Document 27905

“The city is like life,
you build and you break down
and then you build again.”
‘Welcome Home’ shows three intense moments in the life of Lila. She is the common
thread between three men she meets during
significant instants of her existence.
The film is a sharp love letter to Brussels, a
city in a constant state of flux, a Babylon with
coming-and-going inhabitants, affected by
the constant transformation of its urbanism
and buildings.
Director Tom Heene
Cast Manah Depauw, Kurt Vandendriessche,
Nader Farman, Felipe Mafasoli
Cinematography Fred Noirhomme
Editing David Verdurme
Music Peter Lenaerts
Production Minds Meet & La Parti
In association with Alea Jacta & Stempel
With the support of Flanders Audiovisual Fund,
Flanders Image, Centre du Cinéma et
de l’Audiovisuel de la Communauté Française
de Belgique & de VOO
Belgium - 73’ - 2012 - colour - DCP - Dolby SRD
[email protected] | +32 476 46 01 54
with the director
Welcome Home, Tom Heene’s debut feature,
began as three interlinked short films, 3 X Lila.
The project is set in Brussels, the city where
the director is based. At night, a car carrying
some spoiled young ‘eurocrats’ to a party,
crashes into a bicyclist. She is badly hurt. This
is Lila, a young woman recently returned to
Belgium from travels abroad. Fiercely independent, she is in the process of splitting up
with her boyfriend Benjamin, even if she is still
as physically attracted to him as ever. We see
her arriving at the airport in Brussels and accompanying an Iranian man in the bus to the
city centre. He hasn’t been in the city for years
and is bewildered by how it has changed, with
its new array of skyscrapers and glass-fronted
office blocks.
From: Flanders i magazine 21, Autumn 2011
Text: Geoffrey Macnab
The basis was seeing Brussels as a map of
trajectories that cross each other, Heene says
of the Short Cuts-style structure of Welcome
Home. ‘I’ve lived 20 years in Brussels. People
leave and people come back… the film is close
to how I feel about this town.’
If Welcome Home is a love letter to Brussels,
it is a very barbed one. The city is in a constant state of flux. This is underlined by the
different languages used by the people in the
film (English, Dutch, French) by the coming
and going of the characters and by the transformations in the buildings. The Iranian man,
revisiting Brussels after so long away, tells
Lila that the architect who has built all these
impersonal, modernist structures should be
Does the director feel the Iranian’s anger
about the ways in which the city has changed?
‘You know, I was born in Ghent which they
say in the “Lonely Planet” is one of Belgium’s
best-kept secrets,’ Heene reflects on his upbringing ‘I adore going back. My family is still
there but… I am unable to go and live there!’
Brussels, Heene elaborates, is a much darker
metropolis than Ghent. It is a place ‘where all
nationalities cross.’ He talks of his love/hate
relationship with the city. ‘It’s the arena for
a lot of confrontations and tensions.’ Whatever else, Brussels is potentially a rich and
fascinating place in which to make movies –
and Heene believes that Belgian filmmakers
haven’t always taken advantage of the stories
in their backyards.
Today’s sexuality
The settings of Welcome Home range from Brussels by night to the
small apartment where Lila (Manah Depauw) and her boyfriend (Kurt
Vandendriessche) have their ferociously intense reunion. This segment
of the story features anguished and aggressive sex between the lovers
who have such different expectations about one another. The final part
of the story is set in a Brussels hospital. Heene describes Lila as a modern woman, one of ‘the daughters of the feminists.’ On the one hand,
she is liberated, individualistic and determined not to be dependent
on a man. On the other, she craves security and intimacy. This part of
the film ‘is all about today’s sexuality – how a woman lives her sexuality
and how a man lives his sexuality. Maybe I wanted to show an image of
a couple which was not this classical “man wants to fuck and woman
wants a man for a baby”.’ For a young western woman in her mid-20s,
Heene suggests, ‘the situation is very complex.’ Should she want to be
in a relationship for the rest of her life or to enjoy the freedom that being on her own brings?
The scene in the apartment, which was shot over four nights, is raw
and unsettling. Heene captures the contradictory feelings of the lovers:
their desire for one another but also their animosity and suspicion.
After an early screening, Heene was told by an acquaintance that the
scene between Lila and her boyfriend was ‘very respectful’ because
it turned gender stereotypes on their head. For once, the woman was
not simply the object of desire. She was the one pursuing and roughly
seducing the man.
‘We are not there to show the ass or the breasts of the woman. No, it’s
like they are two bodies together… We must not be afraid of showing
how things go. Let’s find a way of showing how strong a woman can be
at that moment also.’
Jan Fabre
Kurt Vandendriessche has worked extensively with artist and choreographer Jan Fabre – one reason that he was comfortable with a
role as fraught and physically demanding as that of the boyfriend.
Depauw, an artist and a director as well as an actress, likewise confronted the challenge head on. ‘For them, it was an intriguing moment
naturally. They really wanted to succeed in this,’ Heene says of his two
leads. ‘I had a lot of trust… more than my crew in fact! I wanted the actors to go for it and try stuff out. As they are very good actors but also
physical, it worked. It was very emotional for both of them. They dug
very deep.’
Welcome Home may be Heene’s first feature as a director but he has
been active in Belgian film culture for many years. He was production
manager on the Brussels part of The Five Obstructions, the project
hatched by Jorgen Leth and Lars Von Trier. He has also worked as assistant director and production assistant on many other films. Among
his recent credits are Alex Stockman’s Pulsar and Olivier Smolders’ Nuit
noire. Meanwhile, he has created several media installations, among
them the ongoing project DarkMatr, which investigates the way ‘data
from the web and our physical world can be merged and presented
in a total user experience.’ He has juggled his own intensely personal
projects with his work for other directors.
Heene remembers that when he was working on The Five Obstructions,
he was already thinking about making films in Brussels. ‘It took a long
time before I did my own projects. One way or another, I fell into production management and assistant directing. I suppose I have a talent
for organizing and for keeping budgets.’ When he finally got round
to shooting his own films, he couldn’t help but ask himself: ‘jeez, why
didn’t I start before!’ He adds that his own experiences gave him an
added respect for the work of the crew. ‘Filmmaking is really collaboration. You do not do it alone. I am not the only artist.’
Now in his early 40s, Heene went to film school at Sint-Lukas when
he was very young in the late 1980s. Once there, he switched from
film directing to experimental video. ‘Immediately, when you are at film
school, they push you toward a kind of classical filmmaking where I
didn’t feel very at home,’ he recalls. ‘I always had an affinity with video.
I am in love with narrative film but also with the more experimental side
of image and sound.’
With his background in video, Heene has been well placed to investigate
the way that storytelling has been changing in the digital age. ‘Cinema,
in a way, is dying,’ the director says. ‘Arthouse cinema is searching for a
way for surviving at the moment… maybe at a certain moment, it will be
online. Maybe that will be the only way: have your movie on iTunes and
let people pay €5 for it – but I think we still are social animals.’
His own passion for cinema began when he was a kid in Ghent, watching - movies at Studio Skoop or watching films – ‘the forbidden thing’
- on a colour TV in the attic. In his teenage years, he was a big admirer of films like Alan Parker’s Birdy, Leos Carax’s Mauvais sang and
Wim Wenders’ Wings Of Desire and Paris, Texas. Welcome Home is
being made with the support, over time, of several production outfits:
Tomas Leyers’ Minds Meet, Corridor (where the film was championed
by Kaat Camerlynck) and La Parti Production. Now, Heene is determined to make up for lost time. ‘I was 18 when I went to film school,’ he
says. ‘I am not so prodigious because I only did my first film now – and
I am 41.’ Once his feature debut is fully completed, the director will be
looking to make more films – and, yes, they will almost certainly be set
in Brussels.
director’s note
Brussels calls itself the capital of Europe.
It is also a schizophrenic character with
a complex richness. When a foreigner,
who has already lived here for several
years, gives his opinion about the city
you systematically hear contrasting
answers. Brussels is both regional and
international, village and urban, ugly
and beautiful, bright and gray, open
and closed, boring and exciting. Many
of these foreigners are “stuck” and
have a love-hate relationship forged
with the city. Some are downright negative but those who stay longer finally
surrender themselves to the hidden
My own first encounter with Brussels
was the complex area around the
North Station, where I rented a room
whilst in film school. Glass office boxes
and bureaucrats next to prostitutes
and sex shops, Turkish and Moroccan
shops, litter, food and exotic music and
sometimes palpable violence. Coming
from the Flemish and “white” Gent, the
confrontation was radical and intense.
After a first year within the safe walls
of the school the discovery began.
Slowly, the city started to expose itself
and my circle of friends grew. It eventually became a constant encounter
with new worlds.
With Welcome Home, I wanted to make a portrait of people who spend
their lives in Brussels. It’s about the difficulties they encounter entering
into relationships with each other, let alone themselves, and the way
they cope with it. Their story is anchored in a city that indirectly affects
their actions. Welcome Home is therefore as much about the identity
of a metropolis where life seems as universal as in other cities but still
a strange personality that you find nowhere else. Brussels is the capital
of a divided country that, politically and culturally, is constantly looking
for identity. In addition, it claims to be the capital of the European Union,
which means that it is the city where the various European communities are in constant confrontation with each other. Actually, Brussels
is much more than a European capital, figures show that by 2013 the
population will consist of immigrants of European and non-European
Brussels and its inhabitants are an inexhaustible source of inspiration,
positive and negative. The city has a lot of sore spots and sometimes
the confrontation is violent. The hesitant way in which matters such as
urbanisation, architecture, traffic, public transport, services, social and
environmental policies, unemployment and poverty are addressed has
an impact on the lifestyle of its inhabitants. The city is a small Babel
where people are constantly searching for the right language, literally
and figuratively, to understand each other.
In Welcome Home the city is a character on its
own. Besides the restless handheld images that
show the actors in their natural surroundings,
Brussels is filmed in static night sequences that
dictate the rhythm of the film but also provide
a breathing space for the tensions between
the characters themselves. The film does not
shy away from confrontation and builds a tension that involves the spectator. What happens
in the film is close to personally experienced
situations. The Eurocrats portrayed are people
you can easily meet in the city. The clash in the
film accelerates the encounter between the
characters and there something positive also
arises. This makes the trajectory of the characters change, they face challenging choices,
which they will eventually make or not.
about the director
Tom Heene (°16/08/1969) lives and works in
Brussels, Belgium.
Tom Heene is an audiovisual artist developing
multidisciplinary projects in film and other
audiovisual arts. He is active as a director, assistant director and production manager and
worked on movies made by filmmakers such
as Alain Berliner, Frédéric Fonteyne, Olivier
Smolders, Jürgen Leth and Lars Von Trier. In media arts he has collaborated with visual
artists, choreographers and scientists on interactive environments using digital tools.
The issues in his media installations are about
questioning alternative cinematic experiences, the future of society and human relations
with new media. He has given various workshops linking new
media with the performing arts and has
worked as a production manager on several
art exhibitions. He is part of the Brussels-based
“iMAL, Centre for Digital Cultures and Technologies” ( and a founding member
of the artists collective “r-Ohm” which reflects
on visual arts, new media, biology, food and
economics (
In his work Tom Heene explores the tense
crossing of human trajectories in his hometown Brussels, which he considers as an endless source of inspiration. Welcome Home is
his first feature film.