• Festivals

Historic Three Belgian Nominations for Cannes’ Palme d’Or 2022

The Cannes Film Festival has concluded its Official Selection ahead of next month’s 75th edition. Amongst the movies competing for the Palme d’Or are three Belgian productions: The Eight Mountains / Le Otto Montagne, by Charlotte Vandermeersch and Felix Van Groeningen (Beautiful BoyClose, by Lukas Dhont (GirlTori and Lokita, by the Dardenne brothers (Two Days, One Night).

Meanwhile, Rebel, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (Bad Boys for Life), has been added to the Midnight Screenings section. It’s the first time that four Belgian movies made it into the Official Selection in the same year, with three of them in competition.

“A historical record,” read the Belgian press release about the selection of The Eight Mountains. In a joint statement, Van Groeningen and his long-time collaborator and life partner, Charlotte Vandermeersch, seemed clearly elated with the news: “We are so happy that this is how we will be able to share our movie with the rest of the world. We are proud of our collaboration, our longtime partners Ruben Impens and Nico Leunen, our producer Hans Everaert and the entire Italian top team. It was a privilege to be able to tell this tender, human, epic story and to be able to work on such a big European project. We are humbled and honored.”

Vandermeersch, a well-known actress and writer, makes her directorial debut with the Italian-Belgian-French co-production. She previously served as a co-writer on the Oscar-nominated movie The Broken Circle Breakdown, directed by Van Groeningen.

Their film is based on the 2016 Italian novel “Le Otto Montagne”, by Paolo Cognetti, which has won numerous awards in Italy (2017, Premio Strega) and in France (2017, Prix Médicis étranger). It’s a coming-of-age drama about two young Italian boys, Pietro and Bruno, who spend their childhoods together in a secluded village in the Alps. The story is set over three decades and shows how the friends reconnect in the same place many years later. The Italian cast includes Luca Marinelli (Martin Eden) Alessandro Borghi (Devils), Filippo Timi (Vincere) and Elena Lietti (Anna).

Next on our list is Close, by Lukas Dhont. The director made a splash at Cannes in 2018 with his first feature-length directorial debut Girl, exhibited in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival. Among other awards, Dhont collected the coveted Caméra d’Or award for Best Feature Debut. This year, in Close, he tells the story of two 13-year-old boys, Leo and Remi, whose intense friendship is suddenly disrupted. Struggling to understand what had happened, Leo reaches out to Remi’s mother, Sophie, in this tale of adolescent reconciliation.

Dhont wrote the script with Girl co-screenwriter Angelo Tijssens. The leading roles are played by newcomers Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele, with established Belgian actors Emilie Dequenne and Léa Drucker rounding out the main cast. Kevin Janssens (The Ardennes) has a cameo in the film.

“Close premiering in the Official Competition of the Cannes Film Festival is an incredible crazy dream that has suddenly become a reality,” Dhont declared in an initial reaction shared by the magazine Flanders Image. “Something that 12-year-old Lukas, who received a small video camera for his birthday, never dreamed of. I am so proud of the whole team and cast with whom we made this film. With a warm and vulnerable heart, I look forward to sharing this film with the world, at one of the most important festivals in the world.”

“There are always a lot of big names competing in Cannes, people who have made tons of movies throughout the years. The fact that my second movie has been selected for the competition is something that really pleases me. It means that they think (my movie) is very special,” Dhont said to Flemish news outlet VRT NWS.

On April 14 Dhont revealed in an interview with Belgium’s Radio 1 that his new film is still a work in progress: “The movie has been selected based on a rough cut. Everything happened so last minute. We have worked tirelessly to be able to show our film. Now that we have been officially selected, we feel even more pressure to finish everything on time.” After its upcoming premiere at the prestigious French festival, Close will be released in selected theaters at the end of the year.

The immigration drama Tori and Lokita is the 12th feature directed by the twice-over Palm d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. It tells the story of two young exiles who, traveling alone from Africa, return to Belgium with the hope of building a new life. The Cannes veterans won the main award in 1999, with Rosetta, and in 2005, with L’Enfant. Pablo Schils (Tori) and Joely Mbundu (Lokita) appear in the leading roles. The Belgian-French co-production will be released in cinemas later this year.

Rebel, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, is scheduled to be shown in the Midnight Screening section of the international event. It tells the story of a 13-year-old Moroccan boy growing up in Molenbeek, a rough neighborhood in Brussels. As he searches for his core identity after the death of his father, his mother does everything to keep her little one away from his older brother Karim, a gangster and drug dealer.

The script was written by El Arbi, Bilall, Kevin Meul and Jan Van Dyck. The main cast consists of Aboubakr Bensaihi, Lubna Azabal, and Amir El Arbi.

Only 18 films are in contention for the Palme d’Or, the highest prize awarded at the film festival. With three nominations, Belgium’s small but tight-knit film industry will be monitoring anxiously this historical moment.

The 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival runs from Tuesday, May 17 to Saturday, May 28. Belgian actress Virginie Efira will be presenting the opening and closing ceremonies.