2012, Vilvoorde, an industrial town in the Flemish Province of Belgium.

Félix is an ex-car factory worker. Fifteen years ago his employer suddenly announced the plant’s closure.

In response 3100 workers went on strike, paralyzing Belgium for weeks and giving rise to solidarity strikes all over Europe. But what remains after solidarity and struggle?

Based on true events, this fictionalized account follows Félix’s attempts to overcome forgetting and myth making to make sense of the traumatic events.

is based on the lives of the « hardcore group »: a famous cluster of Flemish and Wallonian workers who fought for to keep the factory open in 1997. All of them worked 20 or even 30 years on the production chain. But each of them coped differently with the trauma of the closure.

“It’s an emotionally stark and desolate film, complimented by shots of a decaying industrial town in provincial Belgium. But also a powerful exploration of the human cost of capitalism, and a reminder that figures on a balance sheet are individual people, with their own hopes, fears, and varying levels of resilience”.
James Diamond, The Failed Critics Review.

“Pennanen and Querrec's starting point was the group's experiences, and their interpretations; a fictional screenplay around issues of work, solidarity, cohesion and opportunities to re-evaluate one's situation. The film tells each person's story in a sensitive, poetic and humane manner (…) The shooting was completed against a deadline. The entire industrial facility will finally be demolished and is to make way for a new shopping center. The previous production now turns into concrete consumption.”
Maria Hirvi-Ijäs, Hjärnstorm Journal #115

These last 15 years have been a second life as long as the first. For Félix, the plant was almost his whole life. Like the others, he could never have imagined what happened: a closure. In 1997, Félix was cast as an old piece of redundant machinery. Today, he wanders around the old town of Vilvoorde, remembering what others have forgotten.

Everybody does not have the same character in a fight. During the strikes of 1997, Roméo was one of the workers who stopped the fight after 4 weeks, and accepted to return to work by economic necessity. Roméo now works as a touristic guide around old factories for tourists in search for authenticity.

A plant closure is not always lived as a fallout. Érick has always felt himself as an "ex" of the factory. He won a status during the fight: that of a proud striker. Érick works now as a bus driver and aspires to turn the leaf of the plant for a new life.

The strong man of the struggle: Thuur has dedicated much of his life to one of the unions informing for more than thirty years all generations of uneducated workers about their rights and means. In 1997 he lost a battle and now spends his time in his huge garage, a sleeping memory of the struggle.

To lose one’s job can do much harm to people’s health and pride. Widow of Jan, a former worker in the factory, Danielle can hardly make ends meet. When Jan was still alive, everything was going well financially, the pay was good. Their son Jimmy had everything. Then Jan died of cancer.

"Do you want work or not?" Asked during the union referendum in 1997, such question had a threat implied. Freddie, Ronnie and Léon were loyal men who banged hard during events against authorities, always in the vanguard on the streets. They still think that the best thing was to fight for their jobs and try to keep the factory open.

2013 · Finland-Belgium-Germany · 39 min · DCP - Blu-ray · 1.33 · DOLBY SR · COLOUR HD
Original Version French – Flemish – Subtitles: French- English - Finnish

Image: Irina Lubtchansky
1st Camera Assistant: Pierre-Hubert Martin
Sound: Gilles Laurent
Mix Editing: Titus Maderlechner
Casting: Anu Pennanen & Stéphane Querrec
Costumes: ABCD Bruxelles
Electro: Manuel Carmona
Production Manager: Françoise Hoste / On Move Production

Still photography: Jasper Van Gheluwe

A production Palo Productions / AVEK The Promotion Centre for Audiovisual Culture (Finland) / With financial support of Niilo Helander Foundation and Art Promotion Centre (Finland).

are currently making films that depict the costs of the diminishing human, social and political conditions in Europe today.
An Interview by Esther Severi (PDF) | info@pennanen-querrec.com