Vicky Knight in 'Dirty God'

Films, docs and new-found identities: our 5 tips for BRIFF

Daniela Floris

The Brussels International Film Festival, BRIFF for short, is set to come back on June 20th for ten days of thought-provoking screenings, music and entertainment in several locations around the capital.

Three competitions. A series of off-programs. A variety of workshops. Numerous DJ sets, expos and performances all over the city. For its second edition, BRIFF plans to keep up with last year’s heterogenous line up. A safe bet for a relatively new film festival that is yet to find its niche. But, they are proud of their eclecticism when it comes to deliver a unique celebration of cinema and urban life.

Among this edition’s standout names is Abel Ferrara. The unorthodox director of Bad Lieutenant will present a retrospective of his classics and premiere Tommaso, his latest movie starring Willem Dafoe. However, the list of guests of honor doesn’t end here: The Artist Michel Hazanavicius, Dardenne Brothers’ muse Emilie Dequenne and French Director Virgil Vernier will also have their own dedicated section.

No more Netflix and chill

The catch-all offer of simultaneous screenings and events can be a bit hit-and-miss. Being a newcomer in the film festivals circuit, BRIFF is still a work in progress. Nevertheless, it managed to list some interesting proposals in its program, such as ‘Green Planet’, a series of screenings on climate change hosted by award-winning actor and director Bouli Lanners, orBelgorama’, a selection of independent Belgian films, as well as ‘Outer Space’ the off section that celebrates the Moon landing’s 50th anniversary.

If you have had enough of just Netflix & chill, BRIFF has you covered. Check out the full program here. In the meantime, we have selected five movies that deserve to be seen.

1. Opening night - It must be Heaven

After competing at Cannes, Elia Suleiman’s latest work will be screened during BRIFF’s opening night. It tells the tragicomic story of Es (played by Suleiman himself), a Palestinian man in search of a new homeland.

Through bizarre encounters and unexpected twists of fate, he will realize that no matter how far he goes, Palestine will always chase him. Nazareth-born Suleiman, a master of the genre, is always superb in alternating moments of covert surrealism with pure comedy. While the harsh reality of conflict lingers, he nevertheless stuns viewers with 97 minutes of sublime art.

IT MUST BE HEAVEN 20/06, 20.00, UGC De Brouckère and 24/06, 18.30, cinema Galeries.

2. International competition- God Exists, her Name is Petrunya

Macedonian but Brusseleir by adoption, Teona Strugar Mitevska showcases her latest movie after premiering at the Berlin Film Festival.The movie dives into the small Macedonian town of Štip during the celebrations of Orthodox Easter.

By tradition, the local priest throws a cross into the river, that only men have the privilege to retrieve as a sign a prosperity for the whole year. Well, until Petrunya, an unemployed woman in her 30s, jumps off the cliff and the impossible happens: she retrieves the sacred object, sparking outrage and shame in the male dominated community. Inspired by a true story, Mitevska puts in place a bitter satire of patriarchy and gender stereotypes.

GOD EXISTS, HER NAME IS PETRUNYA 28/06, 19.00, cinema Palace and 29/06, 14.00, UGC De Brouckère

3. Director’s week - Avant l’aurore

In a dusty and buzzy Phnom Penh, the destinies of Mirinda and Panna crossover. A French drag prostitute the former and a mute child, born in a once controlled Khmer Rouge village, the latter. They seem to have nothing in common, but day after day they start taking care of each other and to transform the lives.

When no innocence is left, the body, sometimes shell, sometimes armor, is a see-through window towards pain and loneliness. At his third movie, audacious Lyon-born director Nicholovitch brings the viewer into the tormented quest for peace and stability of two lost souls who have nothing but each other.

AVANT L’ AURORE 26/06, 18.30, cinema Palace and 28/06, 17.00, cinema Palace

4. National Competition - Dirty God

Disfigured by her ex, young mother Jade is left with a two-year-old daughter, half of her body burned and a life in shambles. Dutch director Sacha Polak tackles the aftermath of acid throwing attacks, of which the 80% of victims worldwide are women.

However, don’t expect Dirty God to be a cautionary tale of resignation: Jade’s struggle is not just for her flesh and skin, but for her own identity, although scarred, albeit in poverty. A quest for happiness and well-being, even when everything seems to be lost forever.

DIRTY GOD, 24/06, 20.30, Cinema Galeries and 25/06, 17.00, Flagey

5. Screen the beat! - Meu Amigo Fela

Doc veteran Joel Zito Araujo brings the life and career of Afrobeat pioneer and activist Fela Kuti to the big screen. Narrator is Carlos Moore, African-Cuban author and one of Kuti’s closest friends.

Songwriter, pianist and drummer or simply Fela, was born in Nigeria in 1938. An advocate of the Pan-African movement, Kuti was arrested over 200 times in his life, before dying 1997. The film is a comprehensive journey through his childhood, political engagement and relationship with women, showing the making of a true icon.

Meu Amigo Fela is part of ‘Screen the Beat!’, the off-program featuring documentaries about music, its history and legendary personalities.

MEU AMIGO FELA (MY FRIEND FELA) 25/06, 21.00 Bozar

BRIFF 20/06 > 29/06, various locations

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