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FESTIVALS Belgium

Esther Forever wins Henri Storck Prize

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The fifth edition of the Belgian Documentary Film Panorama (December 1-12), the biennial event organised by the Henri Storck Fund, screened around 30 documentaries made over the past two years.

These include Alain Platel’s Les Ballets de ci et de là (“Ballets From Here and There”); Bernard Bellefroid’s Rwanda, les collines parlent (“Rwanda, The Hills Speak”); Boris Lehman’s Tentatives de se décrire (“Attempts to Define Oneself”); and Dan Alexe’s Cabale à Kaboul (“Conspiracy In Kabul”). Not only have these titles done the rounds of international festivals, in many cases they enjoyed box office success as well.

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Thirteen of the documentaries were selected and then judged by an international jury presided by French journalist, writer and editor Laure Adler.

Presented yesterday at the Cinémathèque, the Henri Storck Prize was awarded to Richard Olivier’s remarkable yet disturbing film, Esther Forever, a documentary that follows two 70 year-old sisters over a six year period, tracing their memories and individual stories. By exploring Esther’s personal obsession, as she stuffs all the animals she has loved and lost, Olivier captures the solitude of a woman faced with the gradual erosion of her world and through her story evokes a forgotten era, the Belgium of the Second World War and the years that followed.

The Belgian Documentary Prize awarded by the French Community of Belgium went to Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s feature-length film Le cercle des noyés (“Drowned in Oblivion”), selected at the most recent Berlinale Forum (see news). The grave and subtle black and white documentary records the first-hand account of one of the “drowned ones”, the term used to designate the black political prisoners in Mauritania, imprisoned from 1987 onwards in the old colonial fort of Oualata.

Finally, the Vlaamse Gemeenschap Belgian Documentary Prize went to Sarah Vanagt’s First Elections, which follows a group of children and through them looks at the first democratic election in the Democratic Republic of Congo since Independence.

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(Translated from French)

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