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Jaco Van Dormael’s film had its premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar during the Cannes Film Festival in May. The religious comedy stars Catherine Deneuve, Benoit Poelvoorde, Yolande Moreau and Francois Damiens.
In the film, which earned good reviews in Cannes, 10-year-old Ea takes over as the world’s savior after her older brother — known as JC — retires. The Hollywood Reporter’s Deborah Young said the film “confirms [the director’s] title as Belgium’s wacky philosopher-king of filmmakers.”
The Belgian selection jury was presided over by Jan Temmerman (De Morgen) and six French- and Flemish-speaking film professionals. The group said it made the selection based on the film’s “inventiveness and Belgian-ness” and its ability to reach an international public.
It’s the third time Van Dormael has been selected to represent Belgium in the Oscar race after 1991’s Toto the Hero and 1996’s The Eighth Day. Toto the Hero won Cannes’ Golden Camera that year and was nominated for a BAFTA. Neither film ended up being nominated for an Oscar.
Van Dormael’s Maedeli-La-Breceh won the student Academy Award for best foreign-language short film in 1980.
The Brand New Testament was released on Sept. 2 in Belgium, France and Switzerland and will premiere in the U.S. at the Austin Fantastic Film Festival.
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