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Invited lecture: “Le Belge n’émigre pas” Constructing a reversed perspective on migration

Output: Contribution to conferencePaper

"Tu ne verras pas Verapaz" is the title of a documentary made by Didier Volckaert and myself about the Belgian colony in Guatemala. The project started in 2000. We were charmed by the song on ‘verapa’, and its
romantic desire for an imaginary El Dorado, we were surprised about this unknown colonial history of our country. For us, this story immediately triggered concepts such as paradise lost, exile, diaspora narratives, cultural identity and other anthropological concepts relating to migration and colonialism. The fact that it was precisely through etchings that Belgians were persuaded to emigrate to Santo‐Tomas triggered our interest to develop the film in a visually explorative way. The propaganda campaign and its use of etchings invited us to consider how to envision the mise‐en‐scène of the film, how to construct these stories and how to relate to the viewer. This self‐reflective, meta‐narrative aspect in documentary production seems necessary to us to avoid precisely the creation of a propaganda film. These elements appeared to us as very relevant and inspiring aspects for making a
documentary. Not only because of the position and significance of the image in this
colonial history, but also given the content of the narratives as they evoke a
perspective on migration in a reversed way: not people from another country
coming to Belgium, but Belgians themselves who were urged to migrate. This is a
reversal of a generalized Belgian expression, which says that “Belgians are born
with a brick in their stomach”, referring to the difficulty with which Belgians are
believed to leave their house and homeland to move to other countries.
Moreover, this reversed perspective on migration seemed very topical indeed, given the growing racism and nationalism in Flanders, stimulated by the slogans of the extreme right nationalist party ‘Vlaams Blok’ (Flemish Block).

Despite our young enthusiasm there were some dilemmas. In this paper I
will present two of them. The first one has to do with the cinematografic
organization of the research. The second one goes into the expectations of the different audiences where the film has been screened.
Original languageEnglish
StatePublished - 2010

ID: 5433463