verzameling auteur

Flemish disaster movie gets biggest ever grant

The Flemish Audio-visual Fund VAF is releasing a million euros for director Jan Verheyen’s disaster movie about the fire at the Innovation department store in Brussels in 1967. It’s the biggest grant ever awarded to a Flemish film, but Verheyen has promised a spectacular reconstruction of Belgium’s biggest peace time disaster.

Fire broke out at the flagship Innovation store in the Nieuwstraat in Brussels shortly after noon on 22 May 1967.  Fire spread fast and the whole store was gutted.  250 people died in the tragedy.

Investigators blame a short circuit caused by strip lighting, but there’s also been speculation about an attack triggered by the ‘American Fortnight’ that the store was staging at the time.  It’s around this theory that Verheyen will construct his narrative.

Verheyen defends the cost of the movie: “We are having to reconstruct an historical event.  Special effects are especially expensive.  We won’t cut corners and use any cheap tricks! In Flanders we possess several production companies that can deliver what I want.  I don’t want anybody to say, ‘For a Flemish movie, it was quite good’.”

The director believes the grant will unlock the door for necessary, additional funding.  He’s eyeing a budget of up to 5 million euros for this movie: “It’s the kind of cash we need to beat off the competition from Hollywood.”

Filming can start in the fall of this year at the earliest.  “I’m aiming for a premiere in 2023.  The idea is to construct a movie around the theory that the fire was arson.  Far left organisations did claim responsibility for the fire afterwards. Another storyline involves a couple whose life is changed radically by the fire.  One thing is already set in stone.  The movie will be called ‘Happening’.”

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