Les Bobines du Cinéma: Peggy Fol, a life of cinema

Peggy’s typical day is divided between programming, school or association sessions in the morning, and previews and festival sessions in the evening, in addition to the classic sessions. Busy days, from early morning until late at night, weekends included. “We’re a small team, and if someone’s missing, I’m the one who comes to work. Retirement? If I worked in a bank, I would have taken it a long time ago (laughs)! But it’s a passion. And then with the current difficulties, you have to be even more in the oven and in the mill…”

After two bloodless years of the Covid crisis, cinemas thought they were out of the woods… when the energy crisis arrived. Between that and the streaming consumption of videos on demand (VOD) skyrocketing during the confinements, it is an understatement to say that the cinema is going through a complicated period. “In subsidy files, you are asked for forecasts until 2026. Ten years ago, I made them at ease. Today, I don’t know…”

Alongside the daunting but necessary administrative tasks, watching films remains what she prefers in her job. And the public, even rarer, even older, continues to come and support them. “We try to open up to a younger audience, between 30 and 40 years old. Below, it’s true that it’s complicated.”

Another factor is that the line between ‘arthouse’ and ‘commercial entertainment’ is not as clear as it used to be. This creates competition in terms of programming. “The big complexes encroach on the flowerbeds of art and essay. Me, if I ask for a copy of ‘Black Panther’, I know that I will have it. But I will not do it: it is not interesting financially for me… and then, there is still room for art and essays!”

In 2022, the Vendôme remains a haunt of film lovers, and also a family affair, since Peggy passed on her passion to her daughter: Caroline has been working on programming alongside her mother for ten years. She too has been immersed in the cinema since she was born. The young woman joined the structure after the death of Roland, Peggy’s brother-in-law, with whom she also collaborated. “There are sometimes more discussions (laughs). She is younger, she also has another point of view. But she is also ‘speed’ than me, so we find ourselves there. If she has seen a film and not me, and we hesitate, I look at it, but otherwise we trust each other.”

Retirement ? If I worked in a bank, I would have taken it a long time ago!

With Caroline, they are therefore two women at the helm of a cinema, it’s unusual enough to be mentioned. If there are many programmers at Grignoux, Cameo or Quai10, Peggy is the only room owner in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. For her, it is due to the fact that her father “only had daughters” : a coincidence of life.

And if the Vendôme welcomes the festival ‘Elles Tournent’each year, the question of sexism, Peggy has not asked herself because she says she has not been confronted with it: “Zero. I’m ‘hard’, I’m honest, and I’ve never had any problems on that side. I’ve known all the old distributors, and the new ones, it’s me who gives them the history And when I select a film, I choose it because I like it – I don’t look at whether it’s made by a man or a woman. There are sensitivities that perhaps affect me more when it’s is a woman, but I don’t put any restrictions. Parity in art is not something you can achieve easily. I’m not talking about filming, that’s one thing. But a film? it good because it’s made by a woman, or not?”

However, she finds that there are far more female directors today than when she started – but parity in filmmaking is not yet a reality. “We are not masters of all the parameters, of which film is distributed or not. I am only mistress of what happens in Belgium.”

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Les Bobines du Cinéma: Peggy Fol, a life of cinema