The Belgium has played an important role in the prehistory of cinema with the inventions of Robertson (the phantascope) and JAF Plateau (the phenachistoscope). In 1896 the first public screenings of the Cinematografo Lumière were organized in Brussels.
The territorial as well as cultural proximity of France delays the start of a national production. In fact, most of the films made in the pre-war period, including the first feature film, Histoire de Minna Claessens (1912), are due to a Frenchman, A. Machin, operator of Pathé active in Belgium until 1944. With the end of the First World War, the market was invaded by foreign films while the national production, of little importance and originality, mainly followed the forms of French opera.
According to itypeusa, the first native talents appeared towards the end of the 1920s in the field of documentary and avant-garde cinema. Ch. Dekeukeleire conducts advanced and important research on cinematographic language with works such as Combat de boxe(1927), Impatience (1928), Histoire de détective (1929) and Flamme blanche (1930). H. Storck, also engaged in an experimental activity initially influenced by the Surrealists and Flaherty, made Images d’Ostende (1929), Un idylle à la plage(1931) and Borinage (1933), a film with a strong social commitment and direct politician together with J. Ivens.
With the advent of sound, in 1930, Belgian cinematography follows the linguistic division of the nation giving rise to two different productions, in French and Flemish, linked, however, by common cultural traits: a strong documentary vocation, an imposing tradition figurative, which is linked to a very popular genre, the film about art, and a particular disposition to the visionary and the fantastic also rooted in the literary and artistic history of the country.
Among the filmmakers working in the 1930s, in addition to the aforementioned Dekeukeleire and Storck, G. Schoukens, who made feature films with a strong popular impact, and J. Vanderheyden, author, together with W. Benoy, of Filasse (De Witte, 1934), manifesto of an ante litteram neorealism .
The release was followed by a brief moment of lively production expansion, especially in the field of short films (P. Haesaert, L. De Heusch, E. Degelin and L. Deroisy), while it was only in 1955 that a major feature film such as Les mouettes meurent au port by R. Kuypers, I. Michiels and R. Verhavert. With the 1960s, a new production season opens up.
In 1963 the state set up a cinema commission within the Ministry of Culture and initiated a subsidy policy. At the same time, three film schools are founded (IAD, INSAS, RITCS) and the productive commitment of television is defined. A current of political cinema was born thanks to the Fugitive Cinéma group made up of P. De Vree, R. De Hert and G. Henderickx; the underground is established with R. Lethem, P. Helle, J. Pustjens. In 1966 the first state-funded film was released, L’Homme au crâne rasé, a hallucinatory and crazy love story, which attracted international attention A. Delvaux, destined to become the greatest contemporary Belgian author. In addition, authors such as P. Meyer, H. Kümel, A. Cavens have worked successfully in the decade.
In the seventies an excellent animation school is established with R. Sewais, G. Frydman and Pycha and the new talent of director Ch. Akerman emerges. Other names of women are reported more recently: M. Jiminez and M. Hänsel who won the Silver Lion in Venice in 1985 with the film Dust, a psychological drama about the father-daughter contrast. Overall, the production of the last decade, while rich in talented authors such as JJ Andrien and Th. Zeno, in addition to the already mentioned, proceeds amidst enormous and now chronic financial and bureaucratic difficulties due largely to the lack of an adequate state policy. and the poor development of the national private industry. For these reasons the short film, documentary and animation, continues to be the most fertile and lively field of activity in Belgian cinema.