Documentary filmmaker Ira A. Goryainova selects 7 Belgian movies

Currently working on her first feature film, Moscow-born Ira A. Goryainova recently graduated from Brussels’ Royal Institute for Theatre, Cinema and Sound with Die Ruinen von Europa, a radical and sinister crossover documentary film that will see its world premiere in April this year. Already awarded the Flemish Audiovisual Fund’s annual Wildcard Prize, we deemed it the perfect occasion to ask Ira for a selection of her favourite Belgian films.

1. D’est – Chantal Akerman – 1993

Chantal Akerman is a role model to me – daring, groundbreaking, provoking. I could assemble this list using solely her films. My favourite one is D’est – a kind of documentary ‘tableau vivant’, shot right after the fall of the Soviet Union and which she presented in two forms: a film and a video installation for 24 screens. It consists of long scenes of people passing by on streets, waiting in a long row for a bus, lonely grandmothers sitting in their living rooms, or children playing in the snow, to name a few. Besides being a genius work of audiovisual art, to me it is also a great document of my own childhood in Moscow, an unbelievable feeling of being home. The subject of home was the main theme in her entire oeuvre, which she has finalised with No Home Movie, her very last film.

2. Rosetta – Dardenne Brothers – 1999

When I think about Belgian cinema (Flemish or Walloon), I can’t put a face on it, like I could for example with the Berliner Schule in Germany or the Nouvelle Vague movement in France. To absorb the local culture after moving to Belgium, I swallowed the Dardenne brothers’ films one after another like sandwiches – very brutal sandwiches with raw flesh. Rosetta lingered in my mind as the most poignant afterimage. The Dardenne brothers’ entire filmography became synonymous to European cinema in general.

3. Double Take – Johan Grimonprez – 2009

I’ve seen this one twice already, and it’d still amuse me if I’d watch it again. Double take is extremely layered and the subjects of the film are very close to my own interests: mediatisation, fear and the relation between fiction and documentary. A great example of how cinema can expand its borders into all directions.

4. N: The Madness of Reason – Peter Krüger – 2014

Another post-documentary, and an artful crossover between fiction and reality, this time with breathtaking cinematography and a marvelous soundtrack. Whilst watching this radical ethnographic portrait of Africa and of the West reflecting on Africa, you recognise beauty in both the beautiful and the horrible – sublime.

5. Le goût du koumiz – Xavier Christiaens – 2003

Koumiz is a horse milk drink – the national specialty of Kyrgyzstan, an ex-Soviet republic. The film tells the story of a nomad under communistic regime. Through the extraordinary high-contrasted black & white images and piercing violins you’re automatically sucked into an audiovisually sensitive trip, and the narration becomes merely a background. Too beautiful to watch and to listen to. Interesseloses Wohlgefallen.

6. The Invader – Nicolas Provost – 2011

I am always impressed by Nicolas Provost’s video art and so was I when I saw his first feature film, telling the story of what today became the biggest fear of the ignorant average middle class. Besides being an important reflection on the migrant crisis, the cinematography is stunning and portrays Brussels from a very interesting architectural angle.

7. Rosas danst Rosas – Thierry De Mey – 1983

Since I moved to Belgium some 7 years ago, I was studying its cultural landscape as a huge surface, all at once, without space for changing my preferences according to my age. When I saw Rosas Danst Rosas, it was a total revelation for me. There is also an interesting trilogy exhibition going on in ARGOS right now about Belgian dance and performance in film and video.