- Director Cristiano Bortone
- Screenwriters Cristiano Bortone, Annalaura Ciervo, Matthew Thompson,Shi Minghua, Shi Minghui
- Main Producer Orisa Produzioni (IT)
- Co-producer (BE) Savage Film
- Cast Dario Aita, Miriam Dalmazio, Babak Karimi, Xiaodong Guo
- Key suppliers Lites, Atominc., Screem Inc., Ace Image Factory
- Budget €2,450,649
- Financed in BE €735,000
- Genre Drama
How Savage Film brewed up Coffee, Flanders’ first co-production with China.
Enjoyed in the Middle East since the mid-15th century, coffee has been a way of bringing people together for half a millennium. Fitting, then, that Coffee should be the first-ever co-production between Flanders and China. And, as a co-production, Coffee will by-pass all the usual barriers to theatrical distribution in China. “They have a market of more than a billion viewers,” grins Bart Van Langendonck of production company Savage Film.
Developed in Italy - the third corner in this three-way co-production – by producer/writer/director Cristiano Bortone, a life-long Sinophile who teaches at the Beijing Film Academy- Coffee filters together a trio of separate stories. Barista Renzo and his girlfriend Gaia, already struggling to survive in recession-hit Italy, get caught up in the theft of a special shipment of coffee. In Belgium, Iraqi refugee Hamed discovers some disturbing facts about the hooded figure who has broken into his pawn shop. And in Yunnan province in China, Fei has to choose between stopping production in his factory or risk contaminating the local coffee crop. “It’s really Babel-like,” says Van Langendonck, whose recent successes have included local Flemish noir The Ardennes and Sundance documentary The Land of the Enlightened. “There are characters in Italy, characters in China and characters in Belgium and they are all kind of intertwined.”
The Italian scenes shot in August 2015; the Chinese scenes in mid-November; and the Belgian cameras rolled in January 2016, with Babak Karimi - who played the interrogator in Ashgar Fahradi’s Oscar-winning Iranian film A Separation - in the lead. The Belgian story was originally set in the UK at the time of the 2011 riots, explains Van Langendonck, and subsequently reached him by way of production company Eyeworks, with which Savage Film is associated. “When he co-produced the Eyeworks’ film Marina, Cristiano heard of the interesting financing possibilities in Flanders and experienced the high standard of Flemish crews,” he says. Because of the company’s track record with international co-productions, the project eventually landed at Savage Film.
Finance was raised in Flanders through the Screen Flanders Economic Fund and the federal Tax Shelter. “In terms of creative input, the whole crew for the Flemish shoot – except for the director, DOP and his assistant - are Flemish, including the heads of department,” adds Van Langendonck.” Ironically, since both Belgium and Italy are liberal democracies and China is a one-party state, most of the European funding - including the €735,000 raised in Belgium - is public money, while the Chinese contribution is all private equity investment from Shanghai’s China Blue.
There have been no hitches so far. “You never know what you’re going to run into in China,” says Van Langendonck (who has experience there with Bram Van Paesschen’s documentary I’m New Here), “but you have to adapt the script a little for the Chinese taste, let’s say.“
In fact, the only obstacle turned out to be at the Brussels end, relating to footage of rioting in Belgium which was supposed to show up on TV in the Chinese part of the story. “I was told that we couldn’t use the images of the riots from our national broadcaster,” says line producer Xavier Rombaut. “We are only allowed to show very soft images, like the airport with planes that are not flying - something like that. We can’t show people fighting on the streets.” “The Chinese want the world to be a nice and peaceful place,” deadpans Van Langendonck.
Stills Coffee © Francesca Casciarri
Savage Film *
- 2011 BULLHEAD
- 2012 ANTON CORBIJN INSIDE OUT
- 2014 GARDENIA - BEFORE THE LAST CURTAIN FALLS
- 2014 LABYRINTHUS
- 2014 LIFE ACCORDING TO NINO
- 2015 GALLOPING MIND
- 2015 THE ARDENNES
- 2016 DARK INCLUSION
- 2016 THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED
- 2016 COFFEE
* selected filmography