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SERIES / REVIEWS Geneva 2023

Series review: The Club

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- Flemish filmmakers Leander Verdievel and Zita Theunynck take us to a fertility clinic, telling the stories of three couples who are battling to become parents

Series review: The Club
Evelien Bosmans, Jade Olieberg, Dominique van Malder, Janne Desmet, Roos Dickmann and Achraf Koutet in The Club

Selected in the International Competition dedicated to series in the Geneva International Film Festival (GIFF), The Club, by Belgian screenwriters Leander Verdievel and Zita Theunynck, helps us to understand just how complex having a child can sometimes be: an ordeal which no-one comes out of unscathed. In order to make their series which consists of six 35-minute episodes, Verdievel and Theunynck - who collaborated on the screenplay with Hilde Pallen, Astrid Keulen and Sara Theunynck – drew on their own personal experience, the battle they themselves had to fight in order to (finally) become parents. And even though, after no fewer than seventeen failed attempts at artificial insemination, the Belgian screenwriting couple managed to fulfil their dream through adoption, the repercussions of those long years of hormonal treatments and dashed hopes still burn away deep inside of them like glowing coals. But it’s this brazier which inspired their series, the endless hours they spent in the sterile waiting rooms of fertility clinics where silence and shame seem to reign supreme. Ultimately, Verdievel and Theunynck decided to break that silence and shake off that shame by depicting what they and others have had to go through to become (or not become) parents, using a refreshing and typically Belgian sense of humour.

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Three couples meet in the corridors of a fertility clinic: Charlie (Roos Dickmann) and Ziggy (Achraf Koutet) are young and didn’t think they wanted children, until Charlie was diagnosed with premature ovarian insufficiency; Ellen (Evelien Bosmans) and Two (Jade Olieberg) want a child, but when Ellen discovers she has endometriosis things get complicated since her partner is reluctant to make use of her uterus; and, last but not least, Kristie (Janne Desmet), and her partner Bert (Dominique van Malder) who’s despairing over his “lazy” sperm. On the surface, these couples don’t seem to have anything in common, other than the burning desire to have a child, which is synonymous with the idea of family and a guaranteed serene and satisfied life. Out of this unlikely encounter between these three very different couples comes a club which none of them would have ever chosen to belong to, but which helps them to overcome or at least cathartically share their anguish.

On the surface, having a child seems a pretty straightforward thing, sometimes too straightforward, but nothing is quite as it appears. In fact, the three couple depicted in The Club allow the two Belgian screenwriters to debunk this myth, revealing the stories of those who suffer in silence and who blame themselves for a situation which isn’t of their choosing. Whether it’s a case of early menopause, endometriosis or male infertility, The Club shines a light on those shadier zones populated by human beings who are tormented by secrets which surpass them.

Steeped in a refreshing sense of humour, The Club is a wholly original series, both tragic and funny, moving and hyper-realist. Concepts of masculinity and femininity, motherhood and fatherhood, are deconstructed, reminding us that the obsession with having a baby doesn’t distinguish between genders. The Club take a courageous approach to tackling a little-explored subject in film or in TV series, a delicate subject which becomes a shared moment of catharsis thanks to its distinctly Belgian lighter moments.

The series is produced by VRT and deMensen, with world sales entrusted to Newen Connect, and is set to be broadcast on VRT 1 and Amazon Prime.

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(Translated from Italian)

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