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Jean-Michel Vlaeminckx • Journalist

In favor of Belgian cinema


For the 100th issue of online magazine, Cineuropa meets our Belgian counterpart with whom we collaborate on a regular basis. With Jean Michel Vlaeminckx, we are having a closer look at the origins of the website, its ambitions and what makes it so specific.

Cineuropa: Why did Cinergie, a paper magazine, become an online magazine?
Jean-Michel Vlaeminckx: At that time, we were receiving a grant which was first half decreased before being totally reduced. We then passed under the supervision of the Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Communauté Wallonie-Bruxelles. At the beginning, we did not really understand the medium and we were the first ones in Belgium to use the Internet to speak about Belgian cinema. Everybody thought we were crazy! (Laughs). But we learnt on the job. It is a very interesting medium, extremely flexible, that enables a lot of variations in the use of audiovisual. We discovered with the streamings the possibility of a specific audiovisual broadcasting. If you consider the current evolution, paper gradually becomes the supplement of the website, not the other way round.

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How did you approach this medium?
Knowing nothing about the Internet was an advantage, because we wanted to do an online magazine with a real content, not a kind of newsletter in the American style. We did not want the message to become the medium. We were against the formatting that the Internet technology kind of required. The Internet is not just a plain dictionary or a phone directory. It is a living and interactive medium. thus gradually found its place in the midst of a soft anarchy. It became our main strength, for I think that we are much more creative this way – plus the lack of money… It forced us to look for original solutions to face problems. The reason why we are now publishing streamings online is that we were also thinking of putting trailers online. But, as all cinema websites already do that, it would not have attracted net surfers. We have to be complementary; we cannot really afford to compete. But, if we present the portrait and words of a filmmaker, we then have a chance to attract someone who saw extracts of his film. Considering that copyrights are changing a lot because of the Internet, I hope that we'll soon be able to make one of our dreams come true: publishing shorts on Cinergie, like you publish a book. What a great exposure for a director looking for funding to make his next film, to be able to say "what I already did is online etc…"! In a way, we are like Belgian cinema: a maximum of ideas with a minimum of money. Belgium is a peculiar place, as television, which is still investing very little in cinema, cannot impose its rules.

Is that a way to explain the creativity of Belgian cinema?
It seems to me that the creative wave here is huge but on a small scale, compared to world cinema. I would like us to follow the Asiatic wave where there is a real creativity in cinema, that we only had in European history at the time of modernity. You know, when incredible films like L'Avventura, La Dolce vita, Breathless, Monika appeared and changed the cinema landscape… Those actors were popular and had a real audience, and they revolutionized cinema. But, because of audiovisual formatting, and the fact that the rotation of films in theatres is quicker and quicker (mega profits need to be made in a very short lapse of time) and television has become the forced partner of cinema, imposing its consensual norms, European cinema has lost some of its vitality. Apart from people like Moretti, Kaurismaki, Aménabar. I think the reason why Asiatic cinema is so creative nowadays lies in the fact that television plays absolutely no part as a co-producer. But, you are here to change things! (Laughs)

Is it why it is so important for you, at Cinergie, to target a young audience and make them interested, through "young critics" contests and DVDs?
I had a shock when I first saw Citizen Kane, at the age of 16, realizing that there was more to cinema than the westerns and family musicals I was going to see on Sunday with Mummy and Daddy, which I found very boring. And I realized, when I met the first interns at Cinergie, that they did not know about Citizen Kane. The films that they were passionate about were American blockbusters such as Matrix, or the most witty of them were telling me about Plato. There was a huge gap! Why did I get the chance to discover such an incredible cinema while young people nowadays do not have access to it anymore? Most young people are amazed to discover that there is more to Hollywood cinema. They are not even aware of it. In Belgium, for instance, there is a real problem of cultural transmission that the public institutions are aware of, both at the level of education and that of television.

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