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"My aim is to speak to all members of the general public"

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Nabil Ben Yadir • Director

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- Belgian director Nabil Ben Yadir talks to us about his third feature film, Blind Spot

Nabil Ben Yadir • Director

After rising to prominence in 2008 with Les Barons [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
Interview with director and actress of…
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile
]
, which was a huge box-office success in Belgium, Nabil Ben Yadir went on to make La Marche [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile
]
, an ambitious historical film about a little-known event in the history of France, a march for equality and against racism, released in 2013. Now he’s back with the powerful and surprising Blind Spot [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile
]
 (Dode Hoek), a by-the-book thriller set against the backdrop of the rise of populism. 

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Cineuropa: How would you describe Blind Spot?
The film follows the trajectory of Jan Verbeeck, commissioner of the drug squad of Antwerp, a hero to a part of Flanders, to which he’s a kind of white knight who’s never lost for words. He decides to resign to embark on a career in politics, in the service of a far-right-wing party which coasts along on the back of security issues. During his last raid in a squat in Charleroi, his past comes racing to the surface, and his world is turned upside down. 

Alongside Jan Verbeeck we have the central character of Dries, his right-hand man.
He’s the most complex character; he feels permanently ill at ease where he is, like he doesn’t belong. He makes some very radical choices. Indeed, he’s more radical than Jan Verbeeck, and he’s even more racist than him. His "path to integration" as he calls it is one of over-integration. He’s in denial, even changing the spelling of his name from Driss to Dries. He’s the perfect puppet on a string for Jan Verbeeck. But he’s also the scariest character, as he no longer has anything to lose, and no limits.

It’s a proper thriller, with a feverish pace to it. Do action films absolutely have to be shot in Flanders in Belgium these days?
I hope not! The Flemish embraced genre films a long time ago, and make no attempt of hiding it. Things are still a bit complicated in French-speaking Belgium, but are changing, with a much more well-defined place for comedy now for example. It was a challenge, and a pleasure to film a psychological action film. It’s the kind of film I used to watch when I was little. 

The soundtrack for the film is breath-taking
I was adamant I didn’t want orchestrated music. I wanted something more organic. I found the perfect person, Senjan Jensen, an Antwerpian who previously worked on Kid [+see also:
trailer
festival scope
film profile
]
 by Fien Troch, a real architect of sound. The soundtrack had to be abstract, like distorted sirens ringing in the head of the main character, who carries a heavy secret.

You made a French version of the film for the French market, as well as the French-speaking Belgian market, which is very rare. Was this both an artistic and professional challenge?
I grew up with the French language versions of films, although today I prefer watching films in their original language. Rocky, Rambo; these were films that people didn’t even try making me watch the original versions of! My aim is to speak to all members of the general public, especially those who go to a multiplex and choose what they’re going to watch there and then based on what’s on, based on the trailers they see playing on the screens. When we talk about the French-language version of the film, we talk about the market, which is still not a very natural thing in French-speaking Belgium, even though people are aware of it. Moreover, it’s not only up to the authorities to make this possible, it’s up to writers to say that it’s possible! 

What do you currently have in the pipeline?
Blind Spot will be released in France at some point, although the date has yet to be decided, and I’m keen to start shooting another film in Molenbeek, the neighbourhood I’m from. Meanwhile, I’ve written a film with Antoine Cuypers (Prejudice [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Antoine Cuypers
film profile
]
). In light of our respective backgrounds, people didn’t really expect us to join forces, but I like mixing different energies. I’ve set up a company with Benoît Roland, my producer for Wrong Men, 1080 Films, which should be producing the film, and with which we will also co-produce Patser, the next film by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Black [+see also:
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interview: Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fal…
interview: Martha Canga Antonio
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]
), which they will shoot in the spring. 

(Translated from French)

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