Les enfants du Borinage
B 1999 55'
Patric Jean writes a letter, via a film, to Henri Storck about the most abhorrent consequences of "economic horror" that exist in the poorest quarters, and how the people and the area have sunk into total depredation. The letter, wich is a juxtaposition of images from 1933 and the current reality, focuses on another tragic discovery, which leaves us with a felling that is sometimes unbearable. Deprived of any education, generation follows generation, and as time goes on they even loose their ability to protest. They are scorned. They are non-persons.
The word «poor» used as a noun in a film shot in today’s Belgium, in the heart of Europe, makes the spectator feel slightly uneasy. We have become accustomed to less abrupt, more roundabout definitions of poverty. But what Patric Jean wants to do above all is to state – and show – things as they are, in order to denounce an unacceptable reality. LES ENFANTS DU BORINAGE therefore goes to meet poor people. One confesses “Perhaps I was born to live like this,” a strange feeling of guilt that makes most keep silent and flee the camera, out of shame. Patric Jean records the distress of those who accept to talk to him. His camera reveals the slums, penetrates ever further into this rundown neighbourhood where as long as 60 years ago Henri Storck and Joris Ivens shot MISERE AU BORINAGE, a militant film that denounced the exploitation of miners. Since then the pits have closed down and unemployment has taken over.
The film is designed as en echo of the earlier work, while exploring the modern-day context. The empty jargon of politicians interviewed in the film illustrates the hypocrisy of today’s society. The voice-over, addressing Henri Storck, deplores the lack of progress. And when one of the men tells the film-maker that these images will not change anything in their poverty, one is tempted to believe him.
Visions du Réel Nyon 2000