"Hollybourg" in Greater Region?
The first film images in Luxembourg were shot in 1899 by an operator working for the Lumière brothers. Until 1920 itinerant filmmakers travelling through the region but also a handful of theatre owners recorded events in Luxembourg and subsequently presented them to their audiences.
Despite isolated attempts to establish a film industry that deserves this name, the first feature fiction film directed by a Luxembourgish filmmaker, Philippe Schneider’s L’Amour, oui mais…!, dates from as late as 1970. And it was not until 1981 that a group of amateur filmmakers, gathered under the umbrella of AFO Film, shot and produced the first feature film in Luxembourgish language (Wat huet e gesoot?). The film’s success with local audiences was soon outshined by that of the company’s second production, Congé fir e Mord, encouraging other film buffs such as Andy Bausch to venture into filmmaking, albeit with amateur means.
In 1987 Bausch directed Troublemaker with actor Thierry Van Werveke, a feature film that achieved cult status. AFO and Bausch soon gathered around them a circle of young cinephiles who would go on to study film abroad. Yet it was not until 1988 that the government decided to systematically support film in Luxembourg. Schacko Klak (1989) by Paul Kieffer and Fank Hoffmann was the first film almost entirely financed by the State to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the country’s independence. In the same year the government introduced the Audiovisual Investment Certificate Program (CIAV), followed in 1989 by the National Support Fund for Audiovisual Production (FONSPA). This twofold system ensured that Luxembourgish productions and co-productions could benefit from substantial public support. The same year also saw the establishment of the National Audiovisual Centre (CNA), whose mission, among others, is to preserve and commercialise the country’s cinematographic heritage.
Since 1989 film in Luxembourg has professionalised, with around 600 people working directly or indirectly in the industry. Around 15 feature films are produced or co-produced in Luxembourg every year as well as half a dozen documentaries and around ten short films. Specific unions protect the rights of producers (ULPA), directors and scriptwriters (LARS - www.lars.lu), technicians (ALTA - www.alta.lu) and actors (ACTORS.LU - www.actors.lu).
Together, in December 2012 they founded a "Filmakademie" (www.filmakademie.lu) which aims to encourage and promote national filmmaking while serving as a consultative body for the members representing the sector. The Filmakademie also organizes the "Lëtzebuerger Filmpräis", in collaboration with the National Science Foundation to support audiovisual production.
Two film studios are currently used as film location: Studios Luxembourg in Contern and Filmland Luxembourg in Kehlen, the latter a joint venture of several local film producers. The CNA also accommodates a small studio that can be used for occasional shoots.
Luxembourg has played host to a number of foreign shoots, mostly co-produced with other European countries, including Peter Webber’s Girl with a Pearl Earring with Scarlett Johansson (2003), Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino (2004), Lisa Azuelos' Comme t’y es belle (2006), Sam Gabarski’s Irina Palm with Marianne Faithfull (2007), Joachim Lafosse’s A perdre la raison with Emilie Dequenne (2012) and Eric Rochant’s Möbius with Jean Dujardin (2013).
Most Luxembourgish filmmakers start their careers directing short films. Short films are supported (after selection) by the FONSPA and can generally rely on generous funding.
In the absence of a TV broadcaster producing documentaries on Luxembourgish society, cinema has appropriated this task. Luxembourgish society is examined in the documentaries of the likes of Geneviève Mersch (Le pont rouge, 1991; Roger, 1996), Christophe Wagner (Ligne de vie, 2002; Doheem, 2005), Yann Tonnar (Weilerbach, 2008; Mir wëlle net bleiwen, in collaboration with Pascal Becker, 2010; Schrebergaart, 2011) and Julie Schroell (De Bauereblues, 2011).
Various documentaries have probed into the life and work of public figures such as René Deltgen, der sanfte Rebell (2004) and Germaine Damar, der tanzende Stern (2011) by Michael Wenk, or Inthierryview (2008) and Monsieur Warum (2004) by Andy Bausch. Other documentaries have delved into the history of the country, including Claude Lahr’s very successful Heim ins Reich (2004), co-produced with the CNA, followed by another CNA co-production, Ray Tostevin’s Léif Lëtzebuerger (2009). Bausch has become something of a specialist in this field, with documentaries such as Entrée d’artistes (2007) and Schockela, Knätschgummi a brong Puppelcher (2010).
In the wake of the industry’s professionalisation in the early 1990s, animated film has come to play a significant role in the country’s output. Appropriately, the only cinema-related professional training programme available in Luxembourg is a Higher Technical Certificate (BTS) in Animated Film at the Lycée des Arts et Métiers. The country is also home to several animation studios, some of which began to work on TV series before turning to short and feature films. Many of them been able to establish themselves internationally. Among the animated feature films co-produced in Luxembourg are The Prodigies (2011) by Antoine Charreyron, Ernest et Célestine (2012) by Benjamin Renner, Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar and Le jour des corneilles (2012) by Jean-Christophe Dessaint.
Luxembourgish filmmakers such as Olivier Pesch (Le Gardien du nid, 2006; Emilie, 2013) and Claude Grosch (Rose et Violet, in collaboration with Luc Otter, 2011) have also ventured into animation.
Luxembourgish feature films
Relatively few Luxembourgish filmmakers have ventured into feature filmmaking, and those who have are generally evolving in an international context. In 2003 Geneviève Mersch directed her first (and to date only) feature film in French, J’ai toujours voulu être une sainte. A number of films have been shot in English, including In a Dark Place by Donato Rotunno (2006), Boys on the Run by Pol Cruchten (2011), House of Boys by Jean-Claude Schlim (2009), Dust by Max Jacoby (2009) and Hot, Hot, Hot by Beryl Koltz (2012).
Merely a handful of Luxembourgish filmmakers have turned their attention to life in their country. Among the pioneers is Bausch, whose 2002 feature film Club des chômeurs was a box office hit which its sequel did not live up to. Three years later Pol Cruchten filmed an adaptation of Jhemp Hoscheit’s novel Perl oder Pica (2006). In 2007 Kieffer returns to feature films with Nuits d’Arabie, with Luxembourgish actor Jules Werner and his French colleague Sabrina Ouazani in the main roles. In 2009 the producer Nicolas Steil directed Réfractaire. Among the new generation of Luxembourgish filmmakers, Laura Schroeder directed the children’s film Schatzritter (2012), while Christophe Wagner delivered a successful crime fiction Doudege Wénkel/Angle mort.
In 2012 the government decided to end the CIAV scheme and announced that future films would benefit exclusively from direct financial support (with larger sums available to mitigate the absence of CIAV). The modified law to bring this decision into effect will be submitted to Parliament in 2013.
Viviane Thill, CNA