The committee

Who are the men and women behind the selection of films in competition?


Interviews with Bénédicte Philippon, Fred De Loof and Pierre Ligot for short films, and Constant Carbonnelle, Adrien François and Manuel Houssais for feature films.

Bénédicte Philippon

Copyright: Frédéric Raevens

A graduate of the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles, she seems to be everywhere: on stage, in film, in TV movies and in sketches that she writes with talent. She discovered the FIFCL with Gaëtan Liekens and David Mutzenmacher‘s award-winning “Music Hole” in 2019. She hasn’t really left him since…

What does comedy mean to you?

Comedy is first and foremost a gift. People who have it aren’t always aware of it; they discover it along the way. It’s not something you can learn; you can acquire the basics, to improve a technique, but it’s truly a gift, and a passion: those who possess it are often enthusiasts of the genre.

It seems to me that every year for centuries, people have been saying that they really need to laugh. Perhaps it’s something we were already saying in the Middle Ages, even if we don’t necessarily laugh in the same way anymore. I think, however, that as long as there’s a second degree, you can laugh at anything. With the emergence of social networks, you’re more likely to be attacked – I wonder how Rabbi Jacob would be received today… But few filmmakers put up that barrier, and that’s a good thing! Because laughter is essential. I know a comedy director who says he’s not in the business to get better, but to get better. And it’s true that the funniest people are often prone to depression, so they need to laugh, and make people laugh. And, in doing so, they also help others to get better. Laughter heals!

What do you expect from the Festival program?

I’m looking forward to new encounters, new talents, new worlds! Every year, we discover at least one gem, and we wonder: “What’s this UFO? It’s brilliant! My wish for the 2023 edition is that UFOs will be understood and appreciated by as many people as possible. At the Festival, we meet well-known people with incredible careers, as well as lesser-known people just starting out. And the Festival creates links between these people, while showcasing Belgian cinema. Because there’s talent here! In France, they’re usually overlooked, but fortunately, the Festival brings them to light! They go away, but they come back regularly. The FIFCL is (also) there for that.

Fred De Loof

Copyright: Fabrizio De Patre

For the past 15 years, he has balanced between short and feature films, on both sides of the camera. Actor, screenwriter and director, Fred De Loof won the hearts of Belgians (and others) with two seasons of the series “Baraki”, and continued his conquest of the big screen with “Les pigeons, ça chie partout” and “The Glorious Peanut”. We also owe him the unforgettable and darkly funny “Bruxelles Mobilité” advert. In particular.

What does comedy mean to you?

I love acting, directing and directing comedy for many reasons. First of all, the genre is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, since there’s no such thing as a good comedy without a good drama. And then the characters are, in general, very interesting; they are often endearing, they present a certain fragility, we find ourselves in them: somewhere, we are all comic beings, we all have weaknesses and embarrassing moments!

What I particularly like about comedy is that it uses laughter as a bridge. There are as many forms of humor as there are people, and I like to find a unifying theme without necessarily pleasing everyone: when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. Finding a common language between the director, the storyteller and the audience is a real pleasure. I also like the emotional elevator: there are always ups and downs in a comedy, some very funny moments and others dramatic. The richness lies in those moments when we laugh, those moments when we’re scared, those moments that touch us, too.

It’s very interesting that there are festivals like the FIFCL, because comedy is often the ugly duckling of festival selections. But ugly ducks are what drive our society forward, offering a dynamic of free will and freedom of thought! And a good comedy tends to bring a lot of people back into theatres: it’s a vital organ that we still underestimate.

What do you expect from the official program?

I particularly appreciate, and hope to see, a comedy that isn’t ponderous, that doesn’t insist heavily in the “Guys, there’s a joke, laugh!” style. It’s a very complicated stylistic exercise. All the more so as comedy is a reflection of our times: it acts as a kind of mirror, allowing us to grasp all subjects (political, sociological, philosophical…). There are lots of theories and rules about what works and what doesn’t, but above all it’s about creating alchemy between a look and a situation in a set of micro-events, unpredictability and luck! That’s what I find magical.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of comedies that make fun of or hurt certain people or communities. Really good comedy is when you manage to make a lot of people laugh without hurting anyone’s feelings, but without being slick. I like thought-provoking comedy. It’s dangerous: the less you allow yourself to be funny, the more you fall into a certain kind of censorship. And when you don’t dare talk about a subject, it becomes taboo… Comedy is a good way of loosening tongues, of putting subjects on the table in an intelligent way. It is essential to the smooth running of our society: it must be exploited, for many good reasons! And then, in the end, we all die, so this little moment on earth might as well be a good laugh.

Pierre Ligot

Copyright: Pierre Ligot

Trained at the Cours Florent in Paris, his theatrical career has been eclectic and rich, between Liège and Paris. Also a man of sketches and video capsules, a Liégeois at heart and soul, he joined the FIFCL team at its first edition in 2016.

What does comedy mean to you?

A comedy, and especially a short film comedy, must allow me to be quickly carried away by the story or the director’s universe. I have to get into the film quickly, that’s all, especially as it’s a short film. A director needs to have something unique to tell, to take us into a particular world, rather than basing his work on what we find when we open the newspaper. And a successful comedy is not explanatory: underlining with Stabilo what was meant doesn’t do anything for the viewer. I like comedies that subtly show our flaws.

A beautiful creation is always pleasing, but I’m quite happy with a “homemade” event where you can feel the participants’ strong desire to create, to tell a story, to share something. Finally, from a technical point of view, I like creative creations that go beyond the classic field/counter-field, and inventive editing. And I’ll always prefer a surprising, laugh-out-loud movie to a polished one where nothing happens.

What do you expect from the Festival program?

A varied program! We have the onerous task of promising quality comedy, laughter and smiles. That’s a lot! But I also want programming that inspires viewers to find out more about the work of directors they’ve never seen before: they’re often far better than some of the programs we’re served up! If just one film, short or long, can arouse this desire, arouse curiosity about the career of an actor or the world of a director, I’ll be happy.

Constant Carbonnelle

Copyright : Valentin Delaunoy

With a passion for theater and cinema, he obtained a baccalaureate in modern languages before allowing himself to attend the Cours Florent, first in Paris, then in Brussels. As an extra whenever he can, as an audience member on TV shows, as a theater usher: he does all kinds of odd jobs, but always keeps in close touch with the world that has attracted him since childhood. His beginnings as a film blogger decided his path: he would become a film critic! In 2018, he officially became one for L’Avenir newspapers. He joined the Union de la Critique de Cinéma and then the Union de la Presse Cinématographique Belge, which opened the doors to festival juries in Belgium and abroad. Constant was also a member of the international press jury at the 76th Cannes Film Festival. Twice a juror for the FIFCL, Constant joins the Selection Committee in spring 2023.

What does comedy mean to you?

When you hear the word “comedy”, you obviously think of laughter, smiles and a film that makes you happy. However, I think its spectrum is much broader. Comedy is undoubtedly the film genre that blends best with the others: that’s why there are sentimental, dramatic, horrific, social, absurd and adventure comedies. Animated films themselves often contain an element of comedy.

Above all, I’d say that comedy brings people together, in a positive, collective mood. Its unifying spirit is essential, now more than ever.

What do you expect from the Festival program?

Over the years, the Festival has demonstrated the quality of its eclectic, demanding programming, bringing together short and feature-length films from a wide range of countries and genres. I hope that this year’s edition will continue along this path, reaching out to as many people as possible, offering intelligent works with a strong, universal message, but also lighter ones, the kind that make you leave the theater with a feeling of joy. I also expect comedy films to instill strong values, tackle sensitive subjects and move audiences with humor. I want a Festival that brings all these emotions together.

Manuel Houssais

Copyright: Christophe Toffolo

It has accompanied the days and nights of Radio France listeners for over 30 years. Touched at an early age by a devouring cinephilia, he also, and above all, frequented festivals in France and abroad. A “Companion of the FIFCL since its beginnings”, he has no equal when it comes to hosting TV shows and meetings with the public. In 2023, he will also join the Festival Selection Committee. Manuel Houssais was appointed Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 2022 by Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture in the Castex government.

What does comedy mean to you?

Comedy is a genre that immediately evokes the register of humor. And, indeed, its primary aim is to make people laugh, or smile. But a closer look at the genre reveals a much broader spectrum. And when you try, as the FIFCL does, to cover it all, you discover that Italian comedy is often dramatic, with tears never far away, while American comedy, for example, knows how to give pride of place to road movies, bittersweet symbols of a quest, a journey. There’s also an occasional visual slapstick aspect, in the tradition of French comedies by Tati and Blake Edwards. The FIFCL, open to the world, teaches us that reducing comedy to humor alone is a bit reductive.

What do you expect from the Festival program?

What I love about the FIFCL, and what I look forward to, is above all the opportunity to meet people, at the precise moment when everything crystallizes: for a few intense days, industry professionals rub shoulders with spectators discovering their works. There are parties, shows, photocalls, press conferences, and a lot of excitement.

I hope that this 2024 edition will be a must-attend rendezvous for the new season of Belgian cinema, with its guests, previews, prizes and surprises. It has acquired all the virtues of a major festival in the eyes of professionals, but it has never failed to remain what it is: an event on a human scale, where contacts remain spontaneous and informal. It has grown without losing these precious ingredients, thanks to the quartet who run it and the formidable teams of volunteers who keep its flame burning.

Today, in the small world of the 7th art, Liège’s know-how in terms of warm welcome is in full bloom: those who have already been come back, you know, and those who haven’t been able to go yet are delighted to be invited, having heard all about it. They already know they’ll have unforgettable memories.

Adrien François

Copyright : Baudouin Litt

He has directed Michel Galabru, Armelle, Jean-Pierre Castaldi, Jonas Bloquet, Isabelle de Hertogh and Sébastien Cauet in various short films. He has brought together Benoît Poelvoorde, Karin Viard, Gérard Lanvin, Gérard Darmon, Valérie Lemercier, Dany Boon, Nathalie Baye, Franck Dubosc, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Josiane Balasko, André Dussollier, Christian Clavier, Michèle Laroque and Thierry Lhermitte, among others, over the editions of the Liège International Comedy Film Festival, of which he is general delegate. Artistic director of the brand-new Rencontres du Cinéma du Grau-du-Roi (France), Adrien François talks cinema, sleeps cinema, lives cinema, and judges a film “on the quality of the emotions it provokes”.

What does comedy mean to you?

A comedy is a film that people expect to make them laugh. And because we shape the FIFCL in our own image, it’s not just pure comedy that people come to us for: laughter, yes, but also tears, thrills and emotions! Cinema has to offer a frozen moment, out of time, during which you don’t think about your worries or your phone. It’s when you’re totally immersed that you know a film is a success!

At the same time, the experience of the FIFCL shows us that people do not laugh in the same way, or at the same things, from one continent to another. For this reason, laughter is perhaps the most difficult genre to export, as well as being the most difficult to produce. But it’s a thrill for us to show films that our viewers will probably never see elsewhere. Take an interest in the Other, in other cultures, by sharing cinema moments.

What do you expect from the Festival program?

The Festival’s programming is constantly expanding, and brings with it its own set of demands. That’s why our selection committee is more and more assertive, more and more competent. We want the programming to reflect what we’ve been saying for years: that it should offer dramatic, family, social, romantic, musical and horror comedies… The FIFCL is attracting more and more applications. The directors return year after year, allowing us to open a window on the world through the programming, the discussion sessions, the pro areas… We select the best of comedy cinema and offer it to festival-goers. It’s up to them to get what they need from it.