Face of Flanders: Robbe De Hert

Summary

One of Flanders' pioneering film directors is struggling to finish a documentary about Flanders' film history with dwindling funds and a stint in hospital

Hollywood aan de Schelde

In the 1980s, he was one of the young upstarts intent on giving Belgian cinema a social dimension. More recently, he’s been living in a social apartment in Antwerp, heavily in debt and unable to carry on with his film history project Hollywood aan de Schelde (Hollywood on the Scheldt).

Robbe De Hert is in hospital suffering from an infection in his foot aggravated by diabetes. A group of friends from the film and arts industries are working to raise money for his project and have topped €40,000. But a lawyer has warned that that effort may have been in vain, if the sponsors of the crowdfunding initiatives don’t take urgent action.

Robin François De Hert, later known as Robbe, was born in Hampshire, England, in 1942, where his Flemish parents were exiled during the German occupation. In 1966, back in Belgium, he became part of the Fugitive Cinema Collective and he is credited with nine short films.

In 1973, he made his feature film debut with Camera Sutra, which combines documentary footage of various public events in Belgium with the story of a group of young people on a journey through the country.

Non-profit needed

Later, he became known for unconventional, often political, movies like De witte van Sichem (Whitey), an adaptation of the 1920 novel by Ernest Claes that criticises severe punishments handed out to children. He also made the award-winning Blueberry Hill and the sequel Brylcreem Boulevard.

He made his last fiction feature Lijmen/Het Been in 2001, based on the novels by Willem Elsschot. Following that, he has made only documentary shorts.

The money raised by his friends and colleagues may not be there for long, according to Wim Smits, a lawyer specialising in debt arbitration. “If the money raised is deposited in Robbe De Hert’s bank account, it’s perfectly possible that one of his creditors will apply for it to be sequestered to pay off his debts,” Smits told Gazet van Antwerpen.

Organisers of the crowdfunding campaign can avoid that, he continued, “by setting up a non-profit specifically aimed at producing Hollywood aan de Schelde. It’s important that this money be kept strictly separated  from Robbe De Hert’s private assets.”

photo credit:
Kris Van Exel/ID photo agency