© Pandora Filmverleih

Café Belgica (Belgica)
Belgium/France 2016

Opening 23 Jun 2016

Directed by: Felix van Groeningen
Writing credits: Felix van Groeningen, Arne Sierens
Principal actors: Tom Vermeir, Stef Aerts, Hélène Davos, Charlotte Vandermeersch

Jo (Stef Aerts) is the somewhat disenchanted owner of a run-down neighborhood hangout in the East Flanders region of Belgium. It is hard work to keep the place going, make ends meet and keep the employees in check. When out of the blue his estranged brother Frank (Tom Vermeir) calls to announce that he would come and help him out on weekends he is skeptical at first. It soon becomes clear that Frank doesn’t offer this out of charity; he is merely restless, looking for a new challenge and an escape from his domestic obligations. But he sure knows how to put his restlessness to work; the brothers manage to transform the café into the hottest music club around. With the expansion and popularity of the club problems arise that they aren’t ready for. The project that bonded the brothers is splitting them apart. Finally the rift can be handled but only one way. Maybe as a tale about two brothers or about the rise and fall of a club, the film is not outstanding. But I was very much impressed how the atmosphere was captured, how camera, sound and editing drew me in completely. The cast – from Tom Vermeir and Stef Aerts to the extras – convinced. It all felt real: the dreary blue-collar neighborhood as well as the club with its vibe and intoxicating music. (Soundtrack by Soulwax.) The delirious fun-turning precarious little by little is experienced on an almost physical level. For the added authenticity I would recommend the Flemish version with subtitles.  (Carola A)

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