Michael Van Ostade, Emilie Verhamme, Jeroen Broeckx, Bram Cartigny, Aad Verstraelen and Hans Galle are this year’s Wildcard winners and will be receiving a production fee for a first professional project. Since 2005, the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) has aimed to award and coach young talent by organising the competition. This year, for the first time, an experimental Wildcard has been added to the fiction, animation and documentary prizes.

VAF Wildcard winners 2012Michael Van Ostade and Emilie Verhamme, both from Sint-Lukas Brussels, were awarded a fiction Wildcard. In Nigredo, Van Ostade depicts Sarah, a single housewife who lives in total denial after the death of her only son. Dark forces creep into her life, from the dead bird on her doorstep to the headless body of a boy wandering through her house.  What force will bring Sarah to accept that her son is gone?

Emilie Verhamme returns with Tsjernobyl Hearts after her previous short, Cockaigne, was selected for competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. In Tsjernobyl Hearts, siblings Jules and Adrien return to the house in France where they lived with their parents for ten years. A mother and daughter now own the place and don’t mind them taking a look around. But the boundaries soon start to crumble, giving free reign to subtle manipulation.

Filmmaker Jeroen Broeckx (RITS) won a Wildcard for his documentary 30m3, a wordless chronicle on how a garage door can be a gateway to a collection of tales. The film is a compilation of small stories depicting the many ways a garage can be used by its owners. In Pater Familias, director Bram Cartigny (Sint-Lukas) digs into his own life by trying to find out why his father left his family 13 years ago. In search of the truth and aided by friends and family members, he not only confronts his mother but also sees his father again.

Little Ryan, an animation short by Aad Verstraelen (KHLim), scooped this year’s animation Wildcard. Ryan, a small bird who nests at the airport, has a huge admiration for the airplanes that come and go everyday. He wants to fly high in the sky just like them. But that’s easier said than done.

This year, a new category was added to the competition, making it possible for experimental films to compete as well. Hans Galle (KASK) grabbed the first experimental Wildcard with his graduation project, Maturing as a Tree. It’s the account of a young filmmaker illuminating a friend about the film he is trying to make. The result is a conversation, at times full of doubts, at other times full of enthusiasm, in which an overwhelming love for cinema resonates.

After nearly a decade, the VAF Wildcards have become a widespread initiative, applauded by film students and film schools in Flanders. This year, a staggering 75 filmmakers submitted films, demonstrating the indigenous success of the competition, whose philosophy is to discover and coach rising film talents. The laureates each receive a budget of €25,000 (experimental), €40,000 (documentary) or €60,000 (fiction/animation) to launch a first professional film project.

Winning a VAF Wildcard has proved to be the beginning of a successful international career for many a former laureate. Tom Van Avermaet, whose graduation film Dreamtime was awarded in 2006, used his Wildcard fee to film his second short, Death of a Shadow. Starring Matthias Schoenaerts, the film was last week shortlisted for the 2013 Oscars. Other examples of successful directors emerging from the Wildcard competition include Hans Van Nuffel (FAL, Oxygen), Gust Van den Berghe (Little Baby Jesus of Flandr, Blue Bird), Gilles Coulier (IcelandMont Blanc), Sahim Omar Kalifa (Land of the Heroes, Baghdad Messi), Eva Küpper (What’s in a Name, State of the Art), and Gerard-Jan Claes & Olivia Rochette (Because We Are Visual, Rain).

Published on Wednesday 5 December 2012

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