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BRIFF 2018

Review: Witz

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- Two heroes brought to life through laughter and tears star in Martine Doyen’s paradoxical comedy about losing one’s sense of humour

Review: Witz
Sam Louwyck and Sandrine Blancke in Witz

Belgian director Martine Doyen’s second feature film, Witz [+see also:
trailer
interview: Martine Doyen
film profile
]
, which stars Sandrine Blancke and Sam Louwyck in search of their lost sense of humour, has been selected in the National Competition at Brussels International Film Festival.

After making a series of short films that were well-received, Martine Doyen was selected at the 2006 Critics' Week with her first feature film, Komma [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, which starred singer-cum-actor Arno as a man who wakes up one day lying in a morgue, without knowing how he got there. She then created a trio of experimental films, the most recent of which, Hamsters [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, was released last year in Belgium, before directing her second feature film, which was screened yesterday at BRIFF.

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Witz tells the story of Stella's distress, an actress in need of work, who, following concussion, loses her ability to control her mood, and in particular, the one thing that gives her humanity and personality: her sense of humour. Helpless, she is advised by a medical professional to get in touch with another patient who suffers from the same symptoms. She soon meets Frank, who is (literally) on the brink, and the impossible happens: she manages to make him laugh. Frank, ever-grateful, decides to accompany Stella on her mission to regain control of her emotions, leading to an improbable on-the-road movie in the heart of a forest, where they are welcomed by devotees of a somewhat niche discipline: laughter yoga. 

In Witz, Martine Doyen tells the story of the inevitable meeting of two lost souls who only have each other. They will save themselves, both symbolically and literally, by embarking on a mission to find the one thing that constitutes their most intimate personality: humour. The director takes an off-the-wall look at an anxiety-provoking society, where emotions constitute a massive hurdle to overcome. Stella no longer laughs, but she also no longer cries. More than to love or laugh, she must learn how to feel again.

Sandrine Blancke plays Stella, little Alice in Toto the Hero, a beautiful first role for this reserved yet committed actress, whom we saw recently in Soeur Sourire [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, but also in numerous short films, such as Sparte, Les Petites Mains and Le Scénariste. Starring alongside her is Sam Louwyck (recently seen in Baden Baden, Racer and the Jailbird [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Michael Roskam
film profile
]
and Cargo [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Gilles Coulier
film profile
]
), who lends his chiselled and somewhat ‘lunar’ physique to the role of Frank. Starring in the film as ‘laughter gurus’ are the incredible actors and filmmakers Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon (Lost in Paris [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon
film profile
]
), who suit these tailor-made roles perfectly.

Martine Doyen will be working alongside Anthony Rey, founder and producer of Hélicotronc (Northern Wind [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Walid Mattar
film profile
]
, Sonar [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jean-Philippe Martin
film profile
]
, As I Open My Eyes [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Leyla Bouzid
film profile
]
) for the first time on her second feature film, which has been financed entirely in Belgium.

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