Conversation with Eyal Sivan


Conversation after a screening of Aus Liebe zum Volk (Eyal Sivan, Audrey Maurion, 2004) in the context of ‘1989: stories about Die Wende’, a program of screenings on the occasion of the fall of the Berlin wall 30 years ago, presented by CINEMATEK and Goethe-Institut Brussel.

Mr B has worked for twenty years as a public servant “in service of the people”. Out of love. An unconditional and absolute love for “his people”. A blind and destructive love. When the times change and the regime he adheres to is defeated, he becomes a social reject and life as he has always known it falls apart. Fired from his job, his “House”, Mr B. is left with nothing, no perspective, no future. He sits alone in this office which is no longer his. Once he walks out that door, he will never come back.

In February 1990, a few weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Ministry for State Security of the GDR is dismantled. This marks the end of the “Stasi”, the East German secret police. Major B. was a Stasi officer. Relieved of his duties, he delivers a detailed account of twenty years of his life and work within this institution.

Aus Liebe zum Volk is based on this extraordinary personal testimony, supported by never seen before archive footage. This is a film about surveillance and blindness, about faith and disillusion.

Conversation with Fronza Woods


In the context of the program ‘Breaking Sacred Ground’, part of Courtisane Festival 2019 (3 – 7 APRIL 2019). Curated by Stoffel Debuysere.

“I like films about real people. I am inspired by almost everything but especially by struggle. I am interested in people who take on a challenge, no matter how great or small, and come to terms with it. What inspires me are people who don’t sit on life’s rump but have the courage, energy, and audacity not only to grab it by the horns, but to steer it as well.”

Fronza Woods was born, raised and educated in Detroit. She began her professional life as a junior copywriter at a small Detroit advertising agency. In 1967, she moved to New York, where she continued to work in advertising. Then, at a time when television was opening up to people of colour, she went to work for ABC news, before learning to craft her own films at the Women’s Interart Center under the aegis of Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer. Killing Time, an offbeat, wryly humorous look at the dilemma of a suicidal woman unable to find the right outfit to die in, examines the personal habits, socialization, and complexities of life that keep us going. When the film recently screened, Richard Brody wrote in The New Yorker: “very simply, one of the best short films that I’ve ever seen,” comparing it favorably to Chantal Akerman’s first film Saute Ma Ville. In Fannie’s Film, a 65­-year­-old cleaning woman for a professional dancers’ exercise studio performs her job while telling us in voiceover about her life, hopes, goals, and feelings. The first in an unaccomplished series of portraits dedicated to “invisible women”, Fannie’s Film offers “a brutal, brilliant allegory for women and film” (Manohla Dargis, The New York Times). In addition to making her own films, Woods has worked as camerawoman on numerous independent films, was assistant sound engineer on John Sayles’ The Brother from Another Planet (1984) and a cast member in Yvonne Rainer’s The Man Who Envied Women (1985), and taught basic filmmaking at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, where she also created and curated an outreach film programme for the city’s black community. She now resides in the southwest of France.

(portrait (c) Michiel Devijver)

Courtisane 2019: Fronza Woods from Courtisane Festival on Vimeo.

Conversation with Valeska Grisebach & Syuleyman Alilov Letifov


In the context of a retrospective program dedicated to the work of Valeska Grisebach (15 FEBRUARY – 27 FEBRUARY 2019, Brussels), after a screening of ‘Western’ (2017) on 20 February. An initiative of CINEMATEK and Courtisane, in collaboration with KASK cinésessies, KASKcinema, STUK & Goethe-Institut.

“I’ve never set out to make a film with a story in mind. Instead, there’s always a relatively abstract theme that I approach through a process of highly associative, personal research. For me, this act of going out and seeking contact is a fundamental part of writing and shooting. For me, it’s important to use documentary methods at every stage, because that’s how you let the unexpected in: the things you can’t make up.”

After the critically acclaimed relationship drama Sehnsucht, which was awarded the Prix Cinédécouvertes by Cinematek in 2006, Valeska Grisebach needed no less than eleven years to finish a new film. But Western (2017) was more than worth the wait: rarely has a film evoked the contours and challenges of today’s Europe so poignantly. Just as her previous work, Grisebach’s third feature-length film – again with the renowned Bernhard Keller behind the camera – is the result of an extensive research process, in which she patiently searches for suitable locations and a cast of non-professional actors. For this film she found Petrelik, a hamlet in the south of Bulgaria that symbolizes the myth of the “Wild East”, the perfect location to base her own interpretation of the western genre. Inspired by the ambivalent heroic figures in classical genre practices such as Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950), the duelling neo-cowboys in Western are embodied by a group of German construction workers who, in their confrontation with the foreign, waver between curiosity and paranoia, between a desire towards communality and a fear of the unknown. That’s how Grisebach’s self-proclaimed “dance with the western” touches on a number of issues that are central to the European debate today, including the “gold rush” to the East, a theme that also resounds throughout another film from the so-called Berliner Schule: Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann (2016), on which it’s no coincidence that Grisebach collaborated as a script consultant. This retrospective programme, which also includes a hand-picked selection of films placed in dialogue with her own, illustrates how her work, ever since her graduation project Mein Stern (2001), balances between construction and improvisation, between the exploration of the real and the invention of fiction. A balancing act that Valeska Grisebach knows how to handle like no other.

Conversation with Lisandro Alonso


In the context of a retrospective program dedicated to the work of Lisandro Alonso (8 – 16 NOVEMBER 2018, Brussels), after a screening of ‘Jauja’ (2014) on 8 November. An initiative of CINEMATEK, Cinea and Courtisane, in collaboration with the Embassy of Argentina in Brussels and Instituto Cervantes.

La Libertad: the title of Lisandro Alonso’s debut film can also be used as a fitting description for his approach to cinema, one that allows him to follow cinematic paths that aren’t paved with convention or certitude. Instead, The Argentinian filmmaker prefers to intuitively venture forward from the desolate hinterlands that he encounters on his travels to the outskirts of so-called “civilized” life: the endless barren pampas in La Libertad (2001), the swarming green jungle in Los muertos (2004), the frigid snow country of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in Liverpool (2008), the immense, surreal desert landscapes of the Patagonia region in Jauja (2014), and even the shadowy bowels of the Teatro San Martin in Buenos Aires in Fantasma (2006). Every film’s meticulously filmed setting plays a fundamental role as the backdrop to the wanderings of a solitary, taciturn figure, whose inner life and social history remain shrouded in mystery. The reticent figures drift through frontier places where different worlds come together, where nature and civilization meet, different eras collide, memory and history, fantasy and reality coincide and become entangled, giving Alonso’s cinema a fable-like dimension that seems to shift in complexity and density.

From the circularity of La Libertad’s portrayal of the Sisyphean life of a lumberjack and the linearity of an ex-con’s downriver homeward voyage in Los muertos to the tangential shift in point of view from a sailor to a farmer in Liverpool: for every new film, Alonso finds a new freedom, driven by a searching energy that leads him time and time again towards uncharted territories. His latest film, Jauja – the result of his first collaboration with a writer and professional actors – follows the ever-widening orbit his films have been tracing even further into the register of myth. Starting with a text that refers to a place in Inca folklore, a “mythological land” which men “tried to find but got lost on the way to that earthly paradise,” the film gradually mutates into a hypnotic, trance-like odyssey during which all boundaries between the real and the unreal dissolve. With every new venture, Alonso seems to ever more radically engage with the essential pursuit of his cinematic quest: to leap into the unknown in order to rediscover freedom.