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Jeanne Brunfaut • Director general, Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre

"We have to find a balance between radical film proposals and more mainstream cinema offerings"

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- Jeanne Brunfaut, director general of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre, looks back on the fantastic results at Cannes and discusses the Centre’s new support initiatives

Jeanne Brunfaut • Director general, Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre

We met with Jeanne Brunfaut, director general of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Film and Audiovisual Centre, who chatted to us about the Federation’s excellent performance at the recent Cannes Film Festival and the new support policies that have been made available to authors by the Federation’s Film Centre. 

Cineuropa: Was this year’s Cannes Film Festival a vintage edition for the Film and Audiovisual Centre?Jeanne Brunfaut: It was indeed an exceptional year in terms of the recognition we received for the quality of our Belgian Francophone productions. The films which won awards at Cannes are the raison d’être of the Film Centre itself. We have established directors such as the Dardenne brothers (who took home the Best Direction award for Young Ahmed [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
film profile
]
), a young director who won the Golden Camera with his first film (César Diaz and Our Mothers [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Cesar Diaz
film profile
]
) - the next generation, basically - and the Jury Award for Mati Diop’s film Atlantics [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Mati Diop
film profile
]
, which was supported by the Centre and which demonstrates the supportive role we play, via co-production, vis-à-vis young foreign filmmakers. It sums up our activities perfectly, as well as the reason why the Centre exists.

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You describe your policy as a pro-active form of support to young authors…
We focus a great deal of attention on first and second films. We are seeing a growing number of foreign authors who are studying and basing themselves in Belgium, integrating into our communities while staying very much in touch with their own, original cultures. Supporting authors who often come from countries where the film structures in place are few and far between, if they exist at all, is a very interesting process, as was recently the case with César Diaz, or Joel Karekezi (The Mercy of the Jungle [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Joël Karekezi
film profile
]
). It’s a genuine opportunity to support filmmakers who are serious about forging a career for themselves in Belgium. 

What’s also important to us is maintaining the international reach of our films, and the strength of our writing is crucial to this. That’s why we have put in place a new development grant for the research and development process, rather than offering support purely for the writing phase of the project. The idea is to trust authors when they come to pitch their ideas and to give them the financial means to develop them; and then, afterwards, give them a second development grant for the writing process itself. We’re supporting a greater number of projects, but we only go on to produce the most fully developed works. This allows us to fund a phase which often goes unnoticed (development), but also to enhance the quality of screenplays before they enter into the production phase. 

There seems to be a real interest in opening up to other countries for co-productions…
We have a long history of co-production with our neighbours, primarily France, Switzerland and Luxembourg. Given the financial means available, France is still our main partner, but less so than before because its policies are more protectionist in terms of the support it provides to foreign films, and it is becoming difficult to obtain funding for majority Belgian films. The imbalance in input between the two countries was deepening, so we decided to help our producers to find other co-production territories. We developed agreements with countries in which we have an artistic interest, and sometimes even those which offer interesting filming locations; backdrops that we wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else.

We’ve signed agreements with Chile and Uruguay. We should soon be signing others with Mexico and Brazil, and we’re also in discussions with Lebanon. It will take time, but we’re trying to encourage movement in this direction by organising co-production events. We won’t ever be able to replace France, but it will enrich our projects. 

You’re also helping to break down the barriers between formats…
We try to encourage creativity, all the while limiting ourselves to certain formats. Of course, the format will ultimately determine the distribution potential of the film, but these distribution potentials are themselves becoming increasingly varied. With documentaries, for example, we decided to no longer make the distinction between TV and film documentaries. We developed the series fund to get this sector started and we recently launched a call for animation series projects. We also launched a call for low-budget productions, for medium or for full-length films. We’re realising that in festivals today, film length isn’t as important as it once was. What matters to us is getting back to basics, to the act of creation, and thinking about formats primarily for distribution purposes.

What is the key focus in the years to come?
The next generation! We have to ensure that the right conditions are in place so that our young people can do their job and stand out from the crowd. There are a phenomenal number of movies being filmed today, but there is no sense in making films for making films’ sake. We have to support youngsters as they leave school, and as they develop their first full-length films, all the while ensuring that our industry also showcases the talent that we offer - our actors, for example. We have to align the different needs of the different sectors within the industry – creation, production, acting – so that the next generation are ready to take on the market… Without forgetting about our already-established talent, of course. It’s a long-term process, but we have to find a balance between radical film proposals and more mainstream cinema offerings which can reach a wider audience; between research and development and making a connection with the audience.

(Translated from French)

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