Tag Archives: Film policy

New article: Film policy & Flemish identity

The latest issue of Communications: The European Journal of Communication Research features my article The role of film production policy in stimulating a Flemish identity (1964–2002). This article is more or less a 10-page summary of my 430-pages PhD thesis. You can read the full text article here.

The article examines the period that starts in 1964, when a selective and culturally inspired support mechanism for feature films was introduced in Flanders, Subsequently, the support system ran until 2002, when it was structurally renewed. The research shows that throughout the course of the second half of the 20th century, there was an evolution in Flemish film policy towards more pluralistic and less essentialist and explicit national discourses, in which national elements, nevertheless, retained an important place.


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.


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.

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.

From movies to games

Following upon the European Screens conference, MeCETES invited me to write this blog post for their website. Based on my conference presentation (together with Daniel Biltereyst, Philippe Meers and Roel Vande Winkel), I describe how film policy in Flanders is responding to intensified media convergence trends in the film industry. I conclude by arguing that although there is a definite and irreversible expansion of film policy to broader creative screens policies, the film policy component, and more specifically the fiction film production policy component, retains its central place within the policy framework, around which new media policies are organized.

You can read the blog post at full length here.

European Screens conference

I’m currently attending the ‘European Screens Conference’ at the University of York. It feels kind of pleasantly weird to be back at this ‘young but big’ UK university (it was established in 1963). As a PhD student, I lived at the university campus (a few miles outside of York, which has nature and quietness as advantages, but a feeling of being-detached-from-real-life as a disadvantage) for a few months in the spring of 2013. I worked here on my PhD under the supervision of Andrew Higson, a leading scholar in British, heritage and national cinema.


Part of the MeCETES team presenting their research results. From left: Rasmus Helles, Signe Sophus Lai, Huw D Jones, Andrew Higson, Tim Raats, Ilse Schooneknaep

Andrew is also the organizer of the ‘European Screens conference’, which focuses on various aspects of film and television industries in Europe. It is the end conference of the extremely interesting MeCETES (Mediating Cultural Encounters Through European Screens) research project. This big European-funded collaborative research project examined contemporary European film and television drama from a variety of angles. The University of York team focused mainly on cinema, the University of Copenhagen team on television drama, and the Free University of Brussels team on governmental policy aspects.

My own presentation, tomorrow morning, will also focus on the policy side of the film industry; together with Daniel Biltereyst, Philippe Meers and Roel Vande Winkel, I will focus on how ‘film policy’ in Flanders has evolved to ‘creative screens policies’ in recent years, with special attention to media convergence trends and the continuing centrality of (feature) film (production).

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)


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.