Entering the Walloon Gothic: Nationalist Border Crossing and Othering in Contemporary Flemish Cinema

Lennart Soberon, Gertjan Willems

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Abstract

Over the last decade, Belgium's Dutch-speaking region of Flanders has been marked by a nationalist impulse. This is most clearly visible in the discourses and electoral success of nationalist parties, which call for a greater degree of Flemish independence from the Belgian state and its southern, French-speaking region of Wallonia. This article analyzes how a certain strand within contemporary Flemish cinema relates to such Flemish nationalist discourses. This is done by investigating the representation of Wallonia and its citizens as a national other in four mainstream films: Bullhead (2011), Cub (2014), The Ardennes (2015) and Blind Spot (2017). Through structuring their narratives around the border crossing of a Flemish protagonist into Walloon territory, these films activate a series of nationalist stereotypes and antagonistic discourses that help heighten the Belgian community conflict. The Walloons are framed as national others that either pose a threat or signify a burden to the Flemish protagonist. Moreover, Wallonia itself becomes a hostile space that is imbued with transgressive qualities, capable of corrupting the cohesion of the Flemish self. This representational regime is aesthetically and thematically underlined by evoking a type of 'Walloon Gothic', in which association with the Walloon soil becomes synonymous with a sense of spiritual degradation
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Review of Film and Television Studies
Volume28
Issue number02
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • Cinema
  • Nationalism
  • Villains
  • Flanders
  • Borders

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