The Antwerp Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

To mark the release of our Warriors edition, we've teamed up with This is Antwerp to bring you 100 Antwerp Warriors, a 100-strong selection of local movers and shakers setting the tone for the neighbourhood of tomorrow. From design and architecture to contemporary art and politics, these are the creatives shaping the narrative of the future.

Raf Reyntjens

Raf Reyntjens

Filmmaker

Can you describe what you do?

I write and direct stories for the screen. You can see my work in the cinema, on TV and online. Paradise Trips, my debut feature film, was released in 2015, and today I’m developing a new project. In the meantime I shoot music videos – I did a couple for Stromae – and ads. I don’t have a daily routine as it depends on what I do and how many projects I have at a one time. Sometimes I just write for weeks on end, which also includes a lot of procrastination. But during production I get focused and am basically in work-modus 24/7. I’m not a workaholic though, I like to spend time with family and friends – a lot of whom have found their way in the audiovisual landscape.

How do you perceive Antwerp? In your view, what kind of city is it?

I like Antwerp as a creative hub. As a student I preferred Brussels, because it’s bigger and way more chaotic, and perceived it as more inspiring since there are less boundaries. But after a year in wonderful Amsterdam I fell out of love with the city and moved to Antwerp, the city where all the actors live. I had friends and family living there too so in a way it felt like coming home. I found a big cheap house with a rooftop terrace, close to Mechelsesteenweg. A great place to throw parties. Sadly some big real estate group bought it and kicked us out. They’re turning it into student cages. Now I’m enjoying life with my girlfriend and our newborn son in Ghent, which is pretty similar to Antwerp, but with a different edge.

What gives Antwerp city its edge?

Antwerp is big enough to find the best creative people in any industry and small enough to just bump into them on the street, in a coffee place or while you’re going out. It is also possibly the smallest city that has its own underground culture. Everywhere you go there’s an interesting mix of opposing characters to be found.

What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Antwerp doesn’t have that many ‘in your face’-distractions like Brussels. I used the calm and quiet to finish writing the screenplay for Paradise Trips, and prepare for the shoot. Most of the movie’s characters are from Antwerp, but we shot the movie in Ghent, Limburg and Croatia.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?

On the flipside, Antwerp is sometimes too quiet and could use a little more chaos. What definitely struck me is that there is more social control here. Coming from Brussels, I find the city sometimes lacking in surprise and craziness. It could also use a huge park on top of that traffic jammed pollution ring.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of- towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?

Depending on the weather, there are lots of nice places and events to see friends or meet new people. In summer I love to escape the centre and hang out where there’s water, Linkeroever or the area behind the Zeevaartschool being two examples. And, although I still like the area nowadays, I’m a bit sad Het Eilandje lost its anarchist charm over the years.

A local legend, neighbourhood anecdote or urban myth?

I like it when reality outdoes fiction. I still can’t unsee that rave-party in the old Nieuw-Zuid train depot twenty years ago. Today the place has been renovated into a bank and the party went on in a more decent fashion at Petrol (which sadly closed its doors in November last year).

vimeo.com/rafreyntjens
Photography Joke De Wilde