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Categories: Features

Marlies Janssens reports from the Short Film Festival in Leuven, at which the 48-year-old West-Flemish actor Wim Willaert was part of the jury, and also honoured in his very own short film series.

willaert1

Wim Willaert is known as an actor for his outstanding performances in series like Eigen Kweek (2013) or feature films like Ex-Drummer (2007). To me, he is one of Flanders’ best actors, able to play all kinds of roles, not only the comical ones he is known for. He had a series of short films dedicated to him this year at the Short Film Festival (November 11th – December 5th), all of them different from one another in genre and style. But these are only 5 out of a full list of the 17 short films, several television series and a handful of feature films Willaert has starred in.

“Welkom” (2013)

welkom

Pablo Munoz Gomez’s Welkom tells the story of the Spanish migrant Jorge (Jean-Jacques Rausin) and his father (Simon André), who face the issues of proper integration before they can make use of their rights as Belgian citizens when Jorge wants to build a henhouse in his garden for Maria, the so-called wife of his father. Consequently, this short is definitely sociologically relevant. Wim Willaert plays the caricatural role of a nationalist major of a Flemish village next to the border with Wallonia, who makes it very hard on the two men by forcing them to take Dutch classes even though they live on the French side of the country. Gomez’ short film reminds me a bit of a situation comedy, in which action-reaction and dialogue are the key elements to the plot.

“Solo Rex” (2014)

Solo-Rex

François Bierry’s Solo Rex* is a beautiful short film about the lonely lumberjack Erik (Willaert), a drunk who has lost his driver’s license, and what happens when he meets Kevin (Lucas Moreau). The latter is the young choir master of the local street band, who cruise through the area riding tandem -what a concept! When Kevin falls in love with Jessica (Garance Marillier), a girl from the band, he asks Erik for help. What follows is a one day-adventure in which both Erik and Kevin learn from each other, just like in Disney’s Up (2009)!

Remarkable for Solo Rex is the beautiful composition and perfect symmetry of the shots. Bierry most definitely pays attention to the mise-en-scène of his films.

*Solo Rex is the brand of chainsaw Erik works with.

Watch the teaser on Vimeo.

“Wien for Life” (2014)

wienforlife

Wien for Life is probably the most brilliant crime short you will ever see. Directed by Alidor Dolfing*, it tells the story of two friends, Pierre (Willaert) and Jean (Thomas Ryckewaert), who finally get the chance to say goodbye to their miserable lives after a costumer in Pierre’s gas station wins with Win for Life (the Belgian lottery).  The film’s characters are near-pure caricatures, and the violent action scenes are in the same style as Quentin Tarantino’s . The merry and bouncy score is a complete opposite of the film’s final sequence, though, which is yet another Tarantino-esque element.

The human relationships in Wien for Life are all entirely built upon trust – or, actually, distrust – and conflict. All the actors perform equally well, with a personal commendation for Mieke Dobbels, who really impressed me with her performance as Angie Lee, the dissolute girlfriend of Pierre who eventually is not really who she seems to be.

*Alidor Dolfing stands for the two co-directors, Nyk Dekeyser and the Dutch Mark Bouwmeester. Wien for Life is their first co-production, but it won’t be their last.

Check out the website for more info.

“Ijsland” (2010)

ijsland

Ijsland stars Wim Willaert in a part entirely different from what we saw in the first three films. He now is a tormented soul, searching for a way to pick up his life again after his release from prison.

Ijsland is Gilles Coulier’s first short film, but immediately there is something we can call the ‘golden alliance’ between Coulier and Willaert. The combination is simply magical. In 2015 they collaborated for Bevergem, a Belgian TV series. The strength of Ijsland, as well as all the rest of Coulier’s work, lies in its authenticity: real human beings in real-life situations with real emotions. On top of that, all the dialogue is in the local West-Vlaams (Western Flemish) dialect.

Overall, the atmosphere is very dark due to the specific use of lightning and contrast and because the story is set entirely at night. The only moment we witness (day)light is in the final sequence. Ijsland ends as a closed narrative, in which love conquers all.

Check out the trailer on YouTube.

“Lilith” (2013)

lilith

Maxim Stollenwork’s Lilith is a plot-driven fantasy-horror short film about the young woman Lilith, who tries to fit into society despite the fact that she has supernatural powers. One night she meets a young prostitute and from then onwards things get out of hand.

The end is surreal and horrific. When you want to know what happens to her customer Horny Hans (performed by Willaert), you should watch Lilith.

Check the Facebook page for more info.

Marlies Janssens

After graduating with an MA in Linguistics, I am currently completing an MA in Film Studies & Visual Culture at The University of Antwerp, Belgium. I have lived in Berlin for half a year and love to travel the world and meet new people. Beyond that ,culture is my biggest passion, ranging from film to music, photography, literature and theater. I have spent my entire youth on a stage: acting and dancing. In my spare time, I am always looking for new hotspots and checking out new films!

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Posted on Dec 11, 2015

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