Foreign Film Submissions, 2015: The Brand New Testament (Belgium)

by HFPA November 27, 2015

Part of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s mission is to foster greater understanding through world cinema. This year 72 Foreign Language films were submitted for Golden Globes consideration. Here is an overview of one of them.

God exists! And he lives in Brussels; a real mean bastard who gets his kicks watching his creatures suffer and is hideous with his wife and daughter. We know a lot about his son ‘J.C’ but very little about his 10-year-old daughter Ea. One day she decides to revolt against her father and hacks into his hard drive, sending a text message to the mobile phone of every human advising them of their exact date of death, then crashes the computer to rob God of any power to cause more mischief. Ea “falls” unto earth via a secret portal at the back of the family’s washing machine and begins her quest to find six apostles to write her own new testament.

Thus begins the The Brand New Testament, a philosophical-religious satire imagined by cult Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael and novelist Thomas Gunzig. “We wanted to mix comedy and poetry, and cruel comedy as well, but this is not the cinema of religion,” says Van Dormael. “Religion is a storyline in the background, this story is about family, about the place of women in society. And it’s about the question: If you knew the exact moment of your death, what would you do with the rest of your life?”

The excellent cast consists of Pili Groyne (Ea, God’s daughter) and Benoit Poelvoorde (God). One of the most hilarious surrealistic performances in this Belgian entry comes from French legend Catherine Deneuve, as one of the chosen apostles who happens to fall in love with ... a gorilla.

This Belgian-French co-production has drawn more than 1.1 million spectators in France and Belgium, turning it into a huge hit. Le Pacte, handling international sales, has sold the film to more than 50 countries.

The Brand New Testament world premiered at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight. It has since travelled in many famous international festivals (TIFF, BFI London, Karlovy Vary…) and has won multiple awards: Best comedy feature at the Austin Fantastic Fest, a Silver Meliès for Best European Film and a Best Actress award at Sitgès plus the Audience Award and Ray of Sunshine Award at Haugesund. It is currently nominated for the best European Comedy at European Film Awards and recently won Best European Production Designer.

With 4 movies produced in 25 Years, Jaco Van Dormael may not be super prolific but he is a one-of-a-kind imaginative creative director. Each of his movies has led to worldwide success (M. Nobody, The Eighth Day, Toto le Héros). The Brand New Testament does not disappoint; on the contrary, it is an irresistibly laugh-out-loud and feel-good flick.

Greet Ramaekers