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Belgium is all over Oscar-nominated films

16:00 16/03/2021
From producers to actors to inspiration, many films relied on Belgium for their very existence

The nominations for Hollywood’s famous Oscar awards were announced yesterday, and Belgium had its hand in several of the movie titles you’re seeing splashed across the media today. One of the films nominated for Best Picture might never have been made had it not been for the Brussels company that ultimately stepped up to produce it.

Sound of Metal has gotten nothing but rave reviews for its story of a heavy metal drummer who loses his hearing. The feature film debut of American director Darius Marder was stalled for years with no financing when the Brussels-based production company Caviar entered the picture.

Bert Hamelinck co-founded Caviar in Brussels 15 years ago and is now based in its LA office. He was approached by other producers involved with Sound of Metal who were looking for financing. “I had to keep on saying, ‘That’s not what we do’,” Hamelinck said in an interview with Screen Daily. “We put money in our own movies, but we’re not financiers. And the way those people envisioned the film was very expensive, very different than the model we use.”

The director eventually abandoned the other production companies in favour of Caviar. The production house worked with the script, re-budgeting the film. “We probably cut one-third of the budget without altering the creative aspect of the film,” Caviar’s Sacha Ben Harroche told Screen Daily. “We knew right away that this was a very special concept, about a musician losing his hearing. We just fell in love with the story.”

As has everyone else; Sound of Metal has been nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Sound.

The Man Who Sold His Skin, meanwhile, stars Belgian actor Koen De Bouw, playing a character based on Belgian artist Wim Delvoye. Nominated for Best International Film, it tells the story of a Syrian refugee who allows a famous artist to tattoo his body, making him a living piece of art. Part of the film was shot in the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels.

Tunisian director Kaouther Ban Hania (Beauty and the Dogs) was inspired by Delvoye’s real-life artwork “Tim”, which is in fact a human being sporting an intricate tattoo by Delvoye on his back. When the man named Tim dies, his skin will be removed and presented as a canvas to the work’s German buyer, but until then he must sit in a gallery or museum somewhere in the world three times a year.

Actor De Bouw is delighted with the nomination. “It doesn’t get better than this,” he told VRT. An Oscar nomination is seen as “a pinnacle” of movie-making, “and that’s a bit how it feels,” he said. Delvoye, by the way, has a cameo role in the film, as an insurance agent.

Another film nominated in the international category is Quo Vadis, Aida?, which features Belgian actor Johan Heldenberg as a Blue Beret in the Bosnian War as the Srebrenica massacre unfolds.

The short film Da Yie by Anthony Nti – his final year project as a student at RITCS film school in Brussels – had made the list of 10 live-action short films that were being considered for an Oscar nomination. Alas, it was not one of the five ultimately nominated, but it has already won more than 40 awards at film festivals around the world.

The 20-minute film tells the story of two children in Ghana who are taken on a fun adventure by an intriguing stranger, who must ultimately make a difficult choice. It is available to view on VRT Nu for free with Dutch subtitles or on Vimeo for a modest price with more subtitle options.



Written by Lisa Bradshaw