Here are my abbreviated journal notes for the Belgian Cinema series at the Walter Reade (Film Society of Lincoln Center) so far. Both Thierry Knauff and Dominque Standaert were on hand to discuss their films. The dialogue with Knauff was especially helpful; his films are notoriously demanding, but quite poetic and sensual. It was quite illuminating. Incidentally, here is the full program: Transcendent Realism: New and Old Cinema from Belgium Gbanga-Tita (1994) - Defined by Thierry Knauff as a purely cinematic "moment of grace" (during his introduction of the films), Gbanga-Tita was initially shot as footage for his ethnographic film on the Baka pygmy of the Equatorial forest in South-East Cameroon, Baka. The film consists of a single unbroken close-up shot of Lengé, a tribal Ancient and taleteller, as he engages the young people of the village in a solemn chant that recalls the tragic fate of ancient children whose lives were lost to the river in pursuit of a mythical calabash called Gbanga-Tita. At the age of 43, Lengé is the eldest member of the tribe, and the last taleteller among the indigenous people of the region. The film is a poignant glimpse of sacred tradition, ethnic legacy, and cultural extinction. Anton Webern (1991) - Anton Webern is a poetic and allusive biography of the early 20th century Austrian polyphonic composer Anton Webern. Entirely devoid of narrative dialogue, Webern's life is representationally articulated through expressive, isolated shots of Webern's hands. A challenging, but instinctively cohesive film on creativity, artistic passion, and the tragic consequence of turbulent history. Wild Blue, Notes for Several Voices (2000) - Thierry Knauff's unique and evocative filmic language of poetic imagery and sensorial polyphony is further developed in the sublime, dense, and haunting hybrid documentary composition, Wild Blue, Notes for Several Voices. An early image of a combat boot footprint and subsequent image of painted hands against the walls of an African mudhut symbolize Knauff's theme of the destruction of natural order caused by the imprint of human intervention. By presenting a series of serene and indelible international images of everyday life against harrowing and deeply disturbing testimonies by multicultural female voices describing acts of inhumanity, atrocities, and terrorism, Knauff achieves a sense of visual texture and instinctual cadence that reflects on the dichotomous coexistence of beauty and savagery in contemporary civilization. Klinkaart (1956) - Paul Meyer's short film, Klinkaart, depicts a young woman indoctrination into the sad reality of the tedium and drudgery of her unrewarding, monotonous vocation, and the unwelcome harassment and abusive behavior of other workers. The film evokes the spare and austere cinema of Robert Bresson, particularly Mouchette and Au Hasard Balthazar, in Meyer's parallel imagery of humanity and animal exploitation, from the distinctive footsteps of wooden clogs striking a brick paved road that is reflected in the clacking of horseshoes, to the crosscutting sequence of the young woman exhaustedly toiling in the sun with the horse pulling the clay cart. From the Branches Drops the Withered Blossom (1960) – The title of Paul Meyer's compassionate, sincere, and deeply personal feature film on immigrant labor, cultural assimilation, and exile a line is from a poem by Salvatore Quasimodo pondering the inevitability of change. Initially commissioned by the Ministry of Education to promote the integration of immigrant children into the Borinage school system, the film evolved into a cultural portrait of the increasingly desperate plight of the immigrant population, as the area's primary commerce - the mining industry - fell to economic hardship, mass layoffs, and plant closures, and rendered the lives of these children more uncertain and hopeless. The film is highly reminiscent of Italian neorealism in its depiction of the working class. Hop (2002) - The divisive issues of immigration and social integration are also in Dominique Standaert's visually resplendent, whimsical, and affectionate film, Hop. as Justin (Keita Kalumba), a young immigrant from Burundi, hatches a plan to reunite with his deported father (Ansou Diedhiou), enlisting the aid of a crotchety, but goodhearted former radical named Frans (Jan Decleir) and his devoted housekeeper, Gerda (Antje De Boeck). Although the film strains credibility in a few places, Hop is an admirable and technically adept effort for Standaert, whose genuine compassionate for the plight of his characters and gentle humor pervade the film's well-intentioned soul.