Jan Verheyen’s courtroom drama The Verdict has been awarded the Silver Hugo Special Jury Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival (10-24 October). The award, presented to actor Jappe Claes (pictured) who attended the ceremony on behalf of Verheyen, is the first acknowledgement for a Belgian film since Harry Kümel’s Monsieur Hawarden was laureled at the Chicago fest, exactly 45 years ago.
The Chicago jury, including actor Burghart Klauβner (The White Ribbon) and producer Donald Ranvaud (The Constant Gardener), praised Verheyen’s feature for ‘the rigor of its presentation of a courtroom drama rarely seen in European cinema’.
A courtroom thriller about law and justice, The Verdict deals with a man’s fight with the constitutional state. When his wife’s murderer is released due to a procedural error, Luc Segers tries everything in his power to stop it from happening, ultimately taking justice into his own hands and competing with the system that let him down. Koen De Bouw (Loft, The Memory of a Killer), Veerle Baetens (The Broken Circle Breakdown, Code 37), Johan Leysen (The Spiral, Young and Beautiful) and Jappe Claes (Dossier K., Daens) take on the film’s main roles.
Last summer, The Verdict premiered at the Montreal World Film Festival where it nabbed the Award for Best Direction. Since its theatrical release in Belgium just two weeks ago, the film has already reached over 100,000 visitors in its home territory.
Now in its 49th year, the Chicago International Film Festival was founded by filmmaker and graphic artist Michael Kutza to provide an alternative to the commercial Hollywood films that dominated the city’s theatres and is one of the longest running competitive film festivals in North America. The festival has a rich history of discovering and showcasing groundbreaking directors like Martin Scorsese, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Mike Leigh and Peter Greenaway. During previous editions, several films from Flanders made the selection, including Michaël R Roskam’s Bullhead and Kaat Beels’ Hotel Swooni.
Peter Bouckaert produced The Verdict, scripted by Jan Verheyen, for Eyeworks (Marina, Time of My Life). DOP was Frank Van den Eeden, Philippe Ravoet was taken on board as editor. Steve Willaert composed the film’s original score. The Verdict received support from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund/Film Fund of Flemish Cultural Affairs Minister Joke Schauvliege.