Country Focus – Luxembourg: Big in Film
by Boyd van Hoeij
- Since Malta joined in 2004, Luxembourg is no longer the EU’s smallest country. But small countries can be big in some fields which, for Luxembourg, include not only finance and steel but also cinema
Since Malta joined in 2004, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is no longer the European Union’s smallest country. But small countries can be big in some fields which, for Luxembourg, include not only finance and steel but also cinema. And unlike Malta, the multilingual Grand Duchy clearly specializes in European co-productions.
Two of the biggest French hits of early 2013, the spy thriller Möbius [+see also:
film profile] with Jean Dujardin (more than a million admissions) and the children’s film Boule & Bill [+see also:
film profile] with Franck Dubosc (more than two million tickets sold), were in fact co-produced by and partially shot in the Grand Dukedom, where German and French as well as Luxembourgish are official languages and virtually everyone in the industry also speaks English.
And it’s not only the audiences that like Luxembourg co-productions. At the Festival de Cannes alone, three features with Luxembourg input were selected last year: Our Children [+see also:
interview: Joachim Lafosse
film profile] by Joachim Lafosse (Un certain regard) and Sandrine Bonnaire’s Maddened by His Absence [+see also:
film profile] (Critics’ Week) and animated feature Ernest & Célestine [+see also:
interview: Benjamin Renner, Vincent Pa…
film profile] from directors Stéphane Aubier, Vincent Patar and Benjamin Renner (Directors’ Fortnight). This year, another two Luxembourg co-productions made the cut, both in the Quinzaine: The Congress [+see also:
film profile] by Ari Folman, also animated, as well as the Isabelle Huppert-starrer Tip Top [+see also:
interview: Serge Bozon
film profile], from Serge Bozon.
The Luxembourg input on these productions shouldn’t be underestimated: Iris Productions has a 39% stake in Bozon’s film, which was mostly shot in the Grand Duchy. And Ernest, The Congress and two upcoming films that will premiere at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival attest to the high quality of Luxembourg animation.
Though co-productions remain undeniably the core business of the Luxembourg film industry, as the film-going audience in a country of just over half a million inhabitants is quite small, this doesn’t mean that local films are ignored. Indeed, young filmmaking talents have profited from the experiences that local crews and producers have accumulated on past international co-productions, such as The Girl with the Pearl Earring, The Merchant of Venice and JCVD, and this has fed into their own short films and documentaries before making the jump to longer fiction work.
The first fiction feature of Luxembourg director Christophe Wagner, for example, the Luxembourgish-language noir Doudege wénkel [+see also:
interview: Christophe Wagner
film profile] (Blind Spot), was a huge hit in 2012, becoming the 12th most-watched film of the year, before such titles as The Amazing Spider-Man, Brave and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The film follows a hot-headed police officer with a secret (Luxembourg actor and former Berlin Shooting Star Jules Werner) who tries to uncover the truth behind the murder of his brother, also a policeman. Wagner has already started writing his follow-up, Bernardo.
Other talents are waiting in the wings, such as director Jacques Molitor, who made a provocative feature documentary about sex in the Grand Duchy, Sweetheart Come, which was released earlier this year. Molitor is currently working on his first fiction feature, Mammejong, which will be produced by young, extremely active producer Bernard Michaux for Lucil Film.
Established talents also continue to make films, such as director Pol Cruchten, whose Hochzaeitsnuecht (Wedding Night - End of Song) screened in Cannes in the Un certain regard section in 1992. His new film, a contemporary, French-language adaptation of Schiller’s Sturm-und-Drang play The Robbers, is currently in post-production and stars Eric Carava and Robinson Stevenin as the Moor brothers as well as Maximillian Schell as their father and Isild Le Besco as Amalia. Les Brigands a majority Luxembourg feature, co-produced with partners from Belgium and Germany.
Cruchten’s auteur documentary Never Die Young, an essay film about the eventful life of a Luxembourg drug addict, premiered at the extremely popular Discovery Zone Luxembourg City Film Festival in March. Its French-language voice-over is currently being rewritten by playwright-screenwriter Christopher Hampton for an English version and a German-language edition is also in the works. Cruchten’s production company, Red Lion, also provided this year’s Luxembourg Producer on the Move, Gilles Chanial, who worked on both Les Brigands and Never Die Young.
Both local projects and international co-productions with countries such as the UK (Hysteria with Maggie Gyllenhaal), the Netherlands (the Oscar-nominated Twin Sisters), Ireland (The Runway) and regular co-production partners such as Belgium, Switzerland and France keep the Luxembourg production companies and crews so busy that a new studio complex, called Filmland, opened its doors in March to better accommodate all the requests for facilities.
The new complex in Kehlen, just northwest of the capital, comprises four studios, including two of 1000m2 each, two workshops of 400m2 each and a total of 500m2 of production offices. Two studios are equipped with water tanks and post-production and special effects companies are available on-site as well. A total of seven Luxembourg companies have set up shot in Filmland.
The country’s film financing system, coordinated by Film Fund Luxembourg, has also recently been simplified, with almost €11m being granted in the most recent financing round. With local talent, new facilities and a solid financing system in place, the film industry in the Grand Duchy looks set for a bright future. And action!
The Samsa producer switches between producing Luxembourg films such as 2011’s Hot Hot Hot and last year’s box-office success Doudege wénkel, and co-producing European fare such as 2012 Venice Horizons winner Tango Libre. He’s currently in production on French director Vincent Garenq’s upcoming La Justice ou le chaos, with Gilles Lellouche and Charles Berling.
Hot off the success of 2010 Irish-Luxembourg co-production The Runway, 2012 box-office hit D’Schatzritter, a local children’s adventure, and the Luxembourg TV sitcom Comeback, Michaux is currently in preproduction on the feature fiction debut of promising local director Jacques Molitor.
Since co-producing 2010 Directors’ Fortnight title Illegal, the head of Iris Productions has produced features such as Sandrine Bonnaire’s Maddened by His Absence (Critics’ Week 2012), this year’s Fortnight title Tip Top by Serge Bozon and Catherine Breillat’s upcoming Abus de Faiblesse.
Eche runs Bidibul Productions with Christel Henon and they have produced some of the bigger Luxembourg co-productions of recent years, including French children’s hit Boule & Bill and Nicolas Bary’s upcoming The Scapegoat, starring Bérénice Bejo and Emir Kusturica.
In Cannes as a Producer on the Move in 2011, David Grumbach returns this year as a producer on Directors’ Fortnight opening film The Congress from Ari Folman.
FACTS AND FIGURES
Official name: Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg (the only remaining Grand Duchy in the world)
Population: 525,000 (2013 estimate)
Surface: 2,586 square kilometres
Location: Belgium to the West, Germany to the East and France to the South
Capital: Luxembourg City (population 100,000)
Languages: Luxembourgish, French, German (official languages); English (widely spoken); Portuguese, Italian (immigrant languages)
Transport: Luxembourg Airport (15 minutes from Luxembourg City); high-speed train connection to Paris (2 hours); distances by car from Luxembourg City to Brussels, Belgium (220 km); Cologne, Germany (220 km); Metz, France (60 km)
Cinemas: Two multiplexes in Luxembourg City (one mainstream, one arthouse-oriented); one multiplex in Esch-sur-Alzette (mainstream); a municipal cinémathèque in Luxembourg City with an extensive archive, two screens in the Centre National de l’Audiovisuel in Dudelange, and nine single-screen provincial theatres.
Average ticket price: €8.50
2012’S LOCAL HITS
The Luxembourgish-language policier noir Doudege wénkel (Blind Spot), directed by Christopher Wagner, was seen by more than 20,000 people in 2012 and came in 12th in the top 20 of most-visited films in 2012 overall. It has also become the 5th most-visited Luxembourg films of all time and has been screened in over a dozen festivals.
The children’s adventure D’Schatzritter (The Treasure Knights and the Secret of Melusina) directed by Laura Schroeder and also in Luxembourgish, was seen by over 11,000 people in 2012 and came in 24th in the 2012 top 20. It was released in Germany in a dubbed version.
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