The Best of Recent Belgian Cinema, April 20th to July 20th


Over the past two decades, Belgian cinema, whether from Flanders or from the Walloon (French speaking part of the country), has gained prominence in the international filmmaking arena. It’s richly diverse films consistently garner critical praise and worldwide anticipation. From the unsettling, urgently relevant “Man Bites Dog” (which rocked the Cannes Film Festival in 1992) and the quirky and vibrant tale of identity mix-up in “Toto The Hero”, to the monumental saga of “Daens”, or the Oscar nominated “Everybody Famous”, the outstanding thrillers “Memory Of A Killer” and Dossier K”, and the string of critically-lauded dramatic works by the brilliant filial duo Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (“Rosetta”, “The Son”, “The Child”, “Lorna’s Silence”), to the gripping social drama “Illegal” and this year’s impressive crime drama “Bullhead”,  the Belgian film industry has proven its dexterity in tone and its originality in aesthetic.

My favorites of the recent crop of Belgian films (besides the Dardennes’ hybrid reworking of neo-realism) are the wonderfully cuckoo, lowest of fi stop-motion animation “A Town Called Panic”, “Panique au village” a surreal marvel that grew out of the Belgian hit TV show, written voiced and directed by the inspired Belgian team Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar, and Christophe Van Rompaey’s arthouse fave, the quirky humanist romance “Moscow, Belgium.” All of this has wetted the international appetite for Belgium’s diverse filmmaking.

Last year, the Consulate General of Belgium in Los Angeles, launched a monthly Belgian Film Series in partnership with the American Cinemathèque as a celebration of Belgium’s Presidency of the European Union in the second half on 2010. Thanks to the great success of the series, ‘Grit and Whimsy’ returns on a permanent basis starting April 2011. Each third Wednesday of the month is Belgian movie night at the American Cinemathèque in Santa Monica!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 – 7:30 PM
Turquaze, (2010, Menuet, 100 min.)
Dir. Kadir Balci. Having buried their father in Istanbul, Timur (28) and his two brothers, Ediz (36) and Bora (16), return to Ghent. Their mother remains in Istanbul. The three brothers resume their lives but need to find a new balance. While Ediz plays the dominant father and Bora does silly things with the wrong friends, Timur tries to fulfil his father’s dream: playing the trumpet in a brass band. Sarah, Timur’s girlfriend, thinks it’s cool, until she realises how little he seems to notice her now…Turquaze presents a disarmingly honest chronicle of a Turkish family’s life in Ghent … Turkish for beginners! In Dutch and Turkish with English subtitles. Discussion with director Kadir Balci and Belgian beer reception to follow!

Aero Theatre, 1328 Montana Avenue (at 14th Street) Santa Monica, CA 90403. Free parking is available after 7PM in the neighborhood north of Montana Ave. More info and tickets on
This event is free to current American Cinematheque Members, with regular ticket pricing for non-Members.

Wednesday, May 18 – 7:30 PM – Aero Theatre
VIVA RIVA!, In this sharply executed action-drama, machine operator Riva and his sidekick discover a lucrative cache – barrels of fuel, which can be re-sold for a massive profit – while going about their daily lives. Needless to say, an entire web of underworld thugs and crime bosses are also (literally) gunning for the barrels. Set in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, VIVA RIVA! exposes a hypnotically intriguing world we rarely see – ruthless, brutal and anarchic, with desperation and decadence in close quarters. In French and Lingala with English subtitles.

2010, Music Box Films, 96 min. Dir. Djo Munga. Discussion following with director Djo Munga (TBC).

Wednesday, June 15 – 7:30 PM – Aero Theatre
MADLY IN LOVE (SMOORVERLIEFD), Sort of a tonal first cousin to Nancy Meyers, director Hilde Van Mieghem paints a hectic if delightful roller coaster portrait of a family of women dealing with love at many points on its spectrum: first crushes, lust, affairs, baby fever, and indestructible love. Official selection at the Palm Springs International Film Festival 2011. In Dutch with English subtitles.
2010, Kinepolis Film Distribution, 90 min. Dir. Hilde Van Mieghem.

Wednesday, July 20 – 7:30 PM – Aero Theatre
MARIEKE, MARIEKE, Young Marieke works at a Brussels chocolate factory during the day, and at night half-heartedly entertains relationships with a number of older suitors. When Jacoby, a book editor searching for Marieke’s late father’s unfinished manuscript, arrives on the scene, Marieke’s world is turned upside down. Does she love Jacoby? Will her relationship with Jacoby push her emotionally distant mother even farther away from her? In French with English subtitles.
2010, Sophimages, 85 min. Dir. Sophie Schoukens.

This program is presented by the Consulate General of Belgium in Los Angeles, in cooperation with Flanders Image and Wallonie Bruxelles Images, and with the support of ELMA (European Languages and Movies in America).

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About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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