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SUNDANCE 2016 Belgium

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Belgica: Freedom, excess and brotherhood

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- Felix Van Groeningen lives for the night, a world of dreams and debauchery, energised by the original, rich, intense and bountiful score by Soulwax

Belgica: Freedom, excess and brotherhood
Tom Vermeir in Belgica

Frank and Jo have lost touch with one another over the years. Despite their fraternal bond, life has drawn them apart. Frank, whether he likes it or not, has become a family man, and Jo has just taken on a somewhat shabby cafe. Indeed, it’s behind the bar that Frank and Jo meet again. Jo has big ambitions for his bar, which sits well with Frank’s delusions of grandeur. After winning over a partygoing clientele with impromptu show cases and wild DJ sets, they decide to make the bar bigger and open a concert space worthy of its name in the adjoining closed down building. Both of them throw their bodies, souls and wallets into the project, to make the Belgica the place of debauchery of their dreams, mixing a lot of music, huge quantities of alcohol, quite a bit of drugs and while they’re at it, other carnal pleasures: sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, a tried and tested formula that Frank and Jo hope to make a reality. Clearly, the outrageousness of the bar and their ambitions quickly lead to the bond between the two brothers breaking down. Whilst Jo sees his dream of starting a family slip further away, Frank risks seeing his torn apart. They must face their differences and inner (and outer) demons if they are to resolve their conflicts.

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Following on from The Broken Circle Breakdown [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Felix van Groeningen
interview: Felix Van Groeningen
interview: Felix Van Groeningen
festival scope
film profile
]
and its bluegrass soundtrack, which worked at least as well as the film, music is once again at the heart of Felix Van Groeningen’s new project, Belgica [+see also:
trailer
film focus
interview: Artemio Benki, Sylvie Leray
interview: Felix Van Groeningen
film profile
]
. This is confirmed by the credits, as the third name that appears, after those of the two main protagonists of the film, Tom Vermeir and Stef Aerts, is that of the group Soulwax, who are behind all or nearly all of the film’s music, whether it’s the extra-diegetic music that accompanies the narrative, or the intra-diegetic music that gives the Belgica its raison d’être. Their music is a key element of Van Groeningen’s project, to such an extent that it takes on an almost organic form in the film, offering a parallel narrative. It’s at the heart of the scrap of valour in the film, a sped-up scene of just a few minutes that shows the two brother’s place of debauchery rise in popularity, in time with the rhythm of the groups that appear on stage or at the turn tables of the Belgica.

Belgica is in some ways a film that sums up the world by night, an ode to this power the night has to draw us out of our social environment (sometimes just to throw us back into it) and our everyday lives, into a kingdom where anything is possible and where anyone can instantaneously become someone else. Belgica portrays the night as a world of freedom and debauchery, where people lose themselves in the hope of finding themselves, a place where ideals are smashed. The night, where the trajectories of two brothers meet before quickly diverging. 

For Belgica, Felix Van Groeningen pulled a team of loyal associates around him: Arne Sierens, with whom he co-wrote his second film, With Friends Like These [+see also:
trailer
interview: Felix van Groeningen
film profile
]
; Ruben Impens on photography, who has worked with the director on all his projects, just like editor Nico Leunen; and of course, the producer Dirk Impens (Menuet), who has also been with Groeningen since the beginning. 

Belgica was co-produced by Pyramide Productions and Topkapi Films, and received the support of the VAF, Screen Flanders, the Nederlands Filmfonds, Eurimages, and the CNC’s aid for world cinema. Selected for Sundance, it will be released on 2 March in France and Belgium.

(Translated from French)

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