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Brussels' Film Festivals: A Guide To The Cycle
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Brussels' Film Festivals: A Guide To The Cycle

Picture of Andrew Ricca
Updated: 19 December 2016
The complexities of Belgian film distribution notwithstanding, Brussels offers its residents and visitors with an impressive film schedule each year. Traditional cinemas do their part, and so does the Cinematek, where festival like programming runs year round. Above all else, the city’s calendar is dense with a range of diverse festivals catering for all audiences. From those focusing on animation films to documentaries, arthouse cinema to B-movies, here’s a guide to Brussels’ most noteworthy film festivals.
Cinematek Brussels | © David Orban/Flickr
Cinematek Brussels | © David Orban/Flickr

Anima – Brussels International Animation Film Festival February 5-14, 2016

Boasting visitor numbers of 30,000+, a long list of guest filmmakers, industry professionals facilitating further distribution, and numerous master classes, Anima kicks-off our festival cycle. Since 1982 Anima has placed all its efforts to bring quality animation films of all kinds and lengths to the greatest possible audiences. Screenings from an international film selection ranging from fringe to mainstream titles, aimed at both adults and children, are hosted in Flagey over the course of ten days in February. Beyond national and international competitive sections, the festival runs sidebars dedicated to somewhat hidden talents from specific countries – Latvia and The Netherlands in 2015 – and organises workshops and conferences addressed at emerging animators.

Folioscope, Boulevard de l’Empereur 22, Brussels, Belgium, +32 25344125

Anima 2013| © Ines S/Flickr
Anima 2013 | © Ines S/Flickr

Millenium International Documentary Film Festival Last edition: March 20-28, 2015

Together with neighbouring Leuven’s Docville, rapidly growing Millenium marks the most important dates dedicated to documentary film in Belgium. Each year the festival presents around 100 titles, some of which compete for the Objectif d’Or award. The film selection is guided by a commitment to the promotion of the United Nations’ set Millennium Development Goals, for which it played host to a visit by General-Secretary Ban Ki-Moon, and the documentaries exploring the humanitarian themes surrounding them. The festival has expanded its reach recently by introducing ‘Web-Doc’, a series of activities and meetings in support of filmmakers working with the medium of web, or multimedia, documentary.

Diogène, Rue de la Vanne 2, Brussels, Belgium, +32 22456095

Offscreen Film Festival Last edition: March 4-22, 2015

Offscreen is a cult affair, home to the unconventional, the rarely scene, the B-movies hidden deep in the archives. It has been founded in 2008 with the aim of bringing to the cinema screen new and independent left-field productions that have a hard time making it through mainstream distribution channels. The program is thematically divided featuring retrospectives of genre films (Camp cinema, Ozploitation, Spaghetti Westerns), cult directors (Tod Browning, Ken Russell), side by side with contemporary experimental features. March come and gone, every last Friday of the month brings a taste of Offscreen on double bill B-movie nights organised in collaboration with the Cinematek.

Zombie Day at BIFFF 2012 | © Eddy Berthier/Flickr
Zombie Day at BIFFF 2012 | © Eddy Berthier/Flickr

BIFFF – Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival March 29 – April 10, 2016

BIFFF is one of the oldest and biggest film festivals of its kind in Europe. It has been around since 1983 and has been receiving some 65,000 visitors annually. The 100 strong film selection is crowded with all things fantastic; werewolves, vampires, fairies, zombies, and anything in between. Accompanying the proceedings on the screen are contests for body painting, make-up, and cosplay. A vampire ball is also thrown in for good measure. Costumes aside, the festival gives significant attention to the industry side of things proudly hosting the only genre-film market in Europe.

Peymey Diffusion A.S.B.L., Rue de la Comtesse de Flandre 8, Brussels, Belgium, +32 22011713

Brussels Short Film Festival | © Ines S./Flickr
Brussels Short Film Festival | © Ines S./Flickr

BSFF – Brussels Short Film Festival April 27 – May 8, 2016

The Brussels Short Film Festival programmes some 300 short films each year and welcomes twice as many guests. Around a third of the films take part in the national competition, the international competition, and the Next Generation competition respectively. The latter one aims to function as a platform for young and promising talents, whilst the remaining 200 or so shorts are presented in the non-competitive ‘Off’ section. Screenings take place in a number of venues across the city. For the 2015 edition, a pop-up tent cinema on Mont des Arts hosted a number of free screenings in an intimate setting.

BSFF, Un Soir… Un Grain, Avenue Maurice 1, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2/2480872

Brussels Film Festival June 5-12, 2015

Summer is around the corner and, weather permitting, here’s the chance to enjoy free open air screenings on Place Flagey. Brussels Film Festival is festive, it organises an array of parties, conferences, masterclasses, dedicated exclusively to European auteur cinema in all its diversity. Each year the festival welcomes a giant of European cinema as guest of honour together with a retrospective of their work. The programme consists of around 70 feature films, music documentaries, and shorts, some of which in competition, and some in a premieres rich Panorama Section.

Brussels Film Festival, Rue Lola Bobesco 3, Brussels, Belgium, + 32 27620898

Filem’On – International Children’s Film Festival Brussels November 1-8, 2015

Celebrating its 9th edition this year, Filem’On is one of the youngest festivals on Brussels’ film festival scene, and so is its target audience. Founded with the mission to promote the participation of youngsters in audio-visual media and actively work towards their formation, Filem’On takes advantage of All Saints’ holidays to programme more than 120 international feature length and short films open to children and teenagers aged 3-15. It also gives young audiences the opportunity to meet directors from all across the world, participate in filmmaking workshops, and ensures that the little creations get screened during the festival.

Filem’On A.S.B.L., Rue de la Caserne 33, Brussels, Belgium

Children's Film Festival Poster | © Filem'On
Children’s Film Festival Poster | © Filem’On

FIFB – Festival International du Film de Bruxelles November 17-21, 2015

Born in 1974 out of the city’s Super8 movement, FIFB festival has passed through many incarnations and as many acronyms. Its precursor for the past decades, FIFI, dealt with independent cinema, and something of that heritage still runs through in this year’s programme celebrating ‘40 Years of Independent Cinema’. The current festival’s focus appears to shift towards more of an international arthouse dimension and an eye for new trends and talents in world cinema. Three competitions, for international features, Belgian shorts, and student films will run alongside productions from a guest country – France in 2015.

FIFB, Rue Dejoncker 43, Saint-Gilles, Belgium +32 485189705

The Brussels Mediterranean Film Festival December 4-11, 2015

Both at the heart of its foundation, and running through its film selections, multicultural exchange is a common theme of the Brussels Mediterranean Film Festival. Hosted in the greenhouses at Botanique, the festival presents some 70 new films of varied kinds and lengths emerging from every side of Mediterranean. A section of the programme is often dedicated to the cinema of a particular country. Running parallel to screenings, the festival organises a series of concerts, a gastronomical market, exhibitions, and storytelling sessions, all in the name of cross-cultural dialogue and community building.

Be Film Festival December 26-30, 2015

For five days at the very end of the year, Be Film Festival celebrates all that Belgian cinema has had to offer over past 12 months. It presents itself, and rightly so, as the annual film event for those interested in catching up with the country’s cinematographic output and meeting the directors behind it. The programme is largely made up of Belgian productions that have been touring the global film festival circuit and sneak previews of upcoming films. 2014 was the festival’s tenth anniversary and Christmas holidays did nothing to dampen festive spirits either.

Be Film Festival, Un Soir… Un Grain, Avenue Maurice 1, Brussels, Belgium, +32 2/2480872