Night of the Experimental Film curator Sofie Verdoodt selects 7 Belgian movies

After releasing poetry volume Doodwater and a spoken-word album in collaboration with Amen Ra, art history lecturer and Ghent University’s Film-Plateau coordinator Sofie Verdoodt is teaming up with Ghent-based label B.A.A.D.M. for the Night of the Experimental Film. Taking place this Friday – and set to feature guest appearances by PAN-affiliated Valerio Tricoli and Hiele, alongside a night-long selection of films themed around religion – we asked Sofie to make us a selection of her favourite Belgian movies for the occasion. With a strong penchant towards the experimental, expect some long-lost gems and invaluable new discoveries.

Le fils d’Amr est mort – Jean-Jacques Andrien (1975)

Le fils d’Amr est mort was not overlooked in 1975 , since this film on estrangement and cultural identity won the Grand Prix at Locarno’s festival, but has become very obscure today. In 2014 I invited Jean-Jacques Andrien to Art Cinema OFFoff to talk  about his extraordinary use of sound and delicate cinematography. The movie stars Pierre Clementi, one of my favourite actors, aka the beautiful face of sexual ambiguity for Bernardo Bertolucci, Luis Buñuel and Philippe Garrel.

Het Kwade Oog – Charles Dekeukeleire (1937)

Dekeukeleire is a key figure in Belgium’s avant-garde film history, known for adventurous works such as Combat de Boxe and Impatience. Dark romanticism in the Flemish countryside combined with avant-garde montage techniques and based on a screenplay by Herman Teirlinck, Het Kwade Oog is a feature length fiction film about a vagabond being accused of having the Evil Eye, but actually he is searching for his drowned lover.

Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du commerce, 1080 Bruxelles – Chantal Akerman (1975)

Our national pride Chantal Akerman is of course present in this list. I watched this three-hour long film as a student for the first time in the old screening venue of Film-Plateau.  I didn’t know much about duration or minimalism in film by then, but I felt enormously enthralled by the movie’s decisive, destabilising moment (no spoilers here). One of the most important feminist statements ever made.

Daughters of Darkness – Harry Kümel (1971)

Recently shown during Day For Night, a 24-hour marathon organised by CINEA, Film-Plateau and Kaskcinema, Daughters of Darkness is about lesbian vampire killers in Ostend (that’s right). Delphine Seyrig is stunning as a blood-thirsty Elisabeth Bathory-like character, seducing a young attractive couple on honeymoon. Eros and Thanatos meet in the luxurious décor of the Thermae Palace hotel, remarkable colour rhymes included.

Abattoirs – Thierry Knauff (1987)

I could have easily chosen the collaboration ‘Seuls’ (1990) with Olivier Smolders but this earlier short truly deserves some attention. France has Le sang des bêtes, Georges Franju’s monumental documentary on a slaughter house in the Parisian suburbs, but Belgium has ‘Abattoirs’. Also shot in black-and-white, but without dialogue. The audience ends up as frozen as the camera seems to be. Provocative film poetry, almost unbearable.

Casta Diva – Eric de Kuyper (1983)

Film-Plateau and Art Cinema OFFoff recently invited Eric de Kuyper, quite a unique personality in our film scene. A former professor in film studies and film curator at the Dutch film museum, he’s famous for his legendary film selection De Andere Film during his media career, and his impressive bibliography consisting of novels and essays on Hollywood romance, opera and queer cinema. It’s hard to choose between A Strange Love Affair (a collaboration in 1984 with Paul Verstraten and Henri Alekan) and Casta Diva, a radical view on the male body in the tradition of Andy Warhol and Chantal Akerman (a close friend of his).

EXPRMNTL – Brecht Debackere (2016)

The recent documentary EXPRMNTL tells the history of the very important international festival for experimental film, held in Knokke – of all places – in 1949, 1958, 1963, 1967 and 1974. These five editions became a key reference point for a radically different film: surrealism, abstract cinema, structural film, trance film… If you are in desperate need of a quick and dazzling (but unavoidably incomplete) introduction to this phenomenon – and believe me, you are! -, this documentary is worth watching, and moreover highly enjoyable.