Last Friday, I arrived in Rome, where I’ll enjoy a two-month research stay at, and supported by, the Belgian Historical Institute in Rome. As I have done in Paris in 2015 and in Amsterdam in 2016, I will study the history of film relations between Belgium and the country where I’m staying. For this research on official Belgian-Italian co-operation agreements and concrete coproductions, I will visit the Istituto LUCE-Cinecitta, the Direzione Generale per gli Archivi and the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale Roma in Rome, and the Cineteca di Bologna in Bologna.
I am grateful to be able to stay at the Academia Belgica, an fantastic institute and residency which has provided accommodation to numerous Belgian scholars and artists since 1939. My research stay started yesterday in a classy and very Roman style, as the director of the Academia Belgica, Wouter Bracke, had organized an impressive archeological tour in the magnificent Domus Aurea, Emperor Nero’s palace.
Jan Cox’ painting ‘Hugo Claus and I’, which he painted during his residency at the Academia Belgica in 1954-1955. During that time, Cox’ lifelong friend Hugo Claus also stayed in Rome, where he got inspired by the Italian film world to write his 1956 novel ‘De Koele Minnaar’.
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)