Tag Archives: Belgian cinema

Cinema, the government and the popular

The latest issue of the Journal of Popular Film and Television features my article Cinema, the Government, and the Popular: Popular and Commercial Aspects of Cultural Film Support in Flanders (Belgium). You can download it here.

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The article examines the evolution of both the popular and the commercial aspects within the official film production support in Flanders between 1964 and 2002. The article sheds light on the policy motivations underlying the cultural-commercial tension, which was a permanent issue of conflict for the Flemish film policy actors. As such, it provides a broader historical context to my publication on Flemish popular comedies in the 1980s.

Reframing the remake

Rip-Off or Resourceful Creativity? is the title of the latest special issue (edited by Sarah Smyth and Connor McMorran) of the Frames Cinema Journal, focusing on remakes. It features an article called Reframing the remake: Dutch-Flemish monolingual remakes and their theoretical and conceptual implications, by Eduard Cuelenaere, Stijn Joye and myself. The article offers some first theoretical reflections on remakes and the academic field of remake studies, stemming from our recently started research project on Dutch-Flemish remakes (cf. this previous blog post). You can read the article at full length here.

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In the article, we explicitly take distance from ‘anti-remake debates’ offering a normative standpoint towards remakes. We instead aim for a more nuanced reading of the remake practice. Our argument is based upon an examination of Dutch-Flemish remakes, which proves to be an original contribution to the field of remake studies, as well as an excellent exemplar in the context of the deconstruction and reframing of discourses about the global remake practice. As a first step, we claim that the non-commercial aura of the European remake should be revisited because the Dutch-Flemish monolingual remakes clearly disclose a similar incentive to the one that often inspires Hollywood remakes: financial gains. Furthermore, our case underlines the need for a more nuanced understanding of intercultural media practices, including the cultural proximity theory. Lastly, we reveal a remarkable discrepancy between the essentialist conception of cultural identity—that is put forward by remake directors—and the constructionist conception, which is dominant in scholarly discussions.

From culturally respectable to pleasant films

The latest issue of Volkskunde features an article I wrote on the revival of popular comedies in the 1980s. You can read the full article here.

The article shows that the official film production policy in Flanders played an important role in the revival of the genre of Flemish popular comedies in the eighties. When a film support system was installed in 1964, the cultural dimension of films, in the sense of their artistic and intellectual qualities, was dominating the policy discourse and practices (cf. this previous publication). In 1981, after years of Christian Democratic domination, the Ministry of Culture, and thus the film policy, was taken over by the Liberals. After a dispute between the new minister and the old film commission (which advised the minister on the allocation of government grants to film projects), the latter was fired and replaced. The replacements of important policy actors marked a shift in the development of Flemish film policy. Audience-oriented and commercial-economic motivations became more important, which was manifested in the support for popular comedies, such as films with the comic duo Gaston and Leo, or with the comedian Urbanus.

hector-lowPoster for Hector (1987), with Urbanus. Source: Ronnie Pede; Copyright: Multimedia, Eyeworks, Linden Film

While the Liberal ministers were outright supporters of popular comedies, the film commission was more nuanced toward such projects. For the most part, the commission found the quality standards of the popular comedies insufficient. On the other hand, these film projects raised economic arguments on the continuity of film production and attracting private investments, important elements in creating a stronger Flemish film industry. Moreover, attracting a large audience was a decisive argument. Connected to this argument, there was a broadening of the vision on what is culturally valuable and thus deserves government support. In addition to artistic and qualitative elements, the entertainment value of the films and the viewing pleasure of the audience were also taken into consideration, which weakened the earlier aversion to popular culture. The popular comedies show that from the eighties on, not only culturally respectable films, but also amusement films without much artistic or intellectual ambitions were deemed worthy to be supported by the government.

Publications on Flemish film policy in the 1960s & 1970s and on ‘The Lion of Flanders’

The latest issue of the Dutch-language journal Wetenschappelijke Tijdingen includes my article ‘An impressive stack of documents.’ On the difficult institutional development of the film production policy in Flanders (1964-1981). This article builds further on an article that appeared previously in Wetenschappelijke Tijdingen about the events leading up to (from 1945), and the realization of, the Royal Decree of 14 November 1964 for the development of Dutch-language film culture, which led to the beginning of the systematic and selective culturally-motivated support of film production in Flanders. The new follow-up article covers the institutional development of the film production policy in Flanders from 1964 to 1981, when Karel Poma of the PVV (the Flemish Liberals) broke through the uninterrupted succession of Ministers of Culture from the CVP (the Flemish Catholic Party). After a sketch of the general budgetary and ministerial policy context, the article looks at the multiple criticisms of film production policy during this period. In response to this criticism came several diverse initiatives to structurally renew the Royal Decree of 1964. This article points out the reasons why these attempts repeatedly failed and at the same time looks at how these initiatives related to the Flemish struggle for cultural autonomy and the communitarian situation. You can read the article here.

Furthermore, I’m happy to announce my first French-language article, Le Bien contre le Mal contre Claus Le film Le lion des Flandres (1984) et le nationalisme flamand (you can read it here), which appeared in Émulations: Revue des jeunes chercheuses et chercheurs en sciences sociales. This article analyses the film The Lion of Flanders (Hugo Claus, 1984) and its complex relations with the Flemish and Belgian national question. This Flemish-Dutch co-production (in 1985 also released as a television serial) was an adaptation of Hendrik Conscience’s romantic historical novel from 1838 by the same name, a landmark within the cultural and symbolic history of the Flemish Movement. Despite various difficulties concerning the Flemish-nationalist sensitivities of the project, the producers (including the ministry and the public broadcaster of the Flemish Community) wanted the film to be as faithful as possible to Conscience’s novel. This largely resulted in an overtly romantic and Flemish-nationalist production, in spite of some counterpoints introduced by the controversial and critical but heavily disciplined director Hugo Claus. Although The Lion of Flanders was the most expensive production in the Dutch-language film history, it turned out to be an unprecedented critical and commercial failure. This article is a reworking of previous articles on The Lion of Flanders that I wrote for the Journal of Belgian History (in Dutch, read it here) and for CLCWeb (in English, read it here)

 

Problemski Hotel

Interview Verhulst

Yesterday, I interviewed Belgian writer Dimitri Verhulst in the Vooruit in Ghent, after the screening of Manu Riche’s recent film adaptation of Verhulst’s 2003 novel Problemski Hotel. Both the novel and the film give a disrupting view on the life in an asylum center. The realistic, raw and hard issues of misery are alternated by moments of absurd humor, which makes reading the novel/watching the film a very unsettling experience, forcing you to reflect on basic human rights and contemporary refugee politics.

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This event took place in the framework of a ‘project week’ focusing on diversity in its broadest sense, for first year students political and social sciences at Ghent University. (Last year, I interviewed director Kadir Balci for the same event.)

 

Ghent cinema city

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Advertisement poster for the cinema Capitole in Ghent

Yesterday, we had an excursion with our Ghent University Master students in Film and Television Studies. In the morning, we went to visit the Flemish public broadcaster VRT in Brussels. In the afternoon, we visited the great Film Theaters exhibition at the Caermersklooster in Ghent. The exhibition has two parts: one with beautiful contemporary photographs (by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre) of USA movie palaces from the first half of the 20th century that are now in decay, and one on the lively film theater culture in Ghent.

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We were very lucky to have Lies Van de Vijver as our expert guide!

This ‘Ghent cinema city’ exhibition was made possible by Lies Van de Vijver and Daniel Biltereyst, both from the CIMS research group to which I belong (Centre for Cinema and Media Studies, Ghent University). It shows the long and rich cinema history of Ghent, with more than 70 film theaters and many more fascinating stories – from the fire in the erotic cinema Leopold and the collaboration history of the movie palace Capitole to the story of the very first and trendsetting real multiplex cinema in Europe. Until 3 January 2016, you can visit it in the Caermersklooster, but this great exhibition definitely deserves a permanent place somewhere in Ghent!

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Cinema Leopold curiosa

Publication on postwar Belgian film policy developments

The latest issue of the Dutch-language journal Wetenschappelijke Tijdingen includes my article ‘To promote the Dutch language film culture’. The introduction of a Flemish film production policy (1945-1965). This article analyses the development of Belgian film policy after the Second World War, until 1965, with a special focus on the beginning of the government’s policy regarding film production in Flanders.

Publication in WT

When the first (attempted) measures to support film production in Belgium originated after the Second World War, like the economically motivated reduced taxation system and the Cinematographic Service aimed at educational films, these invariably were conceived within a Belgian unitary framework. However, when plans were made at the beginning of the 1960’s to create a selective and culturally inspired film susidy mechanism by means of a Belgian Film Institute, the Flemish stakeholders demanded that the Institute would consist of a dual structure divided according to language. The Flemish pursuit of cultural autonomy resulted in the Royal Decree of 14 November 1964 to promote the Dutch language film culture, which meant the beginning of systematic and selective culturally motivated film production aid in Flanders. A film commission was established that advised the Minister of Culture about film production subsidies, taking into acount the Belgian nationality, the Dutch language character and cultural nature of the film projects. The objective was to create in this way a new recognisable Flemish cinema of good quality.