For the next Seuls-evening – a series of film programs around Belgian film history – Sabzian presents Le chantier des gosses. The first feature film of Jean Harlez (Belgium, 1924) is set in the Marolles in the 1950s. The narrow streets of this working-class Brussels neighborhood are full with kids. The Marolles is a playground for kids until one day workmen shake up the neighborhood. The children declare war on them. A film about Brussels in the 1950s, in collaboration with the inhabitants. Visiting the shoot, the Belgian Sunday paper Germainal reacted enthusiastically to this debut film in a new genre: “the first Belgian neo-realist full-length film!” But the film had a somewhat unfortunate history. Shot in the 1950s, the film only premiered in 1970 when funds were found for the audio postproduction. After this premiere, the film unfortunately fell into oblivion. Until a team member of the Brussels cinema Cinema Nova accidentally met Jean Harlez many years later and the ball started rolling again. Nova made a new 35mm copy and gave Le chantier des gosses its first commercial release in 2014 with great success. The film ran for almost two months.
On 6 May, Le chantier des gosses will be worldwide available on www.sabzian.be, free of charge from 7:30 pm onwards for the first 100 spectators.
Jean Harlez (Belgium, 1924) has been described by some as “the savage of Belgian cinema”. This son of a blacksmith is an autodidact in the margins of professional circles. He entered the film world in 1947 as an assistant to Charles Dekeukeleire and worked for many years as a cameraman for Marcel Broodthaers. After a period of unemployment, Harlez built his own 35mm camera and, without any financial support, made a short film about an agricultural cooperative. A hit, because the Ministry of Agriculture bought the film. The money he received enabled him to make his big dream come true: “to shoot a real feature film”. Le chantier des gosses is the result of this adventure. The press reacted enthusiastically to this debut film in a new genre: “the first Belgian neo-realist full-length film!” Jean Harlez is a versatile artist: short films, films of his voyages of discovery to Greenland, and in recent years he has mainly made life-size collages (“assemblages”). (via Cinema Nova)
Seuls. Singular Moments in Belgian Film History is a series of film programs accompanied by the publication of unique texts by Belgian filmmakers and writers on Sabzian’s website. It is often said that cinephiles don’t know or are rarely appreciative of their own national cinema. Film critic Adrian Martin “observe[s] a very intriguing dimension of cinephile thought: namely, the usually feisty way it negotiates a fraught relation with the cinephile’s own national cinema. Indeed, I sometimes think I can spot a cinephile by the intensity of their hatred for their national cinema.” With this series of film evenings, Sabzian aims to chart the wayward landscape of Belgian cinema with images, sounds and words, by means of an affectionate countermovement.
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