Ellen Vermeulen’s documentary feature 9999, Waiting for August by Teodora Ana Mihai and Desert Haze by Sofie Benoot have all been selected for the International Documentary Festival Visions du Réel in Nyon, Switzerland. The line-up also includes three shorts from Flanders: 28 rue Brichaut, Maybe Darkness and PS São Paulo. Finally, California City, a new project by Sofie Benoot, Isabelle Tollenaere and Liesbeth De Ceulaer, will also be presented at Pitching du Réel.
Benoot’s Desert Haze is to receive its world première in the International Features competition at Visions du Réel, taking place from April 25 to May 3 this year. The documentary takes the director to the barren, mythical landscape of the American West and is the final instalment in her trilogy about America. Benoot previously travelled along the US-Mexico border for Fronterismo and subsequently followed the Mississippi River in Blue Meridian.
Teodora Ana Mihai’s Waiting for August and 9999 by Ellen Vermeulen are both screening in the Etat d’Esprit section, dedicated to discovering new talent. Waiting for August is the story of 15-year-old Georgiana who lives with her six siblings in a social housing block in Romania. While their mother is away working in Italy for a living, the girl’s adolescence is brutally cut short as she is forced to become the new head of the family.
Vermeulen, meanwhile, tackles a very different subject in 9999, which focuses on five prisoners in Belgium’s Merksplas prison, a place where time stands still and all that remains is confrontation and closed doors.
The Premiers Pas section in Nyon offers a selection of short documentaries made by film school graduates, including three from Flanders. Hannes Verhoustraete’s 28 rue Brichaut shows how history is not only a narrative of things past, but also a mode of belonging together and of sharing individual and collective experiences. In Maybe Darkness, Juliette Joffé creates a contemplative and intimate portrait of an old family flat left untouched for 150 years, as if frozen in time. Finally, Leni Huyghe’s PS Sao Paulo, which was produced as part of an exchange programme with Brazil, shows two men walking in the vast city at night, having the kind of conversation that only lost souls can have.
Visions du Réel also welcomes two docs co-produced with Flanders. Screening in the international competition is Jos De Putter’s Hot Docs-selected See No Evil, an film essay about three once famous but now retired apes who look back on their lives. Ne me quitte pas by Sabine Lubbe Bakker and Niels van Koevorden is part of the Wide Angle section of the festival, offering audiences the chance to discover films by renowned filmmakers presented at major international festivals.
Talent from Flanders can also be found at Visions du Réel’s busy pitching platform, Pitching du Réel. Directors Sofie Benoot, Isabelle Tollenaere (Viva Paradis) and Liesbeth De Ceulaer (Behind the Redwood Curtain) will pitch their latest project, California City, in which the filmmakers set out into the California desert to discover an unfinished metropolis called California City. Carved into the desert sand is a vast network of streets forming what seems to be a city. But there’s something missing: houses. Together with four occupants, they tell the bigger story of a utopian project that turned into a ghost town.
Eric Goossens and Frederik Nicolai of Off World (Rêve Kakudji, Red Star Line) will produce California City and also contributed to the production of Benoot’s Desert Haze. Hanne Phlypo of Clin d’Oeil Films (Houses With Small Windows) produced Waiting for August; 9999 is produced by Mark Daems and Bram Crols of Associate Director. Cobra Films’ Daniel De Valck co-produced See No Evil while Maarten Schmidt was Flemish co-producer on Ne me quitte pas.
Desert Haze, Waiting for August, 9999, Ne me quitte pas and See No Evil were all supported by the Flanders Audiovisual Fund/Film Fund of Flemish Cultural Affairs Minister Joke Schauvliege. 28 rue Brichaut and Maybe Darkness both won a VAF Wildcard, the Fund’s short film award aimed at discovering new talent.