EN - Loa Yan and Eddy work for CREG (the Chinese Railway Engineering Company) in the remote mining town of Kolwezi in the Katanga province of the Congo resurfacing a 300 km road. Loa Yan is head of logistics, responsible for the equipment, building materials and food (mainly chickens) to arrive in the isolated Chinese prefab camp. The Congolese government was supposed to deliver these things but so far the team hasn’t received anything. With Eddy (a Congolese man who speaks fluent Mandarin) as an intermediary, Loa Yan is forced to leave the camp and deal with local Congolese entrepreneurs. What ensues is an endless but absurdly funny roller coaster of negotiations and misunderstandings.

FR - Loa Yan et Eddy travaillent tous les deux pour la société CREG (Chinese Railway Engineering Company). Ils viennent d’établir leur campement à proximité de la ville minière de Kolwezi, dans la province de Katanga, en République démocratique du Congo. Le but de la société est de reconstruire une route longue de 300 km qui relie Kolwezi à Lubumbashi, la capitale de la province.

Loa Yan est le chef logistique du groupe. Il est responsable des équipements, des matériaux de construction et de la nourriture (principalement des poulets) qui doivent parvenir à leur campement préfabriqué chinois. Le gouvernement congolais devait se charger des livraisons, mais jusqu’à maintenant, ils n’ont toujours rien reçu.

Avec Eddy (un Congolais qui parle couramment le Mandarin) comme entremetteur, Loa Yan est forcé de quitter le camp pour négocier avec des entrepreneurs congolais locaux. Car sans matériel de construction, les travaux de reconstruction devront cesser. Après un processus ardu et interminable mais absurdement drôle de négociations et d’incompréhensions, Lao Yan apprend la manière congolaise de faire des négociations.


Title Empire of Dust
Original title Empire of Dust
Original language French, Chinese, English
Status Completed
Production Majority Flemish
Category Docs
Year 2011


Photography Emmanuel Gras
Editing Bram Van Paesschen & Dieter Diependaele
Sound Emmanuel Gras
Music Ferre Grinard, Nick Drake, SMOG, Lee Hazlewood (non-original music)

Technical specs

Running time film 80'
Release format HD
Aspect ratio 16:9
Colour Colour


Supported by the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF)

Empire of Dust top of the class at Docville

At the closing ceremony of this year’s International Documentary Festival DOCVILLE, Bram Van Paesschen’s Empire of Dust has been awarded the SCAM Award for Best Belgian Documentary. The young director’s third passage at the festival marks his third prize, as he already received a special mention at DOCVILLE in both 2005 and 2008. After Empire of Dust, Van Paesschen is currently working on Welcome to Chocolate City, the third instalment in a documentary triptych.

Bram Van Paesschen's Empire of DustIn Empire of Dust, two men representing two different cultures clash in the dust of the former Belgian colony, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Published on Wednesday 9 May 2012

A Flemish touch to Belgian festival bills

This week, the Open Doek Festival (20 – 29 April) kicked off in Turnhout, while Leuven is getting ready for the 8th edition of the International Documentary Festival DOCVILLE (27 April – 5 May). Both programs house a large selection of Flemish titles, ranging from Daniel Lambo’s Dry Branches of Iran to Berlinale attendees Anton Corbijn Inside Out andAsparragos.

Christoph Bohn's The Boy is GoneFor the eighth consecutive year, DOCVILLE highlights the best documentaries and awards prizes in various sections. This year, Flanders is well represented in its national competition with more than ten short and feature-length film titles.

Published on Wednesday 25 April 2012

Snake Dance and Empire of Dust to Nyon

Manu Riche & Patrick Marnham’s Snake Dance and Bram Van Paesschen’s Empire of Dust have been invited to the Etat d’Esprit section of the Visions du Réel International Film Festival (20-27 April) in Nyon, Switzerland. Both documentaries will compete for the festival’s Audience Award, worth more than €8,000.

Snake Dance_Manu Riche & Patrick Marnham_stillBoth documentaries are set in the Democratic Republic of Congo but take entirely different approaches. In Snake Dance, which premieres internationally in Nyon, director Manu Riche and English writer Patrick Marnham embark on a cross-cultural journey that retraces the events leading up to the making of the H-bomb. Through the writings of art historian Aby Warburg, Snake Dance composes a filmic essay of a world that now more than ever is on the verge of complete destruction.

Published on Friday 13 April 2012

Docs & Lab from Flanders in Kassel

Sarah Vanagt’s The Corridor, Bram Van Paesschen’s Empire of Dust and Tim De Keersmaecker’s Aperture were recently selected for the Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival (8-13 Nov). All three films are travelling the festival circuit extensively and again testify to the vibrancy of documentaries and video art from Flanders.

Loa Yan in Bram Van Paesschens' documentary Empire of DustBram Van Paesschen’s Empire of Dust kicked of its festival tour with selections at DOK Leipzig and Kassel but more recently the film was also confirmed for IDFA’s Panorama section. Empire of Dust is produced by Bart Van Langendonck for Savage Film (BullheadThe Co(te)lette Film). In the documentary wo men representing two different cultures clash in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The result is an endless, harsh but absurdly funny rollercoaster of misunderstandings, as Yang is introduced to the Congolese way of dealmaking.

Published on Friday 11 November 2011

IDFA presents Flemish doc bonanza

A record-breaking haul of eleven documentaries and four docu projects from Flanders have been selected  for this year’s IDFA, the international Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (16-27 November). Works from Jeremy De Ryckere and Kristof Bilsen, who recently graduated from RITS and NFTS (UK) respectively,  are shown in the Student Documentary competition. The other entries feature in the Reflecting Images: Panorama, Paradocs section and IDFA pitching Forum.

Still from Jeremy De Ryckere's The HeirBoth Jeremy De Ryckere’s The Heir and Kristof Bilsen’s White Elephant compete for the IDFA Award for Best Student Documentary, worth €2,500. 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. White Elephant is a documentary about the Central Post Office and its employees in Kinshasa, DR Congo. This grandiose relic of a colonial past has trapped its employees in a frozen timewarp from which they are planning their escape. Last year the Award for Best Student Documentary went to the Flemish doc What’s in a Name by Eva Küpper.

Published on Thursday 27 October 2011

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Last edited on 14 June 2017

Short info

Director Bram Van Paesschen
Producers Bart Van Langendonck
Writers Bram Van Paesschen

Savage Film
Xavier Rombaut
Opzichterstraat 70/7
1080 Brussels
T +32 2 711 42 91


Catherine Le Clef
18, rue Quincampoix
75004 Paris
T +33 1 44 61 77 48

Preferential partners