The Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) has once again awarded five promising graduation filmmakers with a VAF Wildcard. This year’s winners are Kenneth Mercken’s The Letter and Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah’s Brothers in the fiction category, Kenneth Michiels’s Twenty-One + Seven and Jeremy De Ryckere’s The Heir for Documentary and Boris Sverlow’sShattered Past for Animation.
The VAF Wildcards are aimed at giving young filmmaking talent a chance to embark on a first professional project by providing a (starting) budget of €40,000 or €60,000, plus a professional coach. Now in its seventh edition, the VAF Wildcards have quickly become the most important flim awards in Flanders.
The Letter by Kenneth Mercken, a former cyclist turned professional filmmaker, tells the story of a young Russian who travels to Belgium to achieve his boyhood dream of becoming a pro cyclist. His team coach forces him to use performance-enhancing drugs. Slowly but surely, he loses his grip on reality and is drawn to the dark side of the sport. Brothers by duo Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah won the Best Belgian Student Short at the Ghent International Film Festival earlier this year. The film is a modern parable about two young men: Karim and Nassim live in the same neighborhood. One works with kids, the other deals drugs. One is pious, the other decadent. Their paths will inevitably lead to conflict.
In addition to picking up a VAF Wildcard, Jeremy De Ryckere’s The Heir also had its international premiere at IDFA last month. The Heir tells the story of a father, Raf, and a son, Dominique, and their relationship to their passion: horse racing, a long family tradition. In Kenneth Michiels’s Twenty-One + Seven, seven-year-old Vibe lives with her grandparents. On the weekends, she travels over 100 kilometers to visit her parents. The magic of childhood slowly fades to make way for reality.
In Boris Sverlow’s Shattered Past a man writing his memoires suddenly suffers a stroke. This catapults him back into his childhood during the Russian revolution and his family’s ensuing escape.
Promising directors, such as EFA Discovery Award winner Hans Van Nuffel (Oxygen), IDFA Student Award winner Eva Küpper and two-time Cannes selected Gust Van den Berghe (Little Baby Jesus of Flandr, Blue Bird), to name just a few, have benefited from VAF Wildcards in previous years.
The official award ceremony takes place during the closing night of the Leuven International Short Film Festival.