At this year’s inaugural Third Culture Film Festival, the Belgian short Doctor Pafke took home the award for Best Experimental. Anyone who attended our opening night will agree with the jury. This raw grayscale interpretation of the work of writer J.M. Berckmans left no one untouched. We spoke with director Kris Verdonck.
What made you decide to adapt Berckmans’ work?
I’ve been a visual artist for years now. I never cared about any narrative, I just wanted to create striking images. This got me into the local gallery circuit, which I really enjoyed. But after a few years of doing that, I started looking for a different challenge, and got into experimenting with film. I’ve long been impressed with the writing of J.M. Berckmans, and his style lends itself very well to visual adaptation. I started thinking how I could honour his work. In the end I decided to take on the viewpoint of someone who’s never read his books. I questioned how people would interpret his word if they had never heard it before. That’s how I filmed Doctor Pafke.
Is this your first short film?
I made a similar short film around ten years ago, but yes, this is my first film since I changed my focus away from other visual arts. I couldn’t be happier with the result. Doctor Pafke really triggered something in Belgium. I think it made a lot of people realise it’s still okay to make Rock & Roll art. We made it to a lot of festivals, in Belgium and abroad, and the fact that we won an award in Hong Kong…! Stijn Meuris, who wrote the soundtrack, called half of Belgium when we heard the news!
it’s still okay to make Rock & Roll art
Thanks to this film, we gained a lot of goodwill for our future projects. After losing a couple 100 euros on Pafke, I’m glad to say we finally have a proper investor for our next adventure!
What will that adventure be?
I’m currently working on Knetterende Schedels (lit. Crackling Skulls), another film based off a writer’s work, this time a book by Roger van de Velde. We’re hoping to shoot in February ‘17 and release that summer.
I also just finished working on Loop, a 4 minute film on identity and psychosis. That was just a pastime, something to stay busy, but it was a lot of fun to make! And then I’m also working on a documentary on Robbe De Hert. He’s one of Belgium’s greatest ever directors, but he’s so incredibly underrated. What he did in the 60’s and 70’s is amazing, he was up there with Scorsese and Spielberg, even beat them in short film competitions. But now he’s hardly known amongst his own people, except as this comical figure in sporadic talk- or game shows.