The year 2016 turned out to be great for Belgian film, with established filmmakers such as Fien Troch (Home) and Brosens & Woodworth (King of the Belgians) making sure there was plenty to talk about when it comes to the country’s cinema. The small industry has been upping its game both in terms of quality and quantity, making sure we’re eagerly looking forward to this year’s batch of films. Here are six Belgian films that are currently on our radar for 2017.
The vivacious life of the party, the flamboyant light of the stage—this was Tom Lanoye’s actress mother before she fell silent due to a stroke. In the heart-rending novel Speechless, Lanoye described his complicated relationship with his mom and the writer’s block that accompanied her silence with only the slightest of fictional films draped over his meta-truth. The upcoming adaptation plays by the same rules: names are changed, but Stanny Crets is essentially taking on the role of one of Belgium’s most revered contemporary authors. National treasure Viviane De Muynck portrays Lanoye’s larger-than-life mother.
In theaters from March 15
The Past Before Us (Le Passé Devant Nous)
Besides visiting her senile father in a nursing home, plodding away on the gym treadmill and going through the movements of her job, Alice doesn’t get out much. For a luxury escort in Brussels who reassures every single client that they’re special, her life is remarkably devoid of passion, and love. First-time feature director Nathalie Teirlinck does a magnificent job in The Past Before Us of slowly tearing down Alice’s walls and magnifying her flaws when the guarded woman is suddenly entrusted with the sole care of her 5-year old son.
In theaters from February 8
The Racer and the Jailbird (Le Fidèle)
2017 is the year another moody Matthias Schoenaerts and Michaël R. Roskam collaboration will hit the silver screen, and anyone familiar with the Oscar-nominated Rundskop (Bullhead, 2011) or gang flick The Drop (2014) knows this is a reason to cheer. Currently in post-production, The Racer and the Jailbird follows the unlikely coupling of Bibi and Gigi, a glamorous racing driver (Adèle Exarchoupolos from Blue Is The Warmest Color) and a mystery man caught up in the Brussels crime milieu (Schoenaerts). Co-penned by Thomas Bidegain (Rust and Bone, 2012) and captured on camera by trusted Roskam DP Nicolas Karakatsanis, Le Fidèle might be the most highly anticipated Belgian release of the year.
In theaters from January 1
All Family (Allemaal Familie)
In an ensemble comedy of the kind Flanders keeps getting fonder of, debuting feature director Dries Vos has assembled a cast of TV darlings to lift the spirits in All Family. Even when a family weekend turns out differently than expected as divorce threatens to overturn the family dynamic, light humor and familiar faces tell us we’re in for a feel-good ride.
In theaters from February 22
Blind Spot (Dode Hoek)
For any fan of Belgian cinema, it seemed as if Peter Van den Begin was everywhere in 2016—and we mean that in a good way. From an endearing milquetoast monarch in Woodworth and Brosens’ King of the Belgians to a depressed stand-up comic in Nic Balthazar’s Everybody Happy, the tallest of Belgian thespians got to exercise his leading man muscles plenty last year, and early 2017 gives us another gripping performance. In Blind Spot, a menacing Van den Begin portrays Jan Verbeeck, aka ‘Mr. Zero Tolerance’, who is just about to leave his job as the chief of Antwerp’s police force for a political adventure with an extreme right-wing party. Young director Nadil Ben Yadir (Les Barons, La Marche) skillfully unspools the consequences of the man’s last and failed drug raid into an intriguing thriller with a topical edge.
In theaters from January 25
The Stranger (L’Étranger)
Kenneth Michiels’ reason for calling his small-scale documentary about youth soccer club and social project BX Brussel in Molenbeek The Stranger is twofold. It follows both the recently immigrated Senegalese coach Moussa, who’s seeking a new life far from the warmth of his home country in a much rainier one, and his team of players, 12 and 13-year olds who have foreign roots but are mostly second generation. The film covers one football season, and Michiels zooms in on this microcosm of young, poor adolescents who Moussa is determined to instill a love for the game in.
In theaters from January 18