Retakes: Olivier Smolders
Olivier Smolders is among the filmmakers whose films have been selected the most often at the Festival. Beginning with his first submission, Adoration (1987), which was both a selection and a winner, ten other films have appeared in our three competitions (National, Lab and International, by dint of French-Belgian co-productions).
He is also one of the most decorated filmmakers here, having won four awards, including the Lab Grand Prix in 2010 for Petite anatomie de l’image [Little Anatomy of the Image]. Of course his successes are not limited to Clermont-Ferrand; his films have won awards the world over.
Unfortunately, only viewers and critics who make the rounds of venues dedicated to short films or regularly watch Arte know that Smolders is a captivating filmmaker who creates profoundly original, innovative and meticulous films.
Smolders has also published a dozen essays and organized numerous exhibitions, including Démons et merveilles [Demons and Wonders] with his brother Quentin, on display at the Centre Wallonie-Bruxelles in Paris from 24th January to 1st March 2020. He will also be highly visible at this year’s Festival: eight of his fifteen shorts will be shown in the two programs of “Retakes”; an exhibition of his photographs entitled La diagonale du fou [The Mad Diagonal]; he will meet with festival-goers and is a member of the International Jury.
As a grand finale to our tribute to him, we will present him with a Vercingetorix prize in recognition of all he’s done!
Olivier Smolders was born in 1956 in Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo, a city and country that no longer exist (they are now known as Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively), in an “imaginary Africa as it is depicted in children’s books” (Voyage autour de ma chambre [Journey Around My Bedroom]). Perhaps that is where the powerful imagination he imbues his films with comes from, lending them such a melancholy feel. Lest we forget that his homeland was witness to mass slaughters that are still covered up to this day.
He is a professor at INSAS and the Institut Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in Brussels, as well as lecturer at the University of Liege, and “tightrope-walker, fly-fisherman, agnostic, dissident, author of essays on literature and film, member of the Zutiste club”.
Beginning with Mort à Vignole [Death in Vignole], his films have become more overtly personal, autobiographical even. While his earlier works relied more often on texts (by Sade, Teresa of Ávila and Marcel Mariën), paintings (by Antoine Wiertz) or real-life stories (the cannibal in Adoration), his most recent film, Axolotl, is an adaptation of Kafka’s last, incomplete work.
Here is a filmmaker who is not done surprising us!