Café Derby invites you to take a look into the life of Georges: a man of the people with a big heart and even bigger dreams. When he mans his stall at the local market, it is crowded with people hanging off his every word. He knows which customers will buy what, how to make the pitch, and when to close the deal. With a family of five to feed, Georges is constantly on the lookout for the next big business venture. As far as his youngest daughter Sara is concerned, her father is the king of the world.
Belgian filmmaker Lenny Van Wesemael tells the moving story of Georges and Sara based on her own family history. In her film debut, Van Wesemael adapts her story into an affectionate and poignant look back on a family struggling to stay together.
Though only four years old at the time, Van Wesemael still remembers the excitement surrounding Pope John Paul II’s historic trip to Belgium in May 1985.
In Café Derby, we meet Georges (Wim Opbrouck) as he catches wind of the Pontiff’s visit. He sees his opportunity to capitalize on the estimated 120,000 people coming to see the catholic leader in person. Café Derby is the only establishment near the Papal route and Georges jumps at the chance to take ownership of the business that could provide food and drink for the masses. Seeing this event as the big break he’s been looking for, Georges believes that in one day they can make millions and end their family’s struggle.
Seeing the events unfold from Sara’s perspective dramatically cuts to the deep emotion of the film. Georges is not just her father, but her hero. Watching Sara (Chloë Daxhelet) discover Georges’s Achilles heel epitomizes that painful lesson of childhood when we realize that our parents are not the indestructible beacons of all things right; they are, in fact, human, just like us.
When asked by journalist Bart Dewaele if the film’s story was true to her life, Van Wesemael coyly responds “I can’t tell you that, because then I would be telling you the whole story. But I can say that things didn’t go quite as planned . . . Yeah [Café Derby] is autobiographical, but not all the way. My father was a strange man: he had lots of jobs. We had a café, but he was also a salesman in the market. But that story about trying to get rich; that was what was really inspiring for me.”
The resulting #VIWIFF2016-selected film allows the viewer not only to partake in Van Wesemael’s childhood journey, but to draw parallels with our own journeys and the lessons that make up our lives.
By Laura K. MacDonald
Café Derby opens the #VIWIFF2016 festival on Tuesday March 8th at 7 PM and is followed by an opening night party. For more details and to purchase tickets, click here.
Laura K. MacDonald is a WIFTV member and a recipient of the 2016 WIFTV Actor Mentorship Program. The prolific actor blogs on http://www.laurakmacdonald.com/ . You can also follow Laura on Twitter at @lauramacmuffin .
The theme song of Café Derby (Ding-a-Dong) was the winner of the 1975 Eurovision Song Contest – by Flanders’ archrivals, The Netherlands! But: actress Monic Hendrickx, who plays the mom in Café Derby, is Dutch and not Flemish, as only native speakers will notice. The rivalry by small Flanders and larger Netherlands is somewhat analog to Canada and the US – with the same language, but a different culture and attitude.
If you liked the music, the makers of Café Derby made a YouTube playlist with the best songs in their original version, including a Dutch version of Ding-a-Dong — enjoy: