Review: Don't Shoot
by Aurore Engelen
- Stijn Coninx revisits a traumatic and unresolved event in contemporary Belgian history: the Brabant Killings
Stijn Coninx, a successful Flemish director, sheds light on the unresolved turmoil surrounding a bloody event that took place in recent Belgian history, the Brabant Killings, which resulted in 28 individuals killed and 22 wounded between 1982 and 1985. Don't Shoot – an on-screen adaptation of David Van de Steen's polemical paper – echoes the questions of an entire society: why have the culprits never been found?
During the Delhaize Killings in Alost on 9 November 1985, 9-year-old David Van de Steen sees his parents and sister shot and killed in front of his very eyes. Now orphaned, Van de Steen is also seriously wounded in the attack. His grandparents, Albert and Metje, welcome their grandchild into their home, with the difficult task of offering him a future, despite his enormous loss and pain, and so many unanswered questions...
In his latest project, Stijn Coninx faces the challenging task of adapting a true and sensitive story, shooting a historical film, and creating a courtroom drama ... without any actual trials. Because the uniqueness of this case lies in the fact that the investigation has stalled for 30 years. The victims –physically and psychologically wounded by the killers' bullets – must come to terms with the absence of any culprits. Despite the suspects coming thick and fast, we still have no idea who the Brabant Killers were.
The film follows Albert's investigation, masterfully brought to life by an important part of the Flemish film scene, Jan Decleir, a father who has lost both his daughter and granddaughter. Albert is entirely devoted to finding the culprits who have shattered his grandson’s life to pieces. But despite his obstinacy, his pugnacity and even his inventiveness, Albert is faced with refusal after refusal, as well as death threats meant to dissuade him from continuing his investigation. His grown-up grandson, David, is no more successful in his pursuit.
The film takes the time to illustrate – via a classic format – the disappointments encountered by the two investigators in spite of themselves in order to reveal the close and disturbing links between the police, the gendarmerie, politics and organised crime. We cling to Albert’s shoulders, shot after shot, sagging a little as they carry the weight of not being able to keep the promise he once made to his grandson lying in his hospital bed: to track down the people responsible.
Don’t Shoot was produced by Eyeworks (Blind Spot [+see also:
interview: Nabil Ben Yadir
film profile], Racer and the Jailbird [+see also:
interview: Michael Roskam
film profile]), which has remained faithful to the director since Hector (1987), and was co-produced by Kaap Holland Film and Les Films du Fleuve – the Dardenne brothers' company – which has also produced two of the filmmaker's previous films, Soeur Sourire [+see also:
film profile] and Marina [+see also:
interview: Cristiano Bortone
film profile]. The latter film, released in 2013, was a great success in Belgium. Let's wagerthat Don’t Shoot, driven by its subject matter and acting performances, will attract a similar viewing numbers, released by Kinepolis across Belgium today, 10 October.
(Translated from French)
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