or opting for what the law implies him to do.

Watch the trailer on Vimeo.

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)

naamloos (8)

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)

naamloos (6)

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)

naamloos (7)
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)

4268603415

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)

1185162_640621002627944_158409340_n

 

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.

“Empire”- Kristof Hoornaert

7053_1643566865902475_2360240473319646505_n

Empire is the 3rd short film by Kristof Hoornaert after Kaïn (2009) and The Fall (2013) and is the final piece in his short film trilogy about the cruelty of human society. This year at the Festival, he is selected in the Vlaamse Fictie 1 (Flemish Fiction 1) after he already got selected for many other filmfestivals around the world, such as Film Fest Ghent, THISS, or Sleepwalkers Festival in Estonia.

Empire is an experimental drama and a visual masterpiece in a real-time plan-sequence shot. Hoornaert himself calls his film a portrait of a modern middle class family. The leading parts are performed by  Ina Geerts (Adem, 2010) and Kris Cuppens (Rundskop/Bullhead, 2011).

The film is very slow, so for example already in the very beginning, where we feel like standing in the middle of the appartment listening to a radio talkshow about the European sushi-hype. This sequence already takes 3 minutes, after which we watch the moher’s back while she’s ironing and we have to listen to a phonecall. This all takes place before there is any ‘action’. In that way, Empire visualises the banalities of life.

The setting is a very cool and modern loft, with several coloured elements that pop out, like the pink little dinosaur on the cupboard, that keeps on catching my attention. It is clear by now, that Empire is more about the auditive, than about the visual aspects, but nonetheless, the simplicity of what you can see adds up to the message Hoornaert wants to convey.

At 5.12pm the father comes in after work and from then onwards, the static camera starts to zoom in on him standing in front of the window. Very slowly. Until he choses to take a drastical life switch -NO SPOILERS! After that the camera zooms in more further to the outside view through the window and we can only hear what he is doing next. Consequently, the audience is fully dependend on its imagination, because of the lack of visual support.

Empire is a Flemish short about the existential crisis of the modern human being ,and the emptiness and loneliness he experiences. In my opinion, because of its visual beauty and simplicity, contrasting with the heavy subject, Empire has the potential to beat the others in the Vlaamse Fictie 1 series. It might go worldwide, which I sincerely hope.

You can check the Facebook-page here.

Opening Night 27/11

No idea what I had to expect at the official Opening Night of the 21st edition of the International Short Film Festival! It takes place in Leuven, a city only 25 kms away from the Belgian capital Brussels and is as tiny as can be actually, but still this festival is very renowned AND Oscar-qualifying!

Once I entered Kinepolis in Leuven and saw its red carpet, I felt that little bit more special. I did not recognise that many people, also because short films and their directors is a different kind of filmmaking. Lean-back in my comfy seat, we had the popular radio presenter Kirsten Lemaire hosting the evening and she introduced us to the Programmer of the Festival, Maarten Alexander (Fonk vzw), who was very pleased to welcome us and tell us some more about the festival programme and the different focusses, like the Arabilicious-series, or the focus on Spanish shorts.

After that we watched 1 videoclip and 5 shorts. 3 out of 5 were made by Flemish directors and participating in the Vlaamse Competitie. Tonight was also the première of these films, so there was quite a nervous atmosphere. Of course the directors and their actors are excited to know what the audience would think about their work.

First things first. There was the videoclip, which serves as the trailer to Kung Fury (2015) by David Sandberg. The title already gives away what the film’s about, indeed kung fu. The soundtrack is made by David Hasselhoff. The video clip was simply ridiculously genious. So do watch the it, then you’ll understand.

naamloos
Poster Adri

The first real short film was a Spanish one called Adri (2013) by Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren, that is also selected in the Cortitos 1-series and was already selected for Brussels Short Film Festival earlier this year. Adri tells the story about a young competition swimmer who has her first period.

Then there were 2 Flemish shorts, who were at least to be called “alternative”, namely Guest by Moon Blaisse and Niemendal by the 25 year-old and most talented director Harm Dens.The latter we will surely keep an eye on, because his way of constructing settings and creating atmosphere by opting for specific perspectives is intriguing.

Both shorts were slow-paced and seemed to lack a proper story plot. Nonetheless, both tell the story of loneliness and boredom and how to cope with it. Guest stars Peter Van Den Begin and Niemandal has only 2character, namely 2 inmates performed by Titus De Voogdt en Stefaan Degand. All these actors are well-known among the Flemish audience and much appreciated for their acting.

Screen-shot Feel Sad for the Bunny
Screen-shot Feel Sad for the Bunny

The 3rd and final Flemish short was actually French-spoken. Feel Sad for the Bunny (2015) by former professional cyclist Kenneth Mercken seriously opposes the other ones, because of its narrative complexity and depth. Feel Sad for the Bunny tells the story of 2 brothers and their nanny, and how lust and the lack of a mother-figure tears them apart. By the way, for those who know Black by El Arbi and Fallah, must have recognised Simon Frey as one of the actors. But mostly, this shortfilm reminded me of Felix Van Groeningen’s Helaasheid der Dingen (The Misfortunates, 2009).The result is stunning and the VAF Wilcard from last year definitely well spent.

slave-to-the-rave-title
Screen-shot Slaves of the Rave

The last one of the night was the trippy Slaves of the Rave by William Garratt, which is only 2.39 mins. but takes us on a trip through music land. For all those music lovers out there Slaves of the Rave is a undeniably briliant animated short film and the perfect end of a series of sometimes rather confusing and heavy fiction shorts.

Afterwards, the audience could meet the directors and crew of the Short Film Festival at the reception.