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Bruxelles circulation / Brussels verkeer (anonymous director)

Brussels in the years 1910 and 1920

Places that still exist but have changed a little, or a lot, others that have disappeared. Streets traversed by horse-drawn carriages, or traffic jams caused by the advent of the tram, the “Belle Epoque” toilets and the “brusseleer” humour of short burlesque comedies. This joyful, unique trip down memory lane, strewn with treasured images preserved and restored by Cinematek, will be accompanied on the piano.

Flagey, Cinematek

Through Brussels in 10 minutes (anonymous director)
Brussels in the Belle Epoque, recorded on film in a straightforward way. Camera work and editing are purely functional. The film observes busy everyday life in the metropolis as it happens on the street (including Boulevard Anspach, Rue de la Loi, Boulevard Emile Jacqmain), in the parks (Brussels Park and Parc du Cinquantenaire) and on the markets (including Grand-Place). The iconic buildings feature extensively, buildings such as the Bourse, the Law Courts, St. Michael and St. Gudula Cathedral, Brussels' City Hall and the Parliament. After the tram ride through the Forêt de Soignes to the Congo Museum in Tervuren, the film ends with panoramic images of the city.

Two kids on a spree in Brussels (anonymous director)
All of Brussels' important monuments and places of interest feature in this light-hearted tourist film. Two children play the main roles. The film starts with a daredevil prank. Toto and his sister tie their toy cart to a stationary car with a rope. As soon as the car starts moving their tour of Brussels commences. We begin at Godfried van Bouillon's statue with the Law Courts in the background, after which Grand Place and Manneken Pis (wearing a costume) appear on screen. Then we board a tram together with the children and the film ceases to be static. Images of Boulevard du Nord, Place du Nord and North Station, the Bourse, Boulevard Anspach, Place De Brouckere and Hotel Continental bring Brussels from the beginning of the 20th century back to life. Having arrived at the city's limits, Toto and his sister swap the tram for a dog cart (used to transport milk churns). The rural nature of the city's outskirts is briefly to be seen. The film ends with a close-up of the laughing children. 

Reopening of parliament
When giving his King’s Speech in November 1910, on the occasion of the reopening of the United Chambers, King Albert I has been on the throne for one year. He goes on horseback from the Palace to parliament. Queen Elisabeth follows in a coach. There are a lot of people out and about and this is also the ideal moment for Emile Vandervelde and his fellow socialists to increase the impetus behind the demand for a single vote system.

Saida has stolen Manneken Pis
At the age of thirty Alfred Machin is employed by the Parisian company Pathé-Frères. In 1907 he is sent to Africa to record the animal kingdom on film. He will go on to make more than 20 films there and his love of animals and the animal film dates from that period. He also includes animals in numerous later films too, although the setting is completely different. The animals appear in a middle class environment, their co-stars are French and Belgian actors and there is always a hilarious touch. Machin's favourite animal was the leopard Mimir, with which he loved to pose. She stole many hearts and remained Machin’s most loyal pet until she died at the beginning of the war.  “Saïda a enlevé Manneken Pis” is the first Belgian film in which Mimir (Saïda) appears in front of the camera. In a comic scene the leopard is presented to fairground visitors as the trophy of Machinskoff, the famous explorer. But Saïda manages to escape and ends up in the centre of Brussels, where she removes Manneken Pis from his plinth and runs off with the statue. The result is a number of crazy chase scenes with Police Officer Meulenmeester in the lead and there is, of course, a good outcome in the end. Machin ensures he has the Brussels’ audience’s support in a very ingenious way. He not only deals with a very Brussels subject, he also gives Brussels dialect a prominent position on the title cards.

Brussels Seaport (anonymous director)
Festivities organised on the occasion of the inauguration of the canal and Brussels' new seaport celebrate the event in style. The Italian torpedo boat San Martino joins in and fires a salute.

Brussels international airport (anonymous director)
After the First World War civil aviation also starts to develop alongside military aviation in Belgium. The establishment of the Sabena airline company in 1923 is the starting shot for Brussels’ first commercial airport. The promotional video emphasizes the success of Belgian civil aviation. With the images of the city of Rotterdam and its airport, the film makes it clear how simple and fast travelling can be from now on. In order to prepare the future traveller, the airport and how it works is explained: administration and customs, passport control, transportation of travellers and baggage to the airport. Departure and arrival are written on a blackboard and the bell is rung when an airplane arrives. When the Second World War breaks out, the German occupiers move part of the country’s aviation activities to Melsbroek. After liberation the airport at Haren is permanently swapped for the new infrastructure at Melsbroek and Zaventem. With the construction of NATO headquarters the last vestiges of the first large Belgian airport disappear forever.

That's Brussels (Francis Martin)
Belgian actor-director Francis Martin based this film on a book by author Frans Dons. The image material is unique but editing remained unfinished and the raw material was cleaned up for this DVD. The viewer is a privileged passenger in a car that drives around Brussels at the end of the 20s. Screen tests and rehearsed scenes alternate with images of North Station, the Marolles, Rue Neuve, the flea market on Place du Jeu de balle, the bird market on Grand-Place and Stoclet Palace by Austrian architect Josef Hofmann on Avenue de Tervueren... Even the filmmakers themselves appear in shot.

Brussels traffic (anonymous director)
The film shows how, after the First World War, the increasing popularity of the car makes new demands of the city of Brussels’ mobility policy. In the thirties it is the police officer’s job to maintain order on the roads among the various road users and flows of traffic. The traffic brings with it unforeseen challenges, with road accidents increasing and becoming a general social problem. From the end of the twenties new traffic equipment and traffic signs are installed along the roads but safety on them remains issue. We see a man who is a member of the wealthy middle class getting into a car together with his chauffeur. From various camera positions we follow the car through the Brussels streets.  As the result of an incorrect manoeuvre the car blocks the path of a tram. A policeman comes and sorts the situation out amicably. When the car almost hits a pedestrian, another argument ensues and another police officer intervenes.

In the context of

Brussels on screen