What is the secret of the success of Belgian cinema (success that the whole world envies us)? Meeting with Jeanne Brunfaut, Director of the Center du Cinéma (FWB)
Un-de-trô-na-ble. This is the status of Belgian cinema in Cannes (and at international festivals). However, it only sells out on one side of the linguistic border (in Flanders, for local productions), while being a subject of veneration in France and abroad, but as a niche cinema. Why? How? Response elements…
What is our secret?
“Many other directors of cinema centers come to find me saying ‘but how do you manage such a small country with so few resources?'”
If there was one, it would be easy, there would be “more than”… But it’s true that it’s something I hear a lot when I’m abroad, in Cannes or in San Sebastian. Many other film center directors see our line-up, they come to find me saying “but how do you manage such a small country with so few resources?”. This success can be seen perhaps more from outside than inside the country, which is a shame.. We got used to it a little bit, whereas having a film in Cannes is truly exceptional. Or is it because we have our nose to the grindstone, with all the desiderata linked to the job?
If there is no secret recipe, what are the objective reasons?
“With us, each film is a prototype, and is never designed as a product.”
It’s due to creativity, I believe. Belgian films are less tied to the market than in other countries. We do not format our films to enter a market. Anyway, our chances of being a counterweight to big films, French or otherwise, are more limited. With us, each film is a prototype, and is never intended as a product. It gives a freedom that is very popular with festival programmers.
Another reason is institutional: the sources of funding are not overflowing with money, but they are very complementary to each other, which gives a fairly solid industry.
The third aspect is that we remain demanding with regard to the films produced here. At the Center du Cinéma, for example, we push for the project to be as successful as possible. We only go there when we are convinced that it is time to go.
We also often talk about the benefits of co-production, a local specialty…
It’s really part of Belgium’s DNA. We need co-productions to make our own national films, but it’s also good that our producers are in the process of participating in the emergence of new talents abroad. When you have a company like Frakas, which co-produces “Grave” by Julia Ducournau, afterwards we are damn proud at the Center du Cinéma for having supported it, when the director is confirmed and she wins the Palme d’Or.
“Co-production brings a lot of constraints to the producer, but it also brings outside perspectives on our films, and that’s good.”
Co-production brings a lot of constraints on the producer, but it also brings outside perspectives on our own films, and that’s good. Only problem: we must remain vigilant so that co-production does not distort our films, the risk to be monitored would be that the co-production brings about changes in the view of the creators, or in the script. That is why in particular, we have created support for light productionswhich are rarely co-produced and which make it possible to make the film exactly as it was imagined.
Can the reputation of Belgians play a role: friendly, festive, who don’t take themselves too seriously?
“We can be modest, and at the same time proud of what we do. This point, we must assume it.”
I am sure of it. We may even be capitalizing on it without knowing it. The number of times we hear: “Ah, we’re happy to have you, you’re so funny…” The worst thing is that it’s true. When you have a Q&A with a Belgian team, it’s often really funny, while being very attentive. It’s smart, but with some hindsight. While you can come across a lot of people full of themselves in the middle. Now watch out, we can be modest, and at the same time proud of what we do. This point, we must assume. We are present, once again, in the biggest film festival in the world? Very well. What if it was simply deserved?
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Jeanne Brunfaut: “And if it was deserved?”