Girl (2019)

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Direction: Lukas Dhont
Country: Belgium / Netherlands

Lukas Dhont’s Girl has the young Victor Polster shinning with a solid first performance. He plays a 15-year-old trans girl entangled in a morose and emotionally devastating process of sex transition while pursuing her dream of becoming a professional ballerina. Sharing the writing credits with Angelo Tijssens, Dhont sought inspiration in the real story of Nora Monsecour, a Belgian trans woman who, on top of collaborating in the script, came to the director's defense when the controversy arose regarding a self-mutilation scene and the excessive exposition of the main character’s genitals.

Lara (Polster) was born Viktor, and is now in the process of changing the incorrect male body for what her mind and soul always told her to be. Although expressing some doubt about her sexual orientation, she is absolutely sure of her sexual identity. She pierces her own ears - an old dream - and tapes her private parts to attend ballet classes at a prestigious Dutch academy. Her best friend is her supportive single father, Mathias (Arieh Worthalter), an open-minded taxi driver who keeps encouraging her to talk unreservedly about feelings and concerns.

However, the world is not perfect, and Lara gets moody and frustrated while undergoing hormone therapy. Moreover, schoolmates and fellow dancers are not always polite in their impertinent curiosity, and their subtle yet excruciating hostility simply reflects an unprepared society to deal with differences and individual choices.

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Having to wait two long years for the operation, disillusion becomes a thick, fast-growing layer placed between what she really wants to achieve and the limiting reality. The perturbation is of such order that she asks the doctors to increase the hormone intake. The desperate angst of feeling displaced in a body that is not hers, leads to radical measures to accelerate the procedure.

Despite ambitious and perfectly plausible in its complexity, the story could have taken the tension further, never entering into a thought-provoking territory. What I found most interesting here was the father/daughter relationship, while the rest remains standardized and somewhat guessable. Notwithstanding, the young Polster bravely steps into an exceptional role that makes the film watchable, while Dutch cinematographer Frank van den Eeden gives the gorgeously composed frames a coruscating, warm look.

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King Of The Belgians (2016)

Directed by Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth
Country: Belgium / Bulgaria / Netherlands

Belgian Peter Brosens and American Jessica Woodworth persevere in teaming up with gratifying results. The pair of writer-directors, more self-assured than prolific, only released three movies in the last decade. If I regarded “Altiplano"(2009) as a big step in their careers, the totally engrossing “The Fifth Season” (2012) worked as a validation for their storytelling inventiveness and sure-footed filmmaking style.

Their new film is an adventurous comedy that, being told and shaped like a documentary, makes suitable the neologism mockumentary to better define it.
This road outing, hopping from country to country, takes some time to spread its charms, but when it does, we feel immersed in those feel-good vibes that radiate from the intention of saying bitter truths through a few good laughs.

We follow the well-behaved Nicolas III (Peter Van den Begin), the king of Belgium, whose activities are being filmed for a documentary. The man responsible for capturing the best frames during the most propitious occasions is the documentarian Duncan Lloyd (Pieter van der Houwen), who was hired by the king’s garrulous wife, Queen Ursula (Nathalie Laroche), to follow him everywhere. 

Lloyd, the film’s narrator, gladly joins the king in an official visit to Istanbul that aims to welcome Turkey into the EU. With them goes the faithful royal staff composed of the chief of protocol Ludovic Moreau (Bruno Georis), the press relations Louise (Lucie Debay), and the king's personal valet Carlos (Titus De Voogdt).

Once in Turkey, they get the news that Belgium is no more since Wallonia just declared independence. In a rush to return home and better face the political crisis, Nicolas III sees an unforeseen solar storm hampering them to fly or even communicate by cell phone. However, being stranded is not a protocol followed by the humble king, who agrees in following a risky escape plan suggested by Lloyd. They get on a bus with a bunch of empathetic Bulgarian folk singers toward Sofia.
 
Their peculiar itinerary includes a ride on a tractor, a helpful hand from traditional Kukeri figures (remember the fantastic German dramedy “Toni Erdmann”?), and a visit to a rural village disguised of Belgium TV reporters. In Serbia, Lloyd bumps into an old pal and former sniper named Dragan (Goran Radakovic) and the group drinks traditional rakija until dawn, while in Albania they face trouble for having neither passports nor cash.

With jocose lines, “King of the Belgians” is an undemanding offbeat caricature that turns up politically concise in its sayings, yet considerably stinging in its depictions, especially of the countries visited. The widely known internal contention between Walloons and Flemish in Belgium is briefly sneered, functioning as a contradiction of a country whose capital is also the capital of the EU.

In addition to an efficacious hand manipulation of the camera, credible acting, and whimsical musical variations of famous classical pieces, the film has the merit of framing with purpose both naturalistic settings and occasional mounted aesthetic composures. 
 
You may think of it as if “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” were transformed into a road-trip, in which an unostentatious, solitary king discovers himself through the enjoyment of living an unforgettable adventure.

The Unknown Girl (2016)

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Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Country: Belgium / France

The work of the Belgian brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, is known for their technical rigor, narrative consistency, strong social vision, and impressive realism. With a career that spans more than 30 years, the directors gave us enough reasons to smile while staring at the screen. “Rosetta”, “L’enfant”, “The Son”, "The Promise”, and more recently, “The Kid with a Bike” and “Two Days, One Night”, brought something valuable and genuine to the world of cinema, focusing on themes like unemployment, troubled childhood, delinquency, immigration, exploitation, and many more.

In their new drama, “The Unknown Girl”, the brothers carry out some modifications, not in terms of visuals or filmmaking style, but attempting to squeeze a sort of character study within a crime thriller.
If the character was built with sufficient honesty to deserve my approval, the thriller was never more than a bland triviality, lacking true mystery and decent suspenseful moments.  

The central character, Jenny Davin (Adèle Haenel), a sensitive, attentive, and respected young medical doctor living and working in Liége, Belgium, shows deep concerns about her intern, Julien (Olivier Bonnaud), who can’t put his emotions away in stressful situations. While he gets paralyzed in the worst emergencies, she insists on the importance of a good diagnosis. Whenever she admonishes him, Julien admits his faults but gets a bit sore. After all, medicine had been his true passion.

On a very busy day, someone rings Jenny’s office’s doorbell after closing time. Tired, she doesn’t open. Slightly after that, Julien runs down the stairs in such a way he seems he won’t go back there anymore. In truth, he gives up the internship and medicine, and Jenny becomes devastated by thinking she had something to do with his decision.
To worsen her state of guilt, two inspectors arrive to examine the cameras because the woman who had come after-hours was found dead by the river. The cause of her death is unknown and she couldn't be identified either. Mysteries the obsessed Jenny tries to find out by herself.
This doctor turned into fearless investigator faces some serious threats when she starts digging in the mud and learns that the culprit is closer than she ever thought.

Despite setting up with the habitual naturalistic and artistic contours, the film drags aimlessly for large periods of time in its recycled wave of ideas. Most of the dangerous situations that Jenny experiences feel fabricated and very similar one to another.
The directors, who love to shoot resorting to the available light, forgot to use some glow in their story, never going beyond the simple and often boring formalities. 
The Unknown Girl” is a minor Dardennes and, probably, their flattest work. 

Couple in a Hole (2015)

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Directed by Tom Geens
Country: Belgium / France / UK

“Couple in a Hole”, Tom Geens’ directorial sophomore feature, is a haunting experience somewhere between the mystery and the psychological drama, whose tones are absorbed with a certain apprehension.

Doing much with little, the Belgian writer/helmer invites us to peek at a Scottish couple, John (Paul Higgins) and Kara (Kate Dickie), who live like two cavemen, secluded in a French mountain, after they had lost their son in a tragic accident.
Apart from the civilization, which is not so far from the hole they inhabit, the couple barely eats to survive and is considered in danger with the approximation of the winter, which always brings an agonizing cold and devastating hunger.
John pursues rabbits and picks herbs, mushrooms, and occasionally worms that his wife gobbles up with pleasure. Kara does the opposite. She rarely leaves the hole because of anxiety and panic. However, she’s making an effort to get out more with the help of her forbearing husband whose true will is to get back home, abandoning that place forever. Lucid of their situation, John is visibly tired of that life, but the highly traumatized Kara, who refuses any help from strangers and often suffers from hallucinations, stops his intentions. She says she feels the presence of her son and can’t leave. The anguish took her mind.

When happily celebrating a rainy day outside, Kara is bitten by a poisonous spider, a situation that requires an urgent application of medicine. This setback forces John to look for an antidote in the village, getting the desired help from Andre (Jérôme Kircher), a stubborn but generous local farmer who had tried to establish contact with him before. After that, Andre keeps coming to the mountain in order to offer them food. Famished, John tries to cast him away, but ultimately cannot resist the homemade delicacies. The two men become friends but their wives, for different reasons, oppose vehemently to this connection.

The film pulsates with uncanny vibes, thanks to the stimulating performances and the ominous woods that overload even more the shadowy story.
The revelations and disclosures are a bit too predictable for us to elevate this indie thriller to a superior category. Nevertheless, mysterious energies are successful emanated from the scenes and a fair watch is made certain. 
Mr. Geen is a director to keep an eye on.

The Brand New Testament (2015)

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Directed by Jaco Van Dormael
Country: Belgium / France / Luxembourg

The terrific Belgian director, Jaco Von Dormael, always has something inventive and captivating to present. Fantastic movies such as “Toto the Hero”, “The Eighth Day”, and “Mr. Nobody” immediately pop up into our minds for favorable reasons whenever we hear his name. 
His latest, “The Brand New Testament” is a sweet divertissement that plays with religion and introduces very funny characters while combining the real and surreal, as he loves to do, in the most extraordinary ways.

The story follows a 10-year-old girl, Ea (Pili Groyne), who is neither more nor less than the daughter of the mighty God (Benoit Poelvoorde) and direct sister of Jesus Christ. In this quirky tale, co-written by Mr. Dormael and Thomas Gunzig, God is not as benevolent and understanding as we might think since he spends most of his time picking on his good-natured wife (Yolande Moreau) and clever daughter, and writing laws for the humans on Earth. These laws are frequently made of despicable rules, called universal miseries, which take immediate effect on Earth right after enter his computer system, just for his own amusement.
With the absence of Jesus from a disappointing ‘paradise’, which is connected to Brussels through a long metallic sleeve that culminates in a washing machine of a laundry facility, the only one capable to defy God is Ea, a collector of human tears and the perspicacious narrator, who explains she wants to turn the world into a better place and then teach her father a lesson. 
Resolutely, and advised by her brother, she steps into God’s office and sends a message to everybody on Earth with the exact time they still have to live – a literal ‘death leak’. Moreover, she sets off to Earth in order to fetch six new apostles and add them to the twelve that Jesus had gathered before. For the task, she counts on Victor, a dyslexic homeless who becomes her loyal ally.

The new apostles are diversified: a beautiful and yet sad girl who lost her arm when she was very young; a former adventurer who wasted most of his life working in something he didn’t like; a sexual maniac who finally finds true love; an inveterate assassin who falls in love for the first time; an unhappy married woman who rejoices in the company of a gorilla; and a little boy whose final wish is to become a girl. Everyone has their days counted and it’s urgent to find happiness for the rest of their lives. Meanwhile, the angered God also decides to come down to live an earthly life while he searches for his disobedient daughter but falls in the traps and tricks he had set up. He starts living in Brussels, as a common man.
Ea’s plan includes a transition of powers from God to her beloved mother, a true saint whose true passions are embroidering and watch baseball games.

Not so deep, challenging, or puzzling as “Mr. Nobody”, “The Brand New Testament” evinces some gaps in the storytelling. Still, it advances at an energetic pace and provides solid amusement with its dreamy elements, musical nuances, conspicuous metaphors, tense developments, and sympathetic humor. 
I came to the conclusion that this is Dormael’s less accomplished film so far, but not a disappointment at all. Its feel-good posture has the ability to bring you a good time.

Alleluia (2014)

Alleluia (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Fabrice Du Welz
Country: Belgium / France

Movie Review: An unsettling portrait of an uncontrollable obsessive love, which becomes stained by blood, is what the Belgian film director, Fabrice Du Welz, submits in his fourth and strongest feature-length, “Alleluia”, a twin of the classic noir ‘Honeymoon Killers’. The film, celebrating an infusion of crime thriller and horror, is divided into four acts, each of them corresponding to a different woman. These women are the victims of Michel (Laurent Lucas), a persuasive sort-of-sorcerer with a fetish for feet, who seduces them (marrying if needed) with the unique goal of seamlessly steal their money, so he can proceed with his comfortable life. In the first of these acts, he conquers Gloria (Lola Dueñas), a morgue employee and single mother who shortly finds out his dishonorable intentions, but resolves to forgive and accept him as he is. She even decides to leave her beloved daughter behind for a while to help him in his following schemes. Pretending to be his sister, she is invaded by a fierce jealousy every time he’s with his new ‘brides’, a state only comparable to an evil possession that shoves her to kill brutally and remorselessly. Even if not original, the energy and eeriness put on the scenes were sufficient to instantly catch our eye. The camera moves fast, in bold movements, often relying on close-ups to intensify the immoral insanity of the couple. Technically, “Alleluia” offers much to admire. In addition to Vincent Cahay’s score, which varies from intensively glum to frantically rhythmic, cinematographer Manuel Dacosse was able to extract beauty from the most horrific scenes, continuing the amazing work he has presented in Cattet/Forzani’s vividly colored films. Competently edited by Anne-Lore Guéguin, the obscene “Alleluia” is a perverse odyssey of love and madness.

Cub (2014)

Cub (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Jonas Govaerts
Country: Belgium

Movie Review: The first scene of the Belgian horror flick, “Cub”, shows a woman in the woods frantically running from a devilish creature that eventually ends up grabbing her by the neck. After stir our curiosity with this premise, “Cub”, directed and co-written by the newcomer Jonas Govaerts, falls in a spiral of brutal scenes where graphical violence is remorselessly spewed at the sound of tense sonorities. Taking into account its genre, this could have been positive if the plot itself along with most of its characters weren't so coarse. Sam, an unquiet 12-year-old kid, spends a weekend in the woods, joining his group of Cub Scouts leaded by three inappreciable adults: the reasonable Chris, the self-indulgent Jasmijn, and the unbalanced bully, Peter. They spread the rumor that a half-human half-beast creature inhabits the forest, being responsible for numerous deaths that led to the closure of an old factory nearby. What was taken as a joke by the rest of the campers, was confirmed by the bullied Sam. He effectively sees this werewolf of the forest, named Kai, and creates a heinous bond with him. Their first victim was Peter’s pit-bull - put into a bag, left hanging from a tree and beaten up to death with sticks. As the story moves forward, we are taken to Kai’s father, a huntsman that takes pleasure in setting up ingenious traps in the woods, causing the death to his passing victims in a variety of atrocious ways. What could have been nice surprises, ended up being disclosed at an early stage, and the film is turned into a contrived mess where we can’t find anything particularly satisfying after digging into it. It’s all depicted with a stirring madness, but ultimately, “Cub” becomes corrupted by its own naivety and inconsistencies.

Two Days, One Night (2014)

Two Days, One Night (2014) - Movie Review

Directed by:

Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne

Country:

Belgium / others

Movie Review: The talented Dardenne brothers, who had their directorial debut in 1987, never needed complex ideas to make an interesting film. Their career got the deserved attention from both critics and audience in 1996 with The Promise, and other pertinent dramas followed with even wider acclaim such as Rosetta, The Kid With a Bike, and L'enfant. 
The realism of each scene they depict is almost everything they need to engage us in their contemporary stories where a lot of emotional stuff is going on, compelling us to identify ourselves with the misfortunes and joys of the characters. And that's what happens in “Two Days, One Night”, another observant tale set in Liege, Belgium, that has the power to completely stun with its narrative objectivity, emotional weight, and stupendous performances.
After going through a torturous depression, Sandra is apt to return to work. However, she is informed that her future in the solar panel factory where she works, will be decided soon by her 16 co-workers, who will vote to choose between keeping her in the company or receive a deserved annual bonus for their hard work. Sandra has exactly two days and one night to talk personally with her fellow workers to explain how important is to keep that job for her and her family. 
It’s noteworthy how the Dardennes easily manage to play with the viewers’ conscience, putting us in a situation where it would be hard to make a choice, in case we had too. On one hand, I felt sympathy for Sandra, thinking she deserved her place back in the company, while on the other, I understood that for some, a €1000 bonus, which would pay a year of gas and electricity, could be difficult to decline. 
Reactions and motives were distinct, making the unstable Sandra oscillate in her already deplorable state. 
Even playing a cheerless character, Marillon Cotillard was capable of enchanting in her best performance since “La Vie en Rose”.
The brothers’ direction followed their usual techniques, preferring a modest but realistic closer look into the situation, in detriment of visually intense scenarios or beautiful background landscapes. 
Socially pertinent and compellingly dramatized with sadness and triumph, “Two Days, One Night” is a raw and pungent drama to absorb and reflect on.
Besides the nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role by the Academy and Best Film at Cannes, the film was victorious in Sidney, Traverse City, and São Paulo.

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013)

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Country: Belgium / others

Movie Review: Directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani use the same saturated reds, blues and greens to create even more bold images than in “Amer”, their promising debut from 2009. With precise camera work, there’s no doubt that its weirdness stimulates us visually and intellectually, even considering the intentional dispersion of the script to baffle us. This was the main reason why the film didn’t work so well as a narrative, despite the mysteries of its strange associations, false leads and intricate dream layers, it turned out progressively exhausting with the repetition of ideas, most of them involving blood footprints, erotic sensuality and sharp knives ready to tear up bodies or piercing heads. The story starts when Dan Kristensen returns home after one of his frequent business trips and finds his apartment locked from inside and his wife missing. The mystery seems to be related with the building itself where its patterned connected walls hide the secrets of so many weird and untrusted tenants. There are times that we questioned if the problem is not Dan himself, and there are others where we don’t know what to think, such is the abusive confusion and dazzle created. Showing so much talent and a propensity to prevail artsy (including a great sound design), Cattet and Forzani should work a bit more in putting some light in the scripts without exclusively worry with the stylization of their pictures. Anyway, I can’t refrain from recommending this outlandish thriller for those who like vague insinuations and blurred conclusions.

The Treatment (2014)

The Treatment (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Hans Herbots
Country: Belgium

Movie Review: As much suspenseful as convoluted, “The Treatment” was based on the novel by the British crime-writer Mo Hayder, addressing a revolting subject matter such as pedophilia. Hans Herbot’s thriller, despite gorgeously shot and structured in a way to intrigue, doesn’t hide here and there some TV connotations, a fact that derives from the fact that Herbot has been strictly related to TV series since the beginning of his career in 1993. The story follows Nick Cafmeyer, a Federal Police chief inspector who lives haunted by the abduction and disappearance of his younger brother when he was a child. The principal suspect, Ivan Plettinckx, strangely claims to be the author of the crime, writing letters stating that Nick’s brother was his lover for several years. When an 8 year-old boy is reported missing and found dead in the top of a tree, Nick rekindles memories of his brother’s case. As the investigation proceeds, the word ‘troll’ is mentioned several times, adding a supernatural nature to the story, while a diversity of suspects are considered and questioned, including the kid’s father, a swimming teacher, and a woman who was accomplice of her brother’s sexual crimes. Along the tortuous path towards the dark truth, the right levels of tension are taken down by complex connections involving the numerous characters, all of them showing mysterious behaviors. The plot, not so neat as it was supposed to be, along with its dubious conclusions, most likely would have given a better TV series than a feature film. Shocking without being rude, “The Treatment” still managed to provide a few good moments of suspense.

The Fifth Season (2012)

The Fifth Season (2012) - Movie Review
Directed by: Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth
Country: Belgium / others

Movie Review: Belgium-based filmmakers Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth (“Khadak”, “Altiplano”) continue their audacious work on writing, production, and direction, with the lyrical and intimidating “The Fifth Season”, a sensational drama about the consequences of nature/climate changes on human beings. Instead of focusing in global chaos, the duo preferred to choose a small and isolated village in Belgian Ardennes whose community struggles to survive. Along four seasons, the viewer witnesses a progressive decadence, with the ‘angered’ Nature refusing to give them the basic needs - the bees fled from the beehives, cows no longer give milk and were taken out by the authorities, while potatoes didn’t germinate as they should. All these aspects are presented together with weird interactions and unexplainable communication among men and animals, along with inherent senses of fear and helplessness that produces deep changes in everyone’s behavior. Another very strong aspect in the film were the rituals, whether presented in the form of traditional parades, whether in form of sect gathering where alienation, sacrifice, or purification, become the new real threats to humanity. “The Fifth Season” was extremely satisfying in its approach, creating great impact through its disturbing score, haunting images, and constantly involving us in its grim story of survival pelted with supernatural forces and symbology. The film collected important prizes at Valladolid and Venice film festivals.

Our Children (2012)

Our Children (2012)
Directed by: Joachim Lafosse
Country: Belgium / France / others

Review: “Our Children” is the most compelling Belgian drama since Dardenne brothers’ “The Kid With A Bike”. In its first moments we get to know that something terrible had happened to Murielle (Émilie Dequenne) and her family. To find out exactly what, we just have to follow her life from the moment that passionate Mounier (Tahar Rahim) asks her to marry him. Mounier is a Maroccan descendent whose adoptive father, Dr. Andre Pinget (Niels Arestrup), always supported and protected since childhood. After the couple’s third child has born, they started to struggle with lack of space and money, so they decided to move into Andre’s place. This increasing dependence on him will bring tragic consequences to their relationship, with Andre constantly trying to control the couple’s wills and ideas in an overwhelming way. Another parallel subject, though secondary, that is compellingly depicted in the film has to do with immigration and marriages of convenience. With a finale that gave me the creeps, “Our Children” was able to create such intensity, sadness, and tension around the story, that I felt suffocated just by watching Murielle’s expressions. The performances were simply superb, leading Dequenne to win the Un Certain Regard Award for best actress at Cannes, while Lafosse showed to be a filmmaker with exceptional maturity, presenting us another extraordinary accomplishment in his career.

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)
Directed by: Felix Van Groeningen
Country: Belgium / Netherlands

Review: A couple pursues balance on their relationship after the death of their little daughter due to cancer, mixing tears of joy and sadness in a dramatic story containing a rich musical side. The same hippie mood and Ruben Impens' cinematography, are the noticeable common aspects with “The Misfortunates”, Van Groeningen’s previous film, but here we are dealing with a much more intimate and sensitive matter. Even using a non-linear structure, we can divide this story in two different parts. In the first one, we get to know Didier, a bluegrass musician, his tattooed wife Elise, who owns a tattoo-parlor and also sings in the band, and their cancerous six year-old daughter Maybelle. This part is all about hope, the ups and downs related to Maybelle’s sickness, and a dive in the couple’s past. The second part is associated with the pain that remained after the child’s death, depression, and the ways found to deal with extreme suffering. The bluegrass music works as a vehicle of expressing feelings, enhancing the circumstantial happiness or sadness. At the same time that the film tries to avoid sentimental manipulation, it leaves a sensation of familiarity, with its faith issues, and shattered American dreams. The ending keeps up the intensity: sadness, depth, but also beauty.

Almayer's Folly (2011)

Almayer's Folly (2011)
Directed by: Chantal Akerman
Country: Belgium / France

Review: Loosely adapted from Joseph Conrad’s debut novel, “Alamayer’s Folly” marks the return of Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman after a seven year absence. The adopted style, not so experimental as in other times, presents recognizable features; steady hand, long and precise shots, and efficient image composition, often using strong contrasts of shadow and light. The tale itself is bitter and powerful, following Gaspard Almayer (was Stanislas Merhar the right choice to play this character?), a French merchant whose great ambition for gold brought him to a remote village in Malaysia, where he got married to a local woman. From that loveless marriage, a beautiful mixed-race girl was born, becoming the proud of her father. Convinced by his employer, Alamayer sends his daughter Nina to a boarding school in town, where she could have a ‘white education’. But this will become a traumatic experience for her. Back to her village, after being kicked out from school, she will become the great love of Dain, a drugs smuggler who was Almayer’s last hope to get rich. Told in a strange but not discouraging way, “Almayer’s Folly” is a film about love, ambition, madness, racial issues, failed intentions, and disillusions. Its deliberate pace, nature sounds, and tropical ambience (reminding me Weerasethakul’s films without the mystical component), will not fit in everyone’s taste, but for those more adventurous, it may be a challenging cinematic experience.

Offline (2012)

Offline (2012)
Directed by: Peter Monsaert
Country: Belgium

Review: “Offline” is an interesting drama about a shattered family. The story focuses on Rudy, a quarrelsome ex-con, who returns to Ghent after seven years in prison to establish contact with his dejected daughter Vicky. The only way he has to do this is through the Internet, since someone told him she was working in a porn-chat website. It was noticeable that he wasn’t very welcome in town; his wife didn’t want to see him and his older friends became unfriendly. The exception is Rachid who often trusts him his computer without having any idea of what he was doing with it. During great part of the film, it is inevitable to wonder why Rudy had been arrested, but the plot will reserve the answers for the right moments, unveiling terrible family secrets. With a consistent camera work and good performances, Monsaert's most accessible movie, addresses a current topic but moves in well-known territories. The characters showed to bear a great heaviness on their shoulders and every contrariety could degenerate into irretrievable fatality. The end was left open, in a despairing story about giving a second chance to someone who has made huge mistakes in the past. "Offline" was capable of arousing curiosity, even when in needing of a bolder move to better stand out.

Altiplano (2009)

Directed by: Peter Brosens/Jessica H.Woodworth
Country: Belgium

Plot: A former war photographer and her physician husband are caught up in a riot in an Andean village.
Quick comment: Two women, one Peruvian and other Belgian, will cross paths. The former, is fighting a sickness that starts spreading across her village due to mercury spill in a mine exploration. The latter, is a photographer trying to recover from a traumatic situation. “Altiplano” delivers artsy images within a well-intentioned story but its approach isn't always totally satisfying. Despite of some narrative issues and the evident eagerness to be art-house, it still worth for its exceptional landscapes and mystic creeds.
Relevant awards: Golden Kinnaree (Bangkok).

Amer (2009)

Realizado por: Bruno Forzani e Helene Cattet
País: Bélgica
Um estranho filme experimental que recorre a sons, jogos de luz, respirações, cores e ambientes assustadores para contar em 3 partes a história macabra de Ana. Cada uma das parte representa um marco importante na vida desta personagem. A primeira na infância e o contacto com a morte e o sobrenatural, a segunda na adolescência e o desejo sexual reprimido, e a terceira na idade adulta com o regresso à casa da infância, a negação do desejo sexual e a aniquilação do objecto de desejo. A ideia é original e o resultado final é um misto de satisfação juntamente com a sensação de que poderia ser bem melhor, caso desse mais ênfase à narrativa em detrimento do turbilhão de imagens e sons.

The Kid With a Bike (2011)

Realizado por: Luc e Jean-Pierre Dardenne
País: Bélgica
Os irmãos Dardenne, voltam a pegar no seu tema favorito - o relacionamento entre pais e filhos, e criam mais uma magnífica história, à semelhança do que já tinha acontecido em obras anteriores ("rosetta", "the child"). Cyril é um miúdo abandonado pelo pai que vive num centro de acolhimento para crianças. Aos fins-de-semana, é acolhido por Samantha, uma cabeleireira, a qual conheceu acidentalmente quando procurava o seu pai no bairro onde habitava. Revoltado e encontrando-se num estado emocional muito frágil, não tardará a ser tentado por más companhias. Ultra-realista e possuindo um excelente trabalho de câmara, consegue demonstrar na perfeição, o estado de espírito das diversas personagens.

Bullhead (2011)

Realizado por: Michael R. Roskam
País: Bélgica

De argumento sólido mas bastante carregado, "Bullhead" é a estreia de Michael Roskam no que se refere a longas-metragens, após a realização de 3 curtas de pouco sucesso. Inspirado num episódio verídico, conta a triste história de um criador de gado, que se envolve em negócios mafiosos, ao mesmo tempo que carrega um grande trauma de infância, aliado a uma paixão obsessiva. Incisivo e com ambiente taciturno, é um filme de altos e baixos, assim como são os avanços e recuos no seu argumento.

Mr. Nobody (2009)

Realizado por: Jaco Van Dormael
País: Bélgica

Fantástica e intrigante história que nos deslumbra desde o início pelo puzzle que o seu enredo vai criando, sem nunca revelar directamente as respostas. A história passa-se num tempo futurista e alimenta-se das recordações de Nemo, o último mortal na Terra, contando com 117 anos. Acamado e com frequentes lapsos de memória, Nemo conta a sua vida a um repórter, centrando-se mais nas idades em que teve de fazer escolhas "impossíveis". Mas em vez de uma, Nemo conta 3 possíveis histórias da sua vida, totalmente diferentes. A dificuldade surge em saber qual das histórias é realmente a verdadeira.