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Magritte Awards celebrate best in Belgian cinema

20:58 13/01/2020

A film awards ceremony that was created to reignite Belgians' interest in their country's cinema is preparing to celebrate its 10th edition.

The Magritte awards were conceived because, although heralded around the world with filmmakers such as the Dardenne Brothers, Jaco Van Dormael or Chantal Akerman (voted one of the world’s most important directors by Billboard), Belgian francophone cinema was little watched by the home audience.

Ten years ago, Patrick Quinet, president of the Académie André Delvaux, decided that what was needed was an awards ceremony to break the image that Belgian cinema had nothing but somber social movies.

"For a long time, Belgian cinema has been recognised around the world," Quinet told The Bulletin. "We needed to recreate something more glamorous, to reconnect the Belgian public with our own cinema."

Originally the idea was to do a joint ceremony for Flemish and francophone movies together - but the awkward logistics of doing a bilingual ceremony turned out to be unworkable. So there are the Magritte awards for (mostly) French-speaking films and the Ensor Awards for Flemish films.

Many doubted it would work, but the audience for the ceremony has recently ballooned from 30,000 spectators in 2016 to 170,000 last year. Research last year revealed that a third of people had gone to see a film at the cinema after hearing about it at the Magritte awards.

There are four top awards - best film, best first film, best Flemish film and best foreign film. The last two categories are reserved for Flemish and foreign movies that are co-produced with Belgian francophone entities.

Flemish actor Kevin Janssens is up for best actor for his starring role in De Patrick, a film which takes place almost exclusively in a nudist colony. Perhaps in a nod to its surrealistic namesake, the Magrittes have also nominated the film for best costume.

The ceremony on 1 February will be broadcast on TV channel La Deux, on TV5 Monde, and screened live in four cinemas including UGC De Brouckère. RTBF will make a week out of it with special screenings of previously awarded movies.

Written by Richard Harris