Country Focus: Luxembourg
Luxembourg - International Film Guide Survey
par Boyd Van Hoeij
21/04/2009 - Luxembourg is one of the few countries where International co-productions are the lifeblood of the film industry and local films are very rare. The subsidized film sector attracts international talent to its sound stages and magnificent outdoor locations. Most of the films in which Luxembourg is the primary producing nation are documentaries or shorts, with fiction features amounting to no more than one or two a year.
But things are slowly changing. Films produced in Luxembourg are now more often European co-productions rather than US/Luxembourg productions. The revamped financing law of 2007 should keep Luxembourg competitive, as it has abolished the rule that part of the film has to be shot on Luxembourg soil in order to qualify for rebates (it now only needs to have Luxembourg residents on the payroll). This helps to keep talent closer to home, as countries such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland are now the main co-production partners of foreign films. International titles such as Bride Flight, JCVD, Diamant 13, Ne Te Retourne Pas, Humains, Vampire Party, Robber Girls, Dragon Hunters and The Children of Timpelbach were recently co-produced by Luxembourg.
It is telling of the size of Luxembourg that even local features often have a foreign component. The most successful Luxembourg film of the year was Charlotte: A Royal at War (Léif Lëtzebuerger), a documentary about the period the Luxembourg Grand-Duchess Charlotte spent in exile during the Second World War. It follows in the tradition of another box office success from 2004, Heim ins reich – L’échec d‘une annexion, which looked at Nazi Germany’s annexation of the country. Co-produced with the UK and directed by Roy Tostevin, Charlotte: A Royal at War alternates between talking heads and polished reenactments of historical events, presenting a good introduction to the subject, albeit superficial.
More challenging dramatically is the fiction feature Arabian Nights (Nuits d’Arabie) from director Paul Kieffer. As it follows a train conductor from his staid life at home to a voyage into the North African desert in search of a girl, the narrative swerves from realism to the fantastic. The film’s second half, shot on location in Algeria, is more successful than its first, which lacks credibility. The film is noteworthy because it is one of the very few features to feature Luxembourgish, one of the official languages of the country, besides German and French.
On the documentary front, Geneviève Mersch’s Plein d’Essence looked at one of the biggest petrol stations in the country, while Christophe Wagner’s Luxemburg, USA looks up descendants of Luxembourg immigrants in the U.S. both were produced with aid from the 2007 European Capital of Culture initiative, but are strictly local fare. Shot on video, these films have little value, despite being shown in cinemas. Both directors have new fiction projects in development.
The pool of local talent has been steadily growing in the last couple of years. Beryl Koltz, who made the 2005 short Starfly, is in pre-production on her feature debut Hot Hot Hot, and Max Jacoby, who directed the 2005 short Butterflies, started shooting his first feature Dust. Several other talented youngsters are waiting in the wings, including Jeff Desom, Fred Neuen and Adolf El-Assal.
Also noteworthy are two shorts with a gay theme: Laura Schroeder’s Senteurs and Jaques Molitor’s En Compagnie de la Poussière. Schroeder’s film focuses on a housewife who embarks on a passionate affair with a woman (which echoes some of the same escapist themes – and problems – as Arabian Nights), while Molitor’s explores the feelings of two male friends. It was selected for the Locarno Film Festival and shows a fine grasp of visual language and non-conformist narration that makes him a name to watch.