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Boost the popularity of Belgian auteur films

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Bouli Lanners • Director

by 

- Bouli Lanners • Director of Eldorado

Bouli Lanners • Director

Three years after Ultranova [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Bouli Lanners
film profile
]
, his debut film which was lauded at Berlin, Bouli Lanners returns with Eldorado [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which will screen in the Directors’ Fortnight. The result of a successful collaboration with Liège-based production company Versus Production, Eldorado is a pastoral and melancholy road movie set in French-speaking Belgium. The film will be released domestically on June 4 and is set to hit French screens on June 18.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

The film draws a narrative parallel between sadness and silliness, which generates humour. Humour therefore leads to the exploration of a certain melancholy…
Melancholy for melancholy’s sake quickly becomes boring. In Ultranova, I didn’t dare to be funny, something was holding me back. Eldorado is more quirky and explores a range of different emotions. The awkwardness of the characters and their comical nature make them seem more human, triggering both laughter and tears among the audience. This humanity renders the film more accessible.

It was of vital importance to get the right cast. I met Fabrice Adde during the first auditions in Belgium. I was immediately touched by his acting style and his beanpole appearance. We did a few auditions with French actors, as we planned to have a well-known name in the cast, but Fabrice’s face kept coming back to me. Our Laurel and Hardy-like duo interested me, for it had definite comic potential. It was a question of striking the right balance so as to avoid crude parody, whilst still infusing a sense of humour.

Music is omnipresent in the film, as if it were in dialogue with the characters. The same could be said for the voice of the landscapes, which are also at the centre of the film.
The music was there right from the start of the writing phase. Before we began shooting, I compiled a CD that I handed out to everyone, so they could get a feel for the colour and atmosphere of the film. Then I met Renaud Mayeur, and I was immediately won over by his guitar playing, which chimed perfectly with the story I wanted to tell. I believe that the soundtrack is part of the narrative and is thus inseparable from the film as a whole, much like the setting.

When I start writing a film, I take to the road, I discover different locations. Before the narrative structure emerges, I’m guided by places, sounds and emotions. Then the narrative imposes itself. I also wanted to explore the aesthetic aspect of the road-movie genre, and offer a different image of Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium), snapshots that are the opposite of the rather dreary image that some people have of the region.

On the other hand, the car is a sort of artificial cocoon in which the characters come into close contact with each other. It acts as a catalyst in the relationship between Yvan and Elie. Trapped inside the car, they are forced to listen to one another and communicate. We were originally supposed to shoot the film in a Cadillac Eldorado (whence the title), as it fitted the mood of the film.

The film marks your return to the Directors’ Fortnight after participating in the interim at the Berlinale. (Muno, Lanners’ second short, screened in the Directors’ Fortnight in 2001, and Ultranova was presented at Berlin in 2005)
With a bit more pressure on me this time! Cannes is like a scanner and you expose yourself to its gaze. But it’s a pleasing sign of recognition, and the fact that the film is screening out of competition means there are no mixed feelings and we still benefit from the publicity that will boost the film’s prospects, and may even bring success internationally. It’s important for this type of film, which doesn’t receive a great deal of advance promotion.

Do you think the film will be a success among Belgian audiences?
That would bring greater visibility. We have to battle against the stereotyped impressions that audiences may have about Belgian films. They’re not all grey and gloomy. I would like to be able to boost the popularity of Belgian auteur films, and there should be a serious debate about the distribution of these films. Some Flemish films enjoy considerable success among audiences: these films feature BVs (Bekende Vlamingen i.e. “well-known Flemish names”). In Wallonia, we have a lack of WCs, i.e. Wallons Connus, Well-known Walloons…

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