We have the honor of welcoming Belgian filmmaker Olivier Smolders to Art Cinema OFFoff. Ten years ago, he was our guest for a screening of a selection of his work and a conversation that can be picked up and continued this evening.
We present the Belgian premiere of Smolders’ new film, Masques. The filmmaker chooses to combine this work with La Part de l’ombre (2014) and a film that made a strong impression on him, Diane Wellington (2010) by Arnaud des Pallières.
“I have been wanting to film masks for quite a few years now. But I couldn’t find my point of entry for this film, the angle that would give me my unique approach. And then the death of my parents suddenly gave a different light to the project. I took that as my starting point, how personal grief brought me back to the thematic of masks. Different stories of mutilated faces or hidden faces added themselves and defined more clearly the path I was taking. In the end it is no longer really a film about the masks but rather about the loss of the faces of those we love.”
In his work, Smolders often questions the status of the image in film and photography. La Part de l’ombre tells the story of Hungarian photographer Oskar Benedek, who mysteriously disappeared in 1944. Far from a simple biography, this film “en voie de disparition” unfolds as a vertiginous meditation on our fascination with images and ultimately the truth of this story itself. Smolders originally intended to construct the film solely from photographs, inspired by Chris Marker’s film essay of about the same length, La Jetée (1962).
Diane Wellington is part of a constellation of films in which Arnaud des Pallières – of whom we showed Disneyland, mon vieux pays natal (2001) in the past – depicts American stories from the 20th century, reinvented from the Prelinger Archives (Poussières d’Amérique, 2011; Journal d’Amérique, 2022). Diane Wellington uses archival footage and intertitles to explore the disappearance of a girl in South Dakota in the 1930s. The film is loosely based on a true story collected by American writer Paul Auster in the book I Thought My Father Was God (2001).
Olivier Smolders (1956) is one of the most original voices in Belgian cinema. Since the 1980s, he has developed an aesthetically rigorous body of work of mainly thematically dark, personal and essayistic short films, often in black and white. Based in Liège, he graduated at the university there in Romance philology and at the Brussels film school INSAS, and went on to become a lecturer at both schools. His films have been the subject of many international awards and retrospectives.
Followed by a Q&A with Olivier Smolders.