“Cargo” – Gilles Coulier @ Film Festival Ostend 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

cargo4PS: 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.

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.      

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