Notes from Brussels is a new documentary project by Nadine van Loon which explores the life choices of 3 women working in the competitive ‘Brussels bubble’ environment. Currently, a crowdfunding campaign is organised in order to support the finalisation of the film.
Nadine (Dutch, 46) lives in Brussels and was a political assistant to a Dutch MEP in the European Parliament. She then joined the Dutch Foreign Service where she mainly worked in EU-related positions. Along the way she increasingly followed her urge to explore through storytelling how the spirit of our times impacts people’s life choices. As a filmmaker, she made several short films for museum exhibitions. ‘Notes from Brussels’ will be her documentary debut. We speak with Nadine to learn more about the film and to uncover the story behind.
How does it feel to be back in Brussels after so many years?
It felt good right from the start. Because of the absence of a dominant culture in Brussels, people are in general open minded and curious about ‘the other’. I love that mindset.
What triggered this movie?
In 2016 I moved back again to Brussels with my family. Strolling along the EU institutions, memories popped up of earlier versions of myself; a young political assistant in the European Parliament; then a Dutch diplomat who regularly travelled to Brussels for EU meetings. As I reconnected again with friends from my ‘first round’ and re-discovered that open mindset, I noticed how many of these Europeans in Brussels had found meaning in their EU-careers. In an almost melancholic way ‘Europe’ got hold of me again and it is from that feeling that this film idea sprung. As I was filming the three women, subconsciously I was examining whether I made the right choice to leave this work- environment behind me, whilst at the same time being well aware why I left.
What do you hope to achieve?
A lot of negative images exist about ‘Eurocrats’. Through the stories of my main characters I hope to show the human face behind ‘Brussels’; the face of the women’s devotion as well as the inner struggles that come along with living this intense work-rhythm in the EU-bubble. Is it the women who choose this work-routine or does the work-routine impose itself? This work-culture says something about our fast-paced times and I’d like to trigger reflections about that.
Meanwhile, I also hope that through my main characters personal perspectives an audience will feel again why we need Europe and also how our European values are threatened by the rise of authoritarianism. For example, the Polish trade journalist in my film moved to Brussels right after Poland joined the EU. Here she almost literally stepping into the ‘EU system’ that she dreamt of as a child born under communism. Now she mourns her country’s direction under the current authoritarian regime, yet at the same time dreams of a return to Poland with her young family.
How can people in Brussels support your project?
I filmed the women for three years and most of the footage therefore has been shot. But to be able to complete the film and finance the editor, the sound designer and the colourist, I have launched a crowdfunding campaign. You can find more information at www.cinecrowd.com/notes-from-brussels and help by donating. Supporters can receive among others tickets to the premiere, a ‘walk and talk’ along set locations or a private screening.
Do you think that expats and “EU bubble” have an impact on Brussels? How?
Definitely. They give this city it’s multicultural vibe and attract a lot of investment. At the same time, they might feel less connected to Belgium, as they also mentally partly ‘live’ in and long for their home countries.
Your favourites in Brussels …?
I always feel inspired walking through the European quarter, hearing all the languages, and realising that here so many important decisions are made and have been made. Although now it is very sad to see how empty the Schuman and Place Lux areas are and what an immense impact the corona crisis has on small businesses, restaurants and bars.
Next to that I love the Sablon and Ixelles areas and have spent a lot of timing working on my project in ‘Café de la Presse, Ixelles’.
Want to help to get this movie realised? The campaign will run until February 5th so be sure to support this project!
The documentary Notes from Brussels follows three women working behind the scenes of European politics: a young French political assistant in the European Parliament, a Polish trade journalist and a German top EU official. Just like the film’s director and narrator, the women moved to Brussels at the onset of their careers, longing to contribute to Europe. But where the director left this setting after a burnout, these women stayed. The documentary examines their personal sacrifices in pursuit of a European dream.