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The Barefoot Emperor – Jessica Woodworth & Peter Brosens

Annual Top Films Lists

Top 150 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2019: #18. The Barefoot Emperor – Jessica Woodworth & Peter Brosens

Top 150 Most Anticipated Foreign Films of 2019: #18. The Barefoot Emperor – Jessica Woodworth & Peter Brosens

The Barefoot Emperor

Belgian directing duo Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens have forged full speed ahead into their fifth feature, The Barefoot Emperor, which appears to be a follow-up to 2016’s The Kings of the Belgians. Having moved from documentary filmmaking to narrative cinema with 2006’s Khadak, Woodworth and Brosens have established themselves as something of an idiosyncratic mix of ethnological interests with a dose of either light comedy or unsettling social ills. Their debut Khadak premiered in Venice Days, while 2009’s Altiplano premiered in Cannes Critics’ Week. Their underappreciated genre entry The Fifth Season competed for the Golden Lion in 2012, before they went back to Venice in Horizons with The King of the Belgians, which sought to examine the troubled journey of King Nicolas II across the Balkans to get home during his country’s worst political crisis. Actor Peter Van den Begin resumes his role as Nicolas II in The Barefoot Emperor, joined by Lucie Debay (interviewed here), Titus de Voogt, and Bruno Georis. International oddities Geraldine Chaplin and Udo Kier are also among the supporting cast. The film is produced by the directors’ company Bo Films and co-produced by Belgium’s Wajnbrosse, the Netherlands’ Topkapi Films, Croatia’s Propeler Film and Bulgaria’s Art Fest with backing from Eurimages.

Gist: Woodworth and Brosens’ script finds the King forced to undergo rehabilitative treatment while retained in Croatia as Wallonia proclaims its independence. Eager to return home, unbeknownst to Nicolas, he has been announced as the last king of the Belgians and the first king of the newly established nationalist Nova Europa.

Release Date/Prediction: Filmed in Croatia in the autumns months of 2018, we expect The Barefoot Emperor to be invited back to Venice. However, a sidebar at Cannes may be likely, which would be their first stint at the festival since 2009.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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