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Cinema of Belgium: Wikis


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The Cinema of Belgium can often be considered a blending of Dutch Cinema and French Cinema though with its own unique national qualities.




Early history

While the invention of the cinématographe by the French Lumière brothers is widely regarded as the birth of cinema, a number of developments in photography preceded the advent of film. Among the people pioneering work on animation devices was a Belgian professor of experimental physics Joseph Plateau. Plateau, who was active at the Ghent University invented an early stroboscopic device in 1836, the "phenakistiscope". It consisted of two disks, one with small equidistant radial windows, through which the viewer could look, and another containing a sequence of images. When the two disks rotated at the correct speed, the synchronization of the windows and the images created an animated effect. The projection of stroboscopic photographs, creating the illusion of motion, eventually led to the development of cinema.

The first public projection in Belgium took place on March 1, 1896 at the Kings Gallery in Brussels. In the following years there was a surge in activity, initially dominated by the French industrial Charles Pathé. One of his assistants, Alfred Machin founded the first production studio in 1910; some of his films are still preserved in the Royal Filmarchive in Brussels. The first Belgian movie producer was Hippolyte De Kempeneer, who produced several interesting films until his studio burned down in 1923.

1930 - 1980

The 1930s however saw the first serious attempt at cinema. Several prominent figures such as Charles Dekeukeleire and Henri Storck experimented with new filming techniques and founded the Belgian Documentary School, which was long regarded as one of the highlights of Belgian Cinema. With the advent of sound, directors such as Jan Vanderheyden fully explored the possibilities of the medium, adapting popular literary works such as De Witte of Ernest Claes. De Witte proved to be a pivotal work in the history of Belgian Cinema. The film was a tremendous popular success and would spawn a future remake and a TV series that was widely acclaimed in its own right.

While attempts to produce a serious feature length film were frequently met with difficulty, Belgian animated films slowly gained a reputation abroad, lead by animators such as Raoul Servais, who won several awards throughout the sixties in a career that culminated with a Golden Palm for best short feature in 1979 for Harpya.

From 1964 on, film could be subsidized by the government, making way for a new generation of filmmakers such as André Delvaux (De Man Die Zijn Haar Kort Liet Knippen, after Johan Daisne's book), Roland Verhavert (Pallieter) and Harry Kümel.

1980 - 2000

Benoît Poelvoorde, a Belgian actor and the star of Man Bites Dog

The 1980s however saw a break with the tradition of the 60s and 70s, which was increasingly perceived as too stagy or otherwise preoccupied with rural dramas, giving rise to more personal and gritty filmmaking, led by people such as Marc Didden (Brussels by Night) and Robbe De Hert (Blueberry Hill, Brylcream Boulevard). 1985 however saw the release of the ambitious but spectacular failure De Leeuw van Vlaanderen, written and directed by Hugo Claus, after Hendrik Conscience's novel. Belgian acclaim in animation continued with an academy award for best animated short in 1987 with A Greek Tragedy, by Nicole van Goethem.

Belgian cinema - especially from Wallonia - finally took flight during the 1990s, gaining international prominence with such films as Man Bites Dog (with Benoît Poelvoorde), Daens (directed by Stijn Coninx) and Rosetta (directed by the Dardenne brothers). In 2000, Dominique Deruddere's Everybody Famous! was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Like Rosetta, the Dardenne's 2005 film L'Enfant won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Other important Walloon directors include Fabrice du Welz, Lucas Belvaux, Bouli Lanners and Vincent Lannoo.


2003 saw the release of Erik Van Looy's stylish detective movie The Alzheimer Case (known internationally as The Memory of a Killer) to wide acclaim. In 2008, Van Looy's follow up thriller Loft opened to rave reviews in Belgium, and had twice as many opening weekend admissions as The Alzheimer Case. The film won several awards and has been in talks for a remake. BenX is also a Belgian success since its release in 2007, it won multiple awards all over the world and was even "pre" nominated for an oscar.

Classic literary works continue to be adapted, in particular the work of Willem Elsschot, and often in coproduction with Dutch film companies.

Belgium also annually hosts several film festivals, the most important among these the Flanders International Film Festival-Ghent.

Belgian films

Notable people


Actors and actresses

External links


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