Belgian Spotlight: The Best of Belgium Part 1

Belgian Spotlight: The Best of Belgium Part 1
Perhaps the strongest grouping of shorts in this year's festival, The Best of Belgium Part 1 reveals a nation with far more to offer the world than just waffles and beer. In fact, the final short in the program, "Bunny Games," may very well be one of the best depictions of familial passive-aggressive behaviour and quiet resentment to find its way onto the big screen in years. Not to mention a couple of other more surreal entries that will surely raise an eyebrow or two.

Starting things out is "Orgesticulanismus," an animated exploration of one man's battle with multiple sclerosis and his redefinition of movement and its meaning as a method of coping. It's well articulated, thoughtfully constructed and generates the intended reflection. "Mumbler" is thoughtfully assembled as well, albeit in an entirely different and truly bizarre manner, as a social peeon accidentally finds a band of followers after an unexpected encounter and playtime with rotting food.

"Missing" proves unorthodox and amusing as well, with a man learning from his wife that he is apparently missing, despite being right there. This charade eventually spreads to neighbours, family members and the police, who launch a search for the man sitting across from them. Methinks this is indicative of a banal lifestyle wherein one feels invisible. Either that or it's a surrealistic Belgian version of Harvey, only without the giant invisible rabbit.

The next short, "Harragas," about a man that stows away in the luggage compartment of a bus to escape Tangiers, is more interesting than it is entertaining, showing how greed and distrust can overtake even our basic survival instincts. This darker thematic material leads perfectly into "Bunny Games," which initially seems like a playful short about the interruption of a potential coital encounter between married parents by their daughter but slowly reveals how children learn the ropes of emotional abuse.

The dialogue and performances here are shocking and realistic, giving the entire thing that much more of impact.