High Days and Holidays in Belgium

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Festivities – entertainment or rejoicing – give shape to life and a desire for the joys of life. They are prepared with great care, in a state of happy anticipation of the pleasure they will give.

They are a dream that waking sleepers experience together, a complicity that opens the taps to a flow of warm affinity between people. If you are not there willingly, better not get involved at all. How can one film an organised dream whose intensity only really glows inside each participant?

Luckily the actors at the festivity are putting on a performance. There is show, therefore there are images; there is the pleasure for the filmmaker of happening upon the traces of madness, of excessiveness, of fishing for inventive gestures like rare pearls – these festivities are often an inexhaustible source of creation, of brilliant improvisation. The imagination begins to sparkle.

In order to express their happiness, people turn it into a show of gestures, words, songs, cries and chanting that are meat and drink for the filmmaker. According to his sensitivity, his cruel, ironic, tender or warm way of seeing things, he seizes from this matter fleeting instants like the butterfly hunter does, for his collection. What a result you get from capturing the transient!

The camera savours the self-satisfaction. The lens, that big greedy eye, shines with joyful voluptuousness for, in any show, there is exhibition. The titillated microphone vibrates to the rhythms of the festivities.

Swept away by this rhythm, one of the participants finally dares to surpass himself, lay himself bare. This is the most fascinating moment of all, for it exposes a fragment of human truth. The filmmaker stays on the fringes of the party, but does not try to avoid it. In order to film it properly, he must enter into its game. It is all a question of chance, mobility and above all, preparation. He needs to know relatively precisely what is going to happen. The best thing is to have experienced it before and, when editing, relive the emotions.

It is best that the film has a festive air to it too. It would be perverse to be sinister in a spirit of seriousness; it wouldn’t be serious at all…


Henri Storck,

Cinéma du réel, Paris, 1988


Collaborators in all ten films :

Director : Henri Storck with the collaboration of David McNeil and Jean Cleinge

Argument : Henri Storck and Jean Cleinge

Texts : Jean Goffin

Editing : Alain Marchal assisted by Boris Lehman and Jean McNeil

Music : That of the festivities

Original music in the credits : David McNeil

Photography : Virginia Leirens

Continuity person : Jean McNeil

Mixing : Jacques Orth

No commentary

Produced by Les Film Henri Storck on the initiative of Arthur Haulot with the aid of the General Tourism Office, the French-speaking Ministry of Culture, the Dutch-speaking Ministry of Culture, the Ministry for Education, the R.T.B. and the Crédit Communal.

Director of production : Baudouin Mussche



Versions of the credits and title cards in French, Dutch (text by Karel Jonckeheere), English, German, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.


The ten films are dedicated to James Ensor and Michel de Ghelderode



Le carnaval d’Ostende – Le mardi gras à Alost – Le carnaval de Malmedy, «le Cwarmè» – Le théâtre des rues à Malmedy, le Lundi gras – Les Gilles de Binche

La plantation du Meyboom et le théâtre de Toone à Bruxelles – La procession du Saint-Sang à Bruges, les pénitents de Furnes

Les Blancs Moussis de Stavelot et la ducasse de Mons – Les Chinels de Fosses-la-Ville, les grand-Més de La Louvière, le tir de campes à Liège

La passion du Christ à Lessines et à Ligny, les fêtes d’Outremeuse à Liège



The Carnaval of Ostend


Title card :

The two faces of the carnival in Ostend are finding the masks of Ensor on the shores of the shining pools in the night, and seeing the ghosts of the great artist climb the stairway to go to the Dead Rat’s Ball.

At night, by the seashore, the mask of death descends from a boat. We enter the crowd of masks: soldiers, priests, couples, babies, invalids, grinning old men, the lame and the twisted, the drunks. Here, imagination faces up to ugliness and horror; it is exorcised by derision. The masks enter the cafés: everybody plays along, it is impossible to refuse an obscenity, a joke, a drink. Mr. Carnival is burned. Around him people dance a farandole of joy. At the casino there is the Dead Rat’s Ball, a mixture of long dresses and transgressive disguises. Clowns have fun. The night draws to an end; the masks are abandoned on the beach like jellyfish.


Collaborated on this film :

 Assistant : David McNeil

Cameramen : Paul De Fru, Michel Baudour, Claude Ache, assisted by Michel De Fru, Jean Libon, Peter Anger

Sound engineers : Philippe Cape, Marcel Bertiaux, Henri Morelle


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/12’30/1970-1971


To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


Mardi gras in Alost


Title card :

Days of folly, days of celebration, Mardi Gras, a number of boys dress up as sexy young ladies or dirty old men. To mark the end of the festivity, the masked participants deliver the ephemeral god of Carnival unto the flames.

The main square and the chimes, the shop windows full of carnival accessories. The parade can begin: the transvestites rule the roost, majorettes with hairy legs, slovenly dressed nannies, big-busted and broad-beamed sluts, femininity of all sorts, fat matrons… The roundabouts turn, the caricoles (snails in a special sauce) are served by the ladleful, there is shouting and carnival music. Things are hotting up in the ballroom, sex and beer are in the air, the obscenity is joyful and the feel-good factor leads the dance. Carnival burns, there is a firelight parade and in the early hours of the morning the roundabouts finally become still.


Collaborated on this film :

Director : David McNeil

Cameramen : Michel Baudour, Peter Anger, Claude Ache, assisted by Walter Van Den Ende

Electrician : Pierre Bellemans

Sound Engineers : Marcel Bertiaux and Henri Morelle


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/11’30″/1970-1971


To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


The Carnaval of Malmédy


Title card :

A typically Walloon carnival, animated by the facetious presence of the long arms and the black Sâvadges around the Haguête, heroes who are mysterious, lavish and sardonic all at once.

In Malmedy everything is long: the red, pointy noses like Pinocchio, the never-ending arms that wander over and under dresses, with articulated pincers that open up to pinch tempting calves, the huge brooms that dishevel the passers by and make hats fly. There are also the Sâvadges, their faces waxed, their bodies covered with scales who jump on unfortunate but consenting onlookers and force them to kneel down and beg forgiveness. Sex is there too, with the measuring up of the thighs of pretty passers-by and the more contemporary slogans of Make love, not war. The film wanders among all this revelry, from parade to parade, favouring scenes where the long arms and the Sâvadges happily fulfil their role of gentle molesters.



Collaborated on this film :


Assistant : David McNeil

Continuity person : Alain Marchal

Cameramen : Jean Roch, Claude Ache, Michel Baudour, Peter Anger, Renier Doutrelepont assisted by Maurice Raymakers, Walter Van Den Ende, Jean Libon.

Electrician : Bernard Gengler

Sound engineers : Robert Jacobs, Marcel Bertiaux


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/12’30″/1970-1971


To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


The Street Theater in Malmedy


Title card :

It is the day of role-playing. Some inhabitants are trounced in satirical playlets, derisively reminded of their acts throughout the year.


A carnival in the snow and rain. Firstly, what goes on backstage, the preparation for the show. Then the participation of the audience who, under their umbrellas, burst into laughter as their bad behaviour is acted out on stage, in Walloon. Naturally, once again, Carnival will be burned to death in joyful execution. Two very beautiful shots: the old lady in the snow who has lost the procession and finds herself alone in the frame. And the shot of the farandole on its own; then reflected in a shop window dressed with carnival accessories, superimposed on the masks; and finally the masks alone.



Collaborated on this film :


Continuity person : Alain Marchal

Cameramen : Jean Roch, Michel Baudour, Claude Ache, Renier Doutrelepont assisted by Maurice Raymakers, Jean Libon

Sound engineers : Robert Jacobs, Marcel Bertiaux


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/11’30″/1970-1971


To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


The Gilles of Binche




Title card :

For the past few weeks, the famous carnival has submitted everybody to its laws. The lundi des Trouilles de nouilles allows each person to get involved in the ambiguous pleasure of the intrigues. On Dimanche gras at the heart of the crowd, gangs in disguise jump up and down to the rhythm of the hurdy gurdies, violas. Sturdy fellows dressed up as Mam’zèles punctuate their dance with a spinning umbrella.


The carnival before the Gilles. Sound is omnipresent since the famous drums are there. This is folklore before the folklore, the private rejoicing of the town where the masks mingle with the crowd; the backstage of Mardi Gras.


Mardi Gras


Title card :

On Mardi Gras, before dawn, the Gilles get ready for the great ceremony of this day of collective effusiveness. Originating in the distant past, the Gilles perpetuate the pagan rites of renewal; the dance of the masked men, wearing bells, to the ternary rhythm of the drums that exorcises demons and calls fertility to the earth. In the afternoon, Gille, wearing a headdress of feathers, throws oranges, symbols of the sun, as a sign of abundance.


The Gilles are dressed, stuffed, bonneted, decked with little bells, transformed into one-man bands, taken to the party by the women who prepare them, kissed and given up to the dawn where everything begins. In the morning they wear a bonnet and are masked, in the afternoon, they wear Ostrich feathers on their heads. The fullness of the image corresponds perfectly to the omnipresence of the sound: the white of the ruffs fills the frame. A Storckian shot: the carnival crowd moves back out of the way of the mounted constabulary, the meeting of order and disorder. The film ends with fireworks, and the image mingles the white of the feathers and ruffs and the red lights of the party.



Collaborated on this film :


Directors and assistant directors : David McNeil, Jean Cleinge

Continuity man : Alain Marchal

Cameramen : Paul De Fru, Claude Ache, Peter Anger assisted by Michel De Fru, Jean Libon, Walter Van Den Ende

Sound engineers : Philippe Cape, Marcel Bertiaux, Henri Morelle


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/26’/1970 – 1971


The Plantation of the May tree in Brussels

and The Marionette Theater of Toone


Planting the Meyboom, August 9


Title card :

According to a secular tradition, every year the companions of Saint Laurent, surrounded by the good giants Mieke and Janneke and their children Rooske and Jefke, plant a Meyboom, the tree of joy.


In Brussels, the brass bands and the Grand’place. A Storckian shot gives a counterpoint to the splendour of the architecture, a freeze frame on a commemorative plaque: Here, on April 5 and 6, 1885, the Belgian Labour Party was created. The debonair giants mounted on wicker frames, like familiar baskets, move through the streets of the city. They meet the glass facades of the administrative centre. The May tree is dragged and finally hoisted upright amidst the dancing and joyful shouting. At the top of the tree a Belgian flag is raised.


The Toone theatre


Title card :

The Toone puppets personify the egalitarian, mocking and rebellious spirit of the inhabitants of Brussels. Tonight they play the Mystery of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ that Michel de Ghelderode wrote down from the oral tradition.


A recording of one of the Toone shows. The Passion in common sense form and spoken in the Brussels dialect. The heavy accent and the intensity of Christ’s suffering transposed into quips from the proletarian neighbourhood of Brussels, the Marolles, are amusing…

It all ends with the resurrection, the defeat of death and the hymns that mingle with the brass bands.



Collaborated on this film :


Cameramen : Manu Bonmariage, Paul De Fru, assisted by Peter Anger, Michel De Fru

Electrician : Kerremans

Sound engineers : Henri Morelle, Philippe Cape


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/14’30″/1970


To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


The procession of the Holy Blood in Bruges

and The penitents of Veurne


The procession of Saint-Sang in Bruges, on the Thursday of Ascension


Title card :

In the old medieval city, the procession of Saint-Sang perpetuates the legend of Thierry d’Alsace, count of Flanders who brought back to Bruges a few drops of Christ’s blood after the crusades.


Here we leave the paganism of the carnival for religious ceremony. The raising of the cross replaces the sacrifice of carnival. The film opens with the preparation of the procession: equal care is taken in filming the legs of the centurions and Christ’s hair. The important characters are rigged out with false beards. Here, spectators do not participate in and follow the party. They sit and watch the parade-show. A few Storckian shots: Christ, carrying his cross, falls cleverly; the crowd claps. A troop of sheep with a shepherd follows. Ballerinas and beauties from the provinces play Salome and her followers. The head of Saint John the Baptist, carelessly carried, nevertheless remains on its tray. This is the story of a returning saint visited by the fervour of patronage and popular staging.


The penitents of Furnes : last Sunday in July


Title card :

In the past, there was a plague to ward off. Today, in the silence of the streets, anonymous penitents drag their heavy crosses, begging forgiveness for their sins.


Here we see the procession of penitents between mass and the kermesse (popular fair), the parading of the relics and statues and their living extensions, the guilty wearing hoods who, barefoot, carry their crosses and atone for their sins. Storckian shots: an analogical link between a shooting gallery followed by a statue of Christ suggests a new Saint Sebastian. The washing of the feet set to fairground music.



Collaborated on this film :


Cameramen : Michael Sander, Manu Bonmariage, Claude Ache assisted by Gérard Collet, Peter Anger

Electrician : Pierre Bellemans

Sound engineers : Marcel Bertiaux, Henri Morelle


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/12’45″/1970-1971


The White Moussis of Stavelot

and The “Ducasse” of Mons


The Blancs Moussîs of Stavelot: Laetare


Title card :

Spotless white characters, a mask with an aggressive nose: the Blanc Moussîs is the insolent and joyful hero of the carnival of Stavelot.


A short recording, but interesting: the Blancs Moussîs gambol around on the snow. White on white. The confetti battles, a procession regulated like a ballet and the joy of participating in the collective character by playing at caterpillars under a white sheet.


The Ducasse in Mons – The trinity


Title card :

The day of the Ducasse, a communal party, the procession of the Car d’or evokes the epidemic of the Black Death that devastated the region in 1348. On pain of falling victim to some calamity, popular belief demands that the Car d’or climb the slope of the collegiate of Sainte Waudru without stopping.


The sound is that of rattles and bells. The images show a parade of penitents and relics. The floats are pulled by horses, sturdy Percherons. They are whipped and bolt; the procession takes off at a gallop.

To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


The lumeçon


Title card :

After the procession, Saint George defeats the dragon, to the encouragement of a crowd eager to pull lucky hairs from the monster’s tail.

A northern square is transformed into a southern arena. The dragon, which looks like a swordfish, replaces the bull, is protected by picador-like horsemen. It has to protect itself from the crowd, which wants to grab its tail. This is a somewhat violent game, filmed like a bullfight. People punch each other and lay into each other with great gusto. Policemen act as referees and separate the combatants who get carried away.


Collaborated on this film :


Assistant : David McNeil

Cameramen : Paul De Fru, Michel Baudour assisted by Michel De Fru

Sound engineers : Philippe Cape, Marcel Bertiaux


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/13’/1970



The Passion Play in Lessines

and The Festival of Outre-Meuse in Liège


Title card :

On the evening of Good Friday, Lessines is plunged into darkness: the black penitents carry the body of Christ to the grave.

To wach the film please send an email to info@fondshenristorck.be, ask the password and click here


In Ligny : Game of the Passion.


Title card :

The inhabitants of Ligny, the mayor leading the parade, are the actors in the Game of the Passion.

Backstage of the Passion theatre: the actors are made up and Christ’s face is covered with blood. In the church the crucifixion and the descent from the cross are acted out. Christ and the thieves have thick Walloon accents. The audience is attentive and moved. The rhythm of the drum, lugubrious and monotonous, accompanies the procession.


The festivities of Outremeuse in Liège: the feast of the Assumption, August 15


Title card :

Rebellious by nature, republican by provocation, the region of Outremeuse nevertheless has a pious soul. The Potales that shelter the statues of the Virgin are illuminated and decked with flowers. The numerous Italian workers living in the region bring a southern luxuriance and colour to these decorations.

This is the meeting of the sacred and the profane. The whole area is inundated with hymns, but the narrow streets are decorated with garlands and Chinese lanterns. A parade of goblins, jesters and clowns of all sorts pass before the altars and the alcoves where the Virgin Mary is covered with flowers and light. The children eat toffee apples, and in the church the miracle of the dividing of the loaves is celebrated.


Collaborated on this film :


Cameramen : Paul De Fru, Michel Baudour, Manu Bonmariage assisted by Michel De Fru, Peter Anger, Jean Libon.

Electricians : Pierre Bellemans, Bernard Gengler, Bulterys team

Sound engineers : Philippe Cape, Henri Morelle


35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/14’30″/1970



The Chinels of Fosse-La-Ville, The Grand-Mas of the Louvière and The firing of gun powder  in Liège


Title card :

Temperamental and capricious, the Chinels are the descendants of the Pulcinella of Italian comedy.


The Grand-Mès of the Louvière: Monday of Laetare


Title card :

The round of the Grand-Mès, the bî-conints, the copuchics and the Pierrots moufflus.

From a narrow street emerges a character covered in jingle bells. The children are dressed up as Chinels. The brass band rehearses. The drums take to the streets. The parade gradually gets organised. Rounds and farandoles are scattered through the streets. People jump up and down to the beat. The music plays, stops and starts up again. The dancers follow suit. The carnival resembles a children’s game and the town is transformed into a big playground. Variously costumed Pierrots shake wooden sabres. The local beauties twirl under their parasols. There is much dancing.


The firing of the campes in Liège: Procession of Saint-Pholien


Title card :

These are the last vestiges of very popular traditions from the region of Liège. The noisy firing of the Campes accompanies the elevation of the Holy Sacrament.

Along the procession’s itinerary, windows are transformed into little altars. There is a long procession of little girls in white. The mass is said in the open air. In the square, on the ground, like a streamer, is the trajectory of the Campes, which fire off in succession, exploding like firecrackers and giving off a lot of smoke. The religious festivity has an air of resurrection and the faithful look like they have gathered on a battleground. Flowers are distributed. In the background, the Meuse flows peacefully.


Collaborated on this film :


Assistant : David McNeil

Cameramen : Michel Baudour, Paul De Fru, Manu Bonmariage assisted by Peter Anger, Michel De Fru.

Sound engineers : Robert Jacobs, Philippe Cape, Marcel Bertiaux, Albert Rupf

35mm/colour (Gevacolor)/12’/1970