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Belgian report Belgian report
by Euro Reporter
2010-11-06 08:59:47
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Belgian euthanasia comedy wins Rome film festival

Belgium's "Kill Me Please", a black comedy about euthanasia shot by French director Olias Barco, won the Golden Marc'Aurelio best film award at the Rome film festival on Friday. The film tells the life of Dr. Kruger who wants to turn suicide into a simple, medically assisted act. His clinic attracts a strange cast including a travelling salesman, a rich Luxembourg heir and an old Berlin cabaret singer. "It's a film to have fun but also to talk about the big question of death," transsexual actor Zazie de Paris, who plays the cabaret singer Madame Rachel, told reporters at the film's showing earlier this week.

"The film discusses a political question. Usually we talk about euthanasia only when we're talking about terminal illnesses, but this is a much more controversial and personal perspective," he added. The film is based on Dignitas, a Swiss group that allows people with severe illnesses to die assisted by qualified doctors and nurses. The organisation was set up in 1998 by Swiss lawyer Ludwig Minelli. The Marc'Aurelio Grand Jury Award went to Denmark's "Haevnen", a film shown by director Susanne Bier about a doctor who returns home to a quiet and dreary small Danish town from Sudan, where he works in a refugee camp.

The film has been accused by the Sudanese government of being anti-Islamic and its version of the Darfur conflict has been disputed. The best actress award went jointly to the entire female cast of "Las Buenas Hierbas", a Mexican film about a grandmother diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease who asks for her daughter to help her before she loses her mind. The best actor award went to Italian actor Toni Servillo for "Una Vita Tranquilla" in which he plays a man from southern Italy who lives near Frankfurt with a young family and runs a restaurant and hotel business. The man, Rosario Russo, keeps a low profile until one day his son Diego shows up at his doorstep and his past suddenly comes back to haunt him.


Belgian archbishop says media twisted his public statements

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Brussels has charged a firestorm of criticism has been provoked by distorted reporting on his public statements.  Two days after his public spokesman resigned, describing Archbishop Leonard as a “loose cannon,” the embattled prelate said that he had been “misrepresented by the press.” In a 5-page letter to the people of his archdiocese, Archbishop Leonard acknowledged that his recent public remarks—as they had been relayed through the media—had given rise to controversy. But he insisted that the reports were inaccurate, adding that he too would have been dismayed if he heard the statements “as they have been presented to you.”

The archbishop told his people that he felt he owed them an explanation, since the statements that have been attributed to him have caused “so much criticism, misunderstanding, and incomprehension.”  He explained that in one instance, a reporter asked him repeatedly whether AIDS should be seen as God’s vengeance. The archbishop said that he twice dismissed that idea, but finally remarked that just as pollution harms the environment and excessive alcohol use damages the brain and liver, so too dangerous sexual activities can lead to diseases like AIDS.

In another case, Archbishop Leonard wrote, he had never intended to suggest that elderly priests who have been accused of abuse should escape punishment. All abuse cases should be reported to prosecutors, he said. In some cases, he continued, when the accused priest is already retired and prosecution is impractical, the best solution might be for the priest to “confess his crime” in the presence of the victim. Such a priest should no longer be allowed to administer the sacraments, the archbishop said. Archbishop Leonard did not respond directly to the harsh criticism that his departed spokesman, Juergen Mettepenningen, had made in a press conference earlier this week. But the complaint of misrepresentation implied that the press spokesman had not done an adequate job of explaining the archbishop’s statements to reporters.


Belgian premier butt of linguistic gaffe

The premier of linguistically-divided Belgium, Yves Leterme, came in for a shock on being told Tuesday that French was the nation's official language as well as his own -- though he is a Flemish-speaker.

The gaffe came when Leterme, who has a French name and speaks the language fluently, visited the prestigious College of Europe in Bruges, flanked by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on an official visit to Belgium. Delivering a speech to the pair, the head of the institution, Spaniard Inigo Mendez de Vigo, said he would conclude in Belgium's official language, French, "the language of Yves Leterme", raising eyebrows in the room.

Leterme currently heads a caretaker government following inconclusive general elections in June that have left the country rudderless as parties on both sides of the linguistic divide quarrel over a deal to form a government. Sixty percent of the country's around 10 million people speak Flemish, the remainder French.

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