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Film Industry of Belgium


Cinema of Belgium refers to the Film Industry based in Belgium. Belgium is essentially a bi-lingual country divided into the Flemish (Dutch-speaking) north and the French-speaking south. There is also a small community of German speakers in the border region with Germany. Belgium is further a federal country made up of Three Regions (the Flemish Region, the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region) and three language communities : the Flemish Community (Dutch-speaking), the French Community  (i.e., French-speaking ) and the German-speaking Community. Due to these linguistic and political divisions it is difficult to speak of a National, Unified Cinema of Belgium. It would be more appropriate to talk about Flemish or Dutch-Language Cinema of Belgium and Walloon or French-Language Cinema of Belgium

Cinema of Belgium has a rich and diverse history that spans over a century, contributing significantly to the country's cultural landscape. The Belgian Film Industry has evolved and thrived producing a variety of Filmsthat reflect the nation's linguistic and cultural diversity.

The beginnings of Belgian Cinema can be traced back to the late 19th century when the Lumière brothers' invention of the Cinématographe sparked a global fascination with Moving Images. Belgium quickly embraced this new form of Entertainment and by the early 20th century, Cinema Houses began to emerge in cities like Brussels, Antwerp and Ghent. The Silent Film Era saw the rise of pioneering Belgian Filmmakers such as Alfred Machin whose works explored the nation's natural beauty and cultural traditions.


History of Belgian Cinema


While the invention of the Cinématographe by the 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

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, led 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.

The advent of sound in the 1930s brought a new dimension to Belgian Cinema, allowing Filmmakers to explore Narrative Storytelling and Engage Audiences with dialogue and music. During this period, Belgian Cinema flourished with notable films like "Martha" (1935) by Karl Anton which achieved International Acclaim.

However, the Belgian Film industry faced challenges during World War II, with German occupation impacting Film production. The post-war period witnessed a resurgence marked by the Emergence of Directors like André Delvaux who gained recognition for his poetic and Introspective Films.

The 1960s and 1970s were characterized by the Belgian New Wave a movement that sought to break away from Conventional Filmmaking. Directors such as Chantal Akerman and the Dardenne brothers (Jean-Pierre and Luc) rose to prominence during this period, contributing to the International reputation of Belgian Cinema. Belgium's unique linguistic divide between the Dutch-speaking Flanders and the French-speaking Wallonia has influenced the Cinema Landscape

Thanks to the government support from the mid 60s, a new generation of directors like André Delvaux and Harry Kümel began to build a promising career. The characteristics of that Cinema and its Directors were rural stories and its daily dramas, alongside with the industrial progress. Among the most prominent are Jaco Van Dormael’s Toto the Hero, winner at Cannes and the Cesar Awards, and the Dardenne Brothers’ Rosetta, which was also awarded with a Gold Palm at Cannes. Everybody Famous! by the Dardenne Brothers was nominated in the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film in 2000.

Language Diversity:

Belgium has three official languages: Dutch, French, and German. As a result, the country produces Films in multiple languages. The majority of Films are made in either Dutch or French.


Film Funding and Support:


The Film Industry in Belgium receives support from various public and private sources. The Flemish Audiovisual Fund (VAF) supports Dutch-Language Films, while the Wallonia-Brussels Federation supports French-language Films. These organizations provide funding for Script Development, Production, and Distribution.

Film Festivals:

Belgium hosts several Movie Festivals that contribute to the promotion and recognition of its Films. The Brussels International Film Festival and the Ghent International Film Festival are among the prominent events that showcase both Belgian and International Cinema.


Notable Belgian Filmmakers:


Belgium has produced several Internationally Acclaimed Filmmakers. The Dardenne Brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are perhaps the most well-known Belgian Film Directors. Their films, such as "Rosetta" and "The Child," have won prestigious awards, including the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.


Cinematic Achievements:


Belgian Films have gained recognition at various International Film Festivals and awards. The country has submitted Films for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film category at the Academy Awards.


Cultural Identity in Films:


Belgian Movies often explore themes related to the country's Cultural and Linguistic Diversity as well as its historical and social issues. The Films may reflect the unique challenges and dynamics that arise from the coexistence of different linguistic communities.


Collaborations with International Productions:


Belgium occasionally collaborates with International Film Productions. The country's picturesque locations and skilled Film Crews make it an attractive destination for Filmmakers from around the world.


Film Education and Training:


Belgium has institutions offering Film education and training, contributing to the development of skilled professionals in the industry.

In recent years, Belgian Cinema has continued to evolve with a focus on producing Films that tackle contemporary issues, experiment with various genres, and showcase the talents of a new generation of Filmmakers. The industry benefits from government support and collaborations with International Co-Productions, contributing to the success of Belgian Films on the global stage.

Overall, Cinema in Belgium is a dynamic and integral part of the country's cultural heritage. It has traversed various historical and artistic movements, contributing unique perspectives to the Global Cinematic Landscapewhile reflecting the linguistic and cultural diversity that defines Belgium.

Belgium has a vibrant and diverse Film Industry, although it may not be as widely recognized on the global stage as some other European Film Industries. The industry is characterized by a mix of French, Dutch and German-language films, reflecting the linguistic and cultural diversity of the country.




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