Cinephile collective Sabzian selects 10 of its favourite Belgian movies

A collective consisting of filmmakers, students, cinephiles, authors, curators, lecturers, journalists, film critics and researchers, Sabzian captures collections of online reflections on cinema and maps cinephile events in Belgium and surroundings. With a stated aim of propagating a broad cinephile culture, we tasked the collective with selecting 10 of its favourite Belgian movies for us. Sit tight, this one pretty much reads like an essential history lesson in Belgian cinematic talent, complete with quotes from the selected filmmakers themselves.

Combat de boxe (Charles Dekeukeleire, 1927)

“If the senses exert an influence on our spiritual life, the cinema becomes a powerful ferment of spirituality by augmenting the number and quality of our sense perceptions.” – Charles Dekeukeleire

Histoire du soldat inconnu (Henri Storck, 1932)

“The symbol of the anonymous citizen was indeed the poor Unknown Soldier from the lower classes who had spilled his blood defending his country. Now was the time of the arms dealers, thanks to the policy of the great nations. But the poor Unknown Soldier, cut down like an animal, continued to be venerated, buried with great pomp and ceremony…” – Henri Storck

L’imitation du cinéma (Marcel Mariën, 1960)

“However one tries to resist them, the images of the cinema, studded with words and sounds, interlace themselves insidiously with the images that people our minds, that govern our lives, that are our lives. These images reveal themselves thus as the most efficacious of all the relays given to our senses and to our sentiments. Their powerful organisation in the cinema composes a sort of satellite of our existence, a strange mirror where the shadow of who we are is written, grows, and stays, curiously stagnant. It is important to try to make new reflections in this film mirror other than those of the execrable Narcissus. We need new reflections which, far from reproducing our appearance, would seek instead to trouble the pool’s surface and to transfigure their model, which is ourselves.” – Marcel Mariën

Dimanche (Edmond Bernhard, 1963)

Dimanche was supposed to be a didactic film, intended to evoke the problem of leisure. Bernhard diverts the order and outwits the trap of the ‘thematic’ film. Without resorting to any form of commentary, making use of extraordinary images sublimating common spaces (the boredom of Sundays, the changing of the guard, children playing, a runner in the woods, a football match, etc), he constructs with a nifty montage an exceptional work dealing with the sense of void and the fossilisation of the world.” – Boris Lehman

Plus d’honneur, que d’honneurs (Jef Cornelis, 1965)

“The camera work, the so-called ‘caméra-stylo’, where the director can express his thoughts in a similar way like writing a novel. I look for the way something is constructed, just as Astruc did. I look for rhythms. I look for rhythms.” – Jef Cornelis

Al dhakira al khasba [Fertile Memory] (Michel Khleifi, 1980)

Fertile Memory was for me the vision of the present towards the past for a better future. I tried to push the real scenes from daily life towards fictionality by exploring the two women’s external and internal worlds. I had to suppress the boundaries between reality and fiction, document and narration. Is not Palestine the essence of the mythical country, in spite of its reality?!” – Michel Khleifi

Seuls (Thierry Knauff/Olivier Smolders, 1990)

“The spectator is a powerless witness to something extremely violent. Children who are locked, imprisoned in their mind and mutilate themselves. Normally films about insanity or autism are guided by an explicatory commentary. What is it? Where is it coming from? How are they taken care of? Here you only have the children isolated in small spaces, in the frame of the image. There are two dangers of this approach: the reproach of being aesthetical, there’s music being made with the pain of children, or the film doesn’t learn us anything, why show this? (…) The parents: it is the first time that one takes the time to really look at the children, with a gaze of respect, that doesn’t limit them to their ‘illness’.” – Olivier Smolders

De l’autre côté (Chantal Akerman, 2002)

“The wall in De l’autre côté [From the Other Side], with its powerful halogen lamps, reminds one of the concentration camps. Through images, I try to evoke other images, in other words: to bring about emotions.” – Chantal Akerman

Le fils (Jean-Pierre Dardenne/Luc Dardenne, 2002)

“The moral imagination or the capacity to put oneself in the place of the other. In a way this is what the film demands of the spectator. And he amazes, this other. And in awe, the spectator notices that the other brought him elsewhere, and he holds it against himself that he hadn’t imagined the other capable of taking him there, of bringing him to this level. And he thanks him.” – Luc Dardenne

Lettre d’un cinéaste à sa fille (Eric Pauwels, 2002)

“I am writing you to tell you that the cinema I like is a craftsman’s cinema, a solitary’s cinema, almost that of a painter. A cinema of looking, thinking, sharing, rather than the cinema of power and spectacle.” – Eric Pauwels