Belgium: a premier shooting destination for international film productions

Remember In Bruges, The Danish Girl, The Expatriate, Grace of Monaco, and The Fifth Estate? These are just some of the popular movies that were filmed in Belgium, one of Europe’s most popular shooting destinations. International productions are attracted to this small country in the heart of Europe for a number of reasons. It offers a variety of landscapes, a multicultural capital, and highly experienced production companies. But most enticing of all is Belgium’s tax shelter system which guarantees a win-win-win situation for producers, investors, and the Belgian government.

For investors, the system allows for a tax exemption of up to 356 per cent of the amount invested in an audiovisual work. Producers get access to additional funding including subsidies of up to 45 per cent of eligible expenses in Belgium. The Belgian government benefits from the resulting increase in economic activity and employment.

Based on figures from Belgium’s film industry, the Belgian tax shelter has financed more than 2,500 audiovisual works since its implementation in 2003. Last year alone, it yielded 566 audiovisual works, faring better than some of Belgium’s competitors in Western Europe. According to Cineuropa, French initiatives generated 300 feature films in the same period while the British Films Institute reported a total of 211 films produced in the United Kingdom.

Once again, you can expect to see some familiar Belgian scenic locations on the screen this year. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the most recent movies and shows that were filmed in Belgium.



Mandy (2018)

Nicolas Cage is out for revenge in this action horror film written and directed by Panos Cosmatos. Cage stars as Red Miller, a lumberjack who lives in a secluded cabin in the wilderness. When his girlfriend, Mandy, is kidnapped and slaughtered by a violent cult, Miller prepares for a bloody war against the cult’s leader and his followers. Most of the wilderness scenes in the movie were shot in the woods of Landelies in the Montigny-le-Tilleul commune of Wallonia. The movie was produced by American productions SpectreVission and XYZ Films together with Umedia in Brussels.



Kursk (2018)

Directed by Thomas Vinterberg and produced by Luc Besson, this drama film recounts the 2000 Kursk submarine disaster that killed all 118 Russian sailors aboard. The Kursk sank during a Russian naval exercise in the Barents Sea after a torpedo explosion. The cast includes Colin Firth, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Léa Seydoux. The movie was co-produced with Belga Productions and filmed in several Belgian locations including Binche, Charleroi, the Port of Antwerp, and Place Cardinal Mercier in Jette.



The Happy Prince (2018)

Written and directed by British actor Rupert Everett, The Happy Prince is a biographical drama about Irish playright and novelist Oscar Wilde as portrayed by Everett. The film also stars Colin Firth, Emily Watson, and Tom Wilkinson. Most of the café scenes in the movie were shot in Le Cirio Brasserie in Brussels City. Other familiar city-center sights include the Place des Palais and Place des Martyrs. The movie was produced by BBC Films and Centre du Cinéma et de l’Audiovisuel de la Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles.



Les Misérables (2018)

BBC presents the latest TV adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel. The miniseries directed by Tom Shankland stars Dominic West as Jean Valjean, Lily Colins as Fantine, and David Oyelowo as Inspector Javert. Filming locations in Belgium include Brussels, Enghien, Limbourg, and Namur. Czar Brussels co-produced the six-part series with BBC Films and HireWorks.



A Girl from Mogadishu (2018)

This biographical drama is inspired by the true story of Ifrah Ahmed who escaped war-torn Somalia and became one of the world’s most prominent activists against gender-based violence. Hollywood actress Aja Naomi King stars as Ifrah Ahmed. Principal photography for the film was carried out in Belgium while the rest of the scenes were shot in Ireland and Morocco. The movie was written and directed by Mary McGuckian and produced by Pembridge Pictures, Head Gear Films, Metrol Technology, and Umedia.



Sense8 (2018)

The abbey of Villers-la-Ville in Walloon Brabant served as a backdrop for the season 2 finale of the hit Netflix series about eight strangers from different parts of the world who are bound by a mental and emotional connection. In the episode released on June 8, 2018, the eight sensates come face to face with the Mother of the Lacuna, an ancient group of sensates. The scene was shot in the Villers abbey. 



The 15:17 to Paris (2018)

Based on actual events, this biographical drama directed by Clint Eastwood recounts the story of the three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack on a Thalys train bound for Paris on August 21, 2015. The Warner Bros. film stars Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, and Alek Skarlatos, the three real-life heroes who subdued the attacker and saved the lives of more than 500 passengers. The Brussels-South railway station was one of the filming locations for the movie.