Oddly, comedy was a somewhat underrepresented genre in the years when I volunteered for the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival programming committee. As a former story editor, I know how difficult it is to write and edit comedy and how unrewarding producing comedies can be – at least if you aspire to win any significant awards. The audience, however, tends to love comedies and for a festival programmer it is a welcome relief to watch a comedy now and then amongst a wide range of social and women’s issues films.
Belgium is a funny country per se. Did you know the tiny Western European nation with only 11 million inhabitants has three different official languages (Dutch/Flemish, French and German), three regional governments (Flemish, Walloon and Brussels-Capital), more than a dozen political parties and the dubious distinction of hosting Europe’s most traffic-congested cities? And this in spite of (or perhaps, because of) a highway system, which, up to July 15th, 2011, used to be illuminated all night long (and now still until around midnight), so much so that it is the only man-made structure visible from the moon at night?
Belgian film has been tremendously successful in the last few years. Not only do the Dardenne brothers almost annually produce a fabulous film (often screened at VIFF), but did you know Belgian films were Oscar-nominated twice in the last few years? Bullhead (2011) and The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012) both received Best Foreign Language film nominations. Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts (the star in Bullhead) has recently been cast as the lead in the HBO mini series Lewis and Clark, soon to be shot in Alberta. And the 2013 Women in Film awards for Best Feature Film, Best Directing and Best Screenwriting went to Patrice Toye’s Little Black Spiders.
So needless to say, being Belgian (Flemish) myself, I was particularly pleased that the 21-minute short Belgian comedy Taxistop was selected for #VIWIFF2015.
Taxistop is the story of Antoine (Serge Larivière), who books a carpool ride to Geneva because of a railway strike. To his surprise, he is not the only passenger. Five opposite personalities are confined in one car for a long trip. To Antoine, this is the perfect opportunity to test his theories about team building he so strongly believes in. The film is shot in French, with some Flemish dialogue and is hilariously funny.
I caught up with Flemish-born, Brussels-based writer-director Marie Enthoven:
VIWIFF: Taxistop is a comedy about a man who gets into a predicament that forces him to test his theories of cooperation. How did you come up with the character of Antoine and what is his theory based on?
Marie Enthoven: Since a few decades, values like introspection, communication and compromise are very much in fashion. Despite the fact that I’m convinced by these values on the longer term, it amused me to explore their limits with the character of Antoine that incarnates this to the extreme. What should happen when someone like Antoine is confronted to his opposite, Patsy (Catherine Salée)? Patsy only knows one way to go around with her desires and that is how to impose them. Patsy has no idea of living in community. Should we therefore exclude her from the community or should we impose her to live with compromises? That’s the whole paradox.
V: Can you tell where, when and how long Taxistop was filmed?
ME: We filmed in 7 days in July 2013, mostly in the south of Brussels, Brabant Wallonia. For the last scene we went further to the south of Belgium and we shut down a piece of a highway to be able to shoot safely. That was fun. We had our tables and chairs put in the middle of the highway for our lunch break.
V: Many film scenes take place with an ensemble of 5 actors pressed into a tiny car. How did you go about, technically and logistically, to shoot those scenes?
ME: It was not easy for me to be able to concentrate on the performance of the five at the same time. We did rehearsal before the shooting and I took some time with each actor alone. On the film set we had a travelling car, that’s a car on which you put your acting car on, and the crew can stand around while we drive. That’s very practical. But still very windy…
V: If I am well informed, you have a parallel life as a yoga teacher and filmmaker, shooting two shorts in the last two years. How do these two worlds influence each other?
ME: Actually, I stopped teaching yoga when I was pregnant of my second daughter because I decided to jump and try doing what I always really dreamed of but didn’t dare. My pregnancy gave me that courage. I directed my first film Naive eight months pregnant. That was fun.
V: The Vancouver Women in Film Festival celebrates the creative achievements of women working behind the camera, ultimately aiming to increase the percentage of films made by women. Belgium has a good share of female filmmakers with Patrice Toye (Little Black Spiders), Fien Troch (Kid) and Vanja D’Alcantara (Beyond the Steppes) as some of the names on the festival circuit. What is, from your point of view, the situation for women wanting to direct films in Belgium?
ME: I see indeed a lot of very talented woman making great films in Belgium. All the opportunities are there for women, there are no difficulties, at least no more difficulties because we are women.
V: You are Flemish but chose to shoot your films mainly in French language. Why so?
ME: I don’t really know. I came to Brussels to study philosophy in French, I met my French-speaking husband, and most people in Brussels speak French, so… My reality is very mixed. I speak Flemish with my children when my husband is not there, they go to Flemish school in Brussels and I have friends from both languages.
V: Thank you for the conversation!
By Katja De Bock
Katja De Bock is a Vancouver Women in Film & Television member currently contributing articles to the Women in Film blog, Reel West Magazine and Kerrisdale Playbook. She also occasionally posts articles about things she loves on Westsidebeat.
Taxistop screens on Thursday March 5 at 6:30 PM in the “Medley of Nine Shorts” section.
The film received several awards, including:
- COUP DE CŒUR BE TV at le court en dit long in Paris, France
- AWARD OF MERIT: WOMEN FILMMAKER at Best short Competition Award
- BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT MOVIE at visioni corte, Italy
- MOST VOTES OF THE PUBLIC at Leiden International Film Festival, Netherlands