Belgium has a vibrant and thriving film industry, and a long history of producing quality films. Almost every year, the country is well represented at international film festivals, and often comes home with awards recognising the achievements of Belgian filmmakers and actors.
Close, a coming-of-age drama from 2022 directed by Lukas Dhont, is just one in a long line of critically acclaimed films to be conceived and produced in Belgium. Written by Dhont and Angelo Tijssens – the same team that wrote the emotive feature film Girl (2018) – Close follows two teenage boys whose friendship is thrown into disarray when their schoolmates notice their intimacy.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2022 to critical acclaim, and was awarded the Grand Prix. In January 2023, Close was nominated for the Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. It has also won the André Cavens Award for Best Film, and at the 12th Magritte Awards – Belgium’s Oscars – Close received ten nominations, including Best Screenplay.
A hard-hitting film on the Syrian conflict
Another home grown hit is the film Rebel by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah from 2022. The film tells the story of Kamal who decides to leave Belgium to help war victims in Syria. Once there however, he gets stuck in Raqqa and ends up in a religious militia. At the same time, his younger brother Nassim in Brussels is easy prey for radical recruiters. The duo from Belgium (of Moroccan descent) confirm that they want to continue making entertaining cinema, while also bringing important stories to a wider audience.
The Belgian Tax Shelter, promoting the arts since 2003
The Belgian Tax Shelter is a government-approved tax incentive designed to encourage the production of audio-visual works in the country. The system is open to all Belgian productions, as well as European and international co-productions with Belgium that meet certain criteria. Each of the main parties involved benefit from this arrangement: the producer is offered a very attractive way to finance projects; the investor obtains tax exemption via a virtually risk-free investment; and the Belgian state gains from increased economic activity and jobs.
Since the system was launched in 2003, the Tax Shelter has enjoyed increasing success with more than 5,000 investors subscriptions to the scheme each year. To put the initiative into perspective, more than €1.22 billion was invested in the Tax Shelter between 2015 and 2022 into a range of audio-visual works including films, documentaries, series, animations, and 234 million euros has been invested in the performing arts.