Belgian Directors

Mike Van Diem
Jaco Van Dormael
Frank Van Passel
Jan Verheyen
Willem Walleyn

Stijn Coninx (1957)

Stijn Coninx was born in Neerpelt in 1957. He went to school at the RITS and worked from 1979 to 1987 as an assistant to Peter Simons, Roland Verhavert, Dominique Deruddere, Patrick Conrad, Marc-Henri Wajnberg, Hugo Claus, Robbe De Hert, Jean-Pierre De Decker, Guido Hendrickx and Jaco Van Dormael.

Hector (1987) became his debut as a director. Popular comedian Urbanus played the lead role in the most successful Belgian film ever. Hector received the 'Grand Prix' and the 'Prix d'Interprétation' at the 13th International Humorfestival in Chamrousse, France. After Hector, Stijn Coninx continued his job of assistant-director for Robbe de Hert's Blueberry Hill. He shot videodocumentary Would you go the distance for the American College and a presentational video for De Kredietbank. In 1989, he directed an Urbanus film for the second time in the even more popular comedy Koko Flanel. In 1990, Stijn Coninx started shooting Daens, his first drama as a director and his biggest challenge to date. His efforts payed off and Daens was nominated for the Academy Foreign Language Film Award in 1993, apart from receiving numerous other prizes off course. After a few silent years, he released in 1998 When the Light Comes (Licht). It too received many foreign awards. Stijn Coninx does not only direct films. In 1999 and 2000, he directed the absurd comedy-series Het Peulengaleis.


Jean-Pierre (1951) en Luc (1954) Dardenne

Actor Jean-Pierre Dardenne founded together with his brother - philospher Luc Dardenne - the production Company Dérives in 1975. Together they produce more than fifty TV-documentaries like Le Chant du Rossignol (1978), Pour que le guerre s'achève, les murs devaient s'écrouler (1980) and Leçons d'une université volante (1982).

Apart from that, Jean-Pierre is professor at the audiovisual department at the University of Liège. Luc is visiting scholar at the Independent University of Brussels, where he frequently gives lectures.

There first two feature films Falsch (1986) and ??? (1992) where quite succesful and were invited at the Berlin and Cannes festivals. Je pense à vous won the prize of the public at the International film festival of Namur. Their Third film La Promesse (1996) is their real breakthrough. It receives numerous prizes at home and abroad (such as the IUQT-award in Cannes). A few years later, they both directed the drama Rosetta (1999), which received the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Festival in the same year. Actress Emilie Duquesne received for her performance as Rosetta the award for best actress in Cannes.


Robbe De Hert (1942)

Born in Hampshire in 1942, Robbe De Hert made his official debut with such shorts as Twee keer twee ogen and An Old Story, for which he received many awards at the 1964 National Belgian Film Festival. He received awards for Best Debut, Most Original Screenplay, and the Grand Honorary Prize of the Film Critics.

He went on working for state-owned broadcasters BRT en RTB until 1966 when he decided to become an independent filmmaker and founded the Fugitive Cinema Collective, which throughout the years, has become a jumping board for young film talent. De Hert made his feature debut in 1972 with Camera Sutra, for which he received the Grand Audience Award at the 1973 Knokke Film Festival. Documentaries including Death of a Sandwichman (1972, Directors' Fortnight in Cannes) and Le Filet Américain (1973/78) followed the film.

The 1980 feature De Witte van Sighem (Whitey), marked his commercial break-through and led to such titles as Maria Danneels of Het leven dat we droomden (selected for Berlin in 1982), Zware Jongens (1984), Blueberry Hill (selected for Panorama Berlin 1989), Trouble in Paradise (1988), Brylcream Boulevard (1995), Gaston's War (1997) and Lijmen/Het Been (2000). In the meantime, he also directed a number of film-related compilation films such as De Droomproducenten (1984), Janssen & Janssens draaien een film (1990, co-directed with Luc Pien) and Op de fiets naar Hollywood (1993).

Robbe de Hert is generally considered as one of the 'godfathers' of Belgian Cinema.


Lieven Debrauwer (1969)

From an early age, Lieven Debrauwer was obsessed by film. He was a member of a film club in his home town of Roeselare, and thanks to his higher education, he was able to fulfill his dream: make his own films. Debrauwer studied photography at the Higro institute in Mariakerke where he received "best student prize" in 1988. Later he went on to study film at the NARAFI in Brussels.

During his years at NARAFI, he made a several shortfilms: Tredici (1987), De bloedende Roos (1988), Cat Horror (1989), Burn (1990) and Twinnies (1991). In 1992 his film Het Bankje received the FUJI-award, a prize for the best work of senior students. After his studies, he represented Belgium at the World film festival in the "Youth" category for five consecutive years. In 1996, Lieven Debrouwer received the 'Jury Prize for Short Film' at the Cannes Film Festival and an award for best Belgian short film at the International Festival of Flanders. A few years later, he became really famous and popular with award winning Pauline en Paulette (2001). He won five Joseph Plateau-prizes at the Ghent International Film Festival and the 'Palme d'Or' in Cannes.


Dominique Deruddere (1957)

Dominique Deruddere made his first feature film, Oranje Licht (1975), when he was only fourteen. He later studied at the Sint-Lukas Instute and graduated from the short film department with Killing Joke (1980) which received the short film award at the Brussels Film Festival. After another short film Wodka Orange (1982), Deruddere directed Crazy Love (1987), starring Josse De Pauw. This film received a large number of domestic and international awards. In 1989, Deruddere directed Wait Until Spring, Bandini with Faye Dunaway, Ornella Muti and Joe Mategna. The film was a Belgo-French-Italian coproduction in association with American partner Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola's company. In 1994 came Suite 16 with Pete Postlethwaite, Antonie Kamerling and Géraldine Pailhas. This controversial psychological thriller was distributed in over twenty countries. Afterwards he directed a low budget film Hombres Complicados with Dirk Roofthooft, Josse De Pauw, Hilde van Mieghem and Lies Pauwels. It was the first film Deruddere produced himself, so that in 2000 he could produce the Oscar nominated Iedereen Beroemd.


Mike Van Diem (1959)

A former student of Dutch language and literature, Mike van Diem (1959) first started developing his directorial talent in the student theater by staging classic plays like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Bride in the Morning. A film fan since his early teens, he quit university to work as a film critic before enrolling at The Dutch Film and Television Academy in 1987.

He graduated after writing and directing the 45-minute psychological thriller, Alaska, the first student film to ever win the Golden Calf, the Dutch Award for Best Short Film of the Year. Praised for its outstanding cinematic technique and compelling visual narrative, the film was acclaimed internationally, winning the Student Academy Award in the Unites States and screening at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival. The film also won the Grand Prix du Festival, Film Fin d'Etudes in France in 1990. Van Diem then joined producer Laurens Geels at First Floor Features as an assistant director, before writing Across The Street, an English language screenplay. In 1993 and 1994, van Diem directed the prestigious Dutch television series, Called to the Bar, which earned him a solid reputation as an actor's director and paved his way for a feature-length debut. In 1995, van Diem and producer, Laurens Geels teamed up to adapt their favorite Dutch classic, Character, into a screenplay. This won him an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1998.


Jaco Van Dormael (1957)

Of Belgian descent, Van Dormael was raised in Germany until the age of seven, when his family returned to Belgium. At birth, the future filmmaker had nearly been strangled by the umbilical cord and received an insufficient supply of oxygen. It was feared that he might end up mentally impaired. This trauma perhaps accounts for the recurring themes in his films, which explore the worlds of those who are considered 'mentally challenged'. Eventually moving to France to study film, Van Dormael supported himself by working as a clown.

Jaco Van Dormael turned to filmmaking in the early 1980s, writing and directing a series of internationally award-winning shorts, documentaries and promotional films, like Maedli le breche (1980), L'Imitateur (1982) and E Percoloso Sporgersi (1984). In 1991, he made his feature film debut with the highly original Toto le Hero/Toto the Hero (1991), a poignant, impressionistic chronicle that used a child's sensibilities and feelings to trace the life of an angry, disappointed man from birth to death and beyond. The film won the Camera d'Or prize for best first film at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival. He then solidified his position as an important director with Le Huitieme jour/The Eighth Day (1996), starring Daniel Auteuil as an executive whose life is changed through his encounter with a man with Down syndrome.


Frank Van Passel

Frank Van Passel graduated with honors from 'St Lucas Brussels', the Film & Video section, in 1990. While studying, he gained valuable experience working on the sets of Istanbul (Marc Didden, 1985), Skin (Guido Hendrickx, 1985) and Crazy Love (Dominique Deruddere, 1986).

In 1988, he began working as an assistant director. During this particular period, he worked on Sailors don't cry (Marc Didden, 1988), Koko Flanel (Stijn Coninx, 1989), Bex - The closed Room (Jacob Bijl, 1991) and Men Makes Plans (Marc Didden, 1992). He was also responsible for the casting of Blueberry Hill (Robbe De Hert, 1988).

He quickly became known amongst the film crowd, because of three well-received, multiple prize-winning short films: The Smell of Rain (1988), winner of the Joseph Plateau Prize and Sabam Prize at Ghent, as well as the Crocodile d'Or and the Best Male Lead Role at Nimes. Ti Amo (1989), winner of the Ministery of the Flemish Community Prize at the Brussels Filmfestival, and Bastards (1993).

Frank Van Passel has also directed a number of commercials. He directed three episodes of the police series Bex & Blanche for VTM/D&D Productions.

Manneken Pis (1995) marks his debut as a feature-film director. Villa Des Roses (2002) is his second feature-film. Both were very successful and made Frank Van Passel a 'prodigious' director whose films are always highly anticipated.


Jan Verheyen (1963)

Little is known about the past of Jan Verheyen. The earliest information dates from 1985 when he founded - together with Marc Punt - independent distributor Independent Films. It quickly became the largest Belgian distributor. After distributing major blockbusters as Basic Instinct, Terminator 2 and Four Weddings and a Funeral, Independentdecided to specialise in Belgian films. Seven of the fifteen most successful Belgian films since 1985, were released by Independent: Daens, Hector, Le Huitième Jour, Toto Le Héro, Boys, Blueberry Hill and Ad fundum.

His debut Boys (1991) was quite successful and Verheyen was chosen, much to everyone's surprise, to direct (Hollywood based) Island Pictures film The Little Death (1995), an erotic thriller with J.T. Walsh, Pamela Gidley and Brent Frasier. It did not live up to expectations and Verheyen's revenge came with Alles Moet Weg (1997), an original road movie based upon the novel by Tom Lanoye.

Meanwhile he could not resist TV-entertainment's call, so he appeared in many shows such as Wie van de drie? (VTM), Sterrenconectie (VTM), De Commissie Wyndaele (Canvas), De Rechtvaardige Rechters (Radio 1), De mannen van de macht (Canvas) and Film Night Special (Kanaal 2). In 2000, Verheyen directed the hugely successful buddy movie Team Spirit, which became one of the five most succesful films ever made in Belgium. All these activities won him the Man of the Year 2000 prize, awarded by the Knack-readers. In september 2001 Verheyen started shooting the thriller Alias, his fifth feature film, based on a scenario by Paul Koeck and Christophe Dirickx. Immediately after releasing Alias, he started shooting the sequel to Team Spirit in the form of a television series.


Willem Walleyn (1961)

Willem Walleyn - born in 1961 - started his professional career as a solicitor. He never went to any kind of film school nor did he attend an actor's training. He learned to operate 8mm cameras when he was still in high school. He has been experimenting with them ever since. Turning point in his life was when he closed his law firm and decided to work as an assistant to numerous directors such as Raoul Servais and Jaco Van Dormael.

We saw his film debut with the short film Dear Jean-Claude at the Brussels Film Festival in 1996, where it received both the Jury and the Press Prize. This tragic comedy can be seen as a letter from a disappointed Moroccan immigrant to his idol Jean-Claude Van Damme. In 1997 he made another short film Urinoir Dogs, but he thought of the film as an exercise for his further work. His first full-length film, Film 1, was released in 1996. Being the son of Luc Walleyn - one of the main suspects in the Agusta-affair -, he made a film about the famous fraud-scandal. It turned out to be thriller, but those of us who are familiar with sensation journalism and with Willem Walleyn himself, should see it as a black comedy.