Belgian Cinema

Gbanga-Tita, 1994/Anton Webern, 1991/Wild Blue: Notes for Several Voices, 2000

Gbanga-Tita, 1994 Defined by Thierry Knauff as a purely cinematic “moment of grace” (during his introductory remarks on the films being presented), Gbanga-Tita was initially shot as footage for his ethnographic film on the Baka pygmy of the Equatorial forest in South-East Cameroon, Baka. The film consists of a single unbroken close-up shot of Lengé,… read more »

À la recherche du lieu de ma naissance, 1990

Channeling a similar wavelength as Chantal Akerman’s recurring themes of identity, parental silence, and haunted memory, compatriot filmmaker Boris Lehman creates an equally melancholic and autobiographical self-confessional essay film in À la recherche du lieu de ma naissance, a resonant and intimate exposition on the indelible legacy of Nazism, the diaspora, the Second World War,… read more »

Iran Veiled Appearances, 2002

Composed of a series of diverse, and often contradictory images of mundane rituals of everyday life juxtaposed against historical footage of protest and revolution in Iran, Thierry Michel’s Iran Veiled Appearances is a compelling and insightful documentary on life in modern-day Iran 23 years after the Islamic Revolution. The film opens to the disturbing image… read more »

From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom, 1960

The title of Paul Meyer’s compassionate, sincere, and deeply personal feature film on immigrant labor, cultural assimilation, and exile, From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom, is a line from a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo pondering the inevitability of change. Initially commissioned by the Ministry of Education to promote the integration of immigrant children into… read more »

Klinkaart, 1956

Paul Meyer’s short film, Klinkaart, opens to the image of two sisters attempting to retrieve a fallen fruit drifting downstream of a river. The older sister then joins the other women from the village as they walk to the brickyard for her first day of work: removing the clay bricks from forms, laying them into… read more »

Raoul Servais: Short Films (1963-2001)

One of my favorite recent DVD purchases is Belgian animation filmmaker Raoul Servais’ L’Intégrale des courts métrages anthology from France. In addition to the ten short films in the collection (some of which can be viewed at Atom Films), there are also extracts from all of his remaining films (including his one feature film, Taxandria),… read more »

Hop, 2002

The divisive issues of immigration and social integration are also in Dominique Standaert’s visually resplendent, whimsical, and affectionate film, Hop. In the opening scene, Justin (Keita Kalumba), a young immigrant from Burundi, tells a fantastic tale of the pivotal role of the African pygmies in the defeat of the Carthaginian general, Hannibal, during the Punic… read more »

Seagulls Are Dying in the Harbor, 1955

In hindsight, the expressionistic collaborative feature Seagulls Are Dying in the Harbor by Flemish filmmakers Roland Verhavert, Ivo Michiels, and Rik Kuypers proves especially suited as a milestone film for Belgian national cinema, carrying the international distinction as the country’s first feature film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Set in postwar Antwerp,… read more »