Flemish documentaries wowed the juries and grabbed three awards at this year's Filmer à tout prix (11-16 November) doc fest in Brussels. The winning documentaries were Lotte Knaepen’s Na vespera, Sven Augustijnen’s Spectres and Olivia Rochette & Gerard-Jan Claes’ Because We Are Visual.
Winner of the debut section was Lotte Knaepen, a St-Lucas Film Academy graduate, who grabbed the Henri Storck Award, which is worth €3,500, with her film In the Eve (Na vespera). The jury responded warmly to the documentary, praising it for ‘the delicate and strong look of a young filmmaker’ and calling it a ‘visual jewel with rare talent that predicts future excellence’.
The film follows Nadine, a 14-year-old girl growing up in the hills of central Portugal with her mother and grandfather. Her teenage dreams echo emptily in the rough, natural surroundings. Nadine has a special bond with her mother Vera, who was only 14 when she had Nadine. Vera’s past and Nadine’s future are intertwined at this specific point in their lives. It’s unclear who takes care of who, who’s the girl and who the woman.
Presented in the same programme as Na vespera, Because We Are Visual by Olivia Rochette and Gerard-Jan Claes received a Special Mention ‘for their experimental work on a reality that hides in the chaotic online world’ in the fest's First Works competition. Because We Are Visual is Claes and Rochette’s graduation film at the Fine Arts Academy in Ghent (KASK). The film also landed them a VAF Wildcard. (The VAF Wildcard programme aims to give recently graduated filmmaking talent a chance to embark on a first professional project.)
In Because We Are Visual, the filmmakers immerse themselves in the world of public video journals. The internet and its online communities appear to bring people closer together and to connect them. Yet, surprisingly, it seems that the virtual world confronts these so-called vloggers more than ever with their own loneliness.
Spectres grabbed the Award of the Flanders Community, worth €2,500, in the Belgian competition. The jury commended the film ‘for taking the perspective of the losing side and confronting the rewriting of history by the winners, for its subtlety and rigor with which he explores the meandering course of history, for his capacity to film the events not as a succession of facts, but a formidable machine of fiction.’ In July, director Augustijnen had won an award for Spectres at FID Marseille. The doc is produced by Auguste Orts and received support from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF).
Spectres explores the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. Through commemorations, lectures and a return visit, a top-ranking Belgian civil servant who was in Elisabethville on that bloody day of 17 January 1961 attempts to conjure the spectres of the past. The documentary plunges us into one of the blackest days of the Belgian Congo's decolonisation. An examination of the biopolitical body as much as an historical enquiry, this feature-length film exposes the fine line separating legitimation and historiography.
The Brussels Film Festival Filmer à tout prix presented a strong selection of indigenous documentaries, including Sarah Vanagt’s The Corridor, Bram Van Paesschen’s Empire of Dust, which is also screening at IDFA and Manno Lannsens’s Epilogue. In addition to the winning films, the debut section also screened Lotte Stoops’s Grande Hotel.
Finally, the Parallel Screens took on a number of films out of competition such as Elias Grootaers’s Not Waving but Drowning, Manu Riche’s Ghislain Lubart, the Lumberman, Bart Vermeer’s Shadow Warriors, Manon de Boer’s Think About Wood, Think About Metal and Klaas Boelen’s Waidmannsheil.