“Broken Circle Breakdown” enjoying global success

The latest Belgian film from Felix van Groningen is walking away with first prizes all over the world. Now it’s on the threshold of glory, one week away from the European Film Awards and the campaign for the American Oscars. It could create a few surprises.

A Belgian movie, The Broken Circle Breakdown, is writing its own outrageous success story, making history all over the world. After its first showing in October 2012 in Ghent, Felix van Groeningen’s film, with Michael Roskam (Bullhead), exploded onto the scene in Berlin and since then has cornered the market on first prizes wherever it is shown. Roskam is at the top of the list of the Flemish New Wave at barely 36 years old. Now the film is considered one of the favorites for the European Film Awards, the European film world’s equivalent of the Oscars. The film is nominated in five major categories (best film, director, actor, actress, screenplay) an honor that hasn’t been bestowed on a Belgian film since 1992’s Toto the Hero by Jaco Van Cormael.

Just like Bullhead in 2012, The Broken Circle Breakdown is the film that, this year, might cause a surprise in the battle for the Best Foreign Film Oscar. The competition to make the short list of five official nominees for the Oscar is tough, and the list of potential candidates is enormous – 76 films from all over the world. Let’s be realistic: after the film’s triumphal tour of the world, and the prizes it has won this year, including in Berlin, New York (Tribeca), Copenhagen, Key West, Seville, Norway and Portugal, The Broken Circle Breakdown is already one of the films with the best chance of claiming the Oscar on February 24, 2014.

Felix van Groeningen’s crazy film year confirms what we’ve been saying for four or five years: Flemish cinema, which used to be corny and only successful in its own backyard, has entered its golden age. It now regularly crosses boundaries and is greeted by an often surprised international press, not to mention its leading figures (Roskam, Troch, Enthoven, Brosens etc.). It’s now conquering new audiences. In France, over 200,000 people have seen the film since its recent release. For a Flemish film, that is a true feat.

It’s been a year since Felix van Groeningen brought his film to foreign audiences. Speaking to us from Los Angeles, he says he’s had time to analyze and try to understand the reasons behind its critical and popular success. “I think it’s the combination of a story that is very close to people. The film deals with life, death, love and illness. These are things that we will all have to deal with in our lives, if we haven’t already. At the same time, the film deals with free, exotic and almost hippie-like people. I think it’s a film that touches people and opens them up. When I first discovered the play, it didn’t seem like I had seen much. It was an experience. And something about it stayed with me. I think that, with this film, the same thing is happening.”

What’s the secret of Broken Circle-mania, and more broadly, of Felix van Groeningen’s films, the director of the powerful The Misfortunates. Felix is an author as well as a popular film director. He speaks about life: couples, the family, love, death. His heroes are people at the margins, blue-collar alcoholics (The Misfortunates), hippies (The Broken Circle Breakdown), lonely hearts (With Friends Like These) and night owls (Steve + Sky, the director’s first feature film). He offers an incredibly visceral cinematic experience, peopled as much by bodies (often nude, dancing, sweating) as by souls, who experiment and sing.

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