Chantal Akerman

Internacional premiere de sus cortometrajes de estudiante

I met Chantal in a posh high school in brussels in 1965 where we were both up to no good. Neither of us felt at ease there, we would often skip school to go to the movies. We used to go downtown to very exciting places where we saw in a tiny theater, Pierrot le fou. We also used to go to the Belgian Film Archives (CINEMATEK) having 3 screenings a day.

As we were broken, we would hitchhike from Brussels to Paris to go to the theatre, which is the story of the film J’ai faim, j’ai froid. We attended the Knokke Experimental Film Festival where we watched films while lying on the floor and drinking milk. We were so astonished that there was no plot and we told each other that we wanted to make movies.

We enrolled in a film school by cheating on the entry exam. I was the one to cheat, Chantal helped me with the math, I was hopeless and still I am. We didn’t like film school, they wanted us to study physics, math, optics, and we just wanted to make pictures and write scripts.

Chantal went to Paris, and I stayed in Brussels. We would meet to make movies. Chantal made Saute ma ville – I was probably there, maybe for driving. Chantal made Je tu il elle – I was the one throwing artificial snow through the window.

When she went to NY, I went to see her. In News from Home her mother said “Marilyn will bring you money”. We crossed the country in an old truck with some runaway kids and hippies.

We wrote a script together and we went to see a hot producer. He was too busy at the time, and we were so impatient, so we created Paradise Films. Everything was easy then; we just need 200 US$ to start. It was in this joyful chaos that we made Jeanne Dielman. The story of our film merged with the story of our lives. We had fun, we travelled the world to go to festivals. We met amazing people who became partners and friends.

So movie images come back to my mind: we are waiting for Aurore Clément at the train station in Germany, the day before the start of Les Rendez-vous d’Anna. Aurore is stepping out of the train with a wonderful coat. To me it was the beginning of the film. And one of my favorite professional memories is when Chantal and I went chasing costumes for Histoires d’Amérique in the closet of old actors in NY.

We lived with great freedom, we felt carefree, we lived dangerously. Paradise Films had glorious heights and tremendous slows and we cared so much for it. I wouldn’t say that I produced Chantal’s films I simply wanted the films to be. We took a risk on each one of them.

With Chantal the process seems so obvious. For D’Est we drove from Brussels to Odessa. Sometimes we spent the whole day without filming. Then all a sudden she would say : “We are getting out” and she would direct a shot.  She used to say that she was lazy, but she has a huge energy and a phenomenal ability for hard work.

Even though it was a life story cut up in different movements with hellos and goodbyes, she had been my friend for fifty years and she still is.

Marilyn Watelet


Marilyn Watelet was born in Brussels. She started in Belgian television and founded the company Paradise Films with Chantal Akerman in the 1970s.

She worked as a stage manager, assistant director, production manager and producer on some thirty fiction and documentary films by Chantal Akerman and other filmmakers, while teaching at INSAS (Institut national supérieur des arts du spectacle) from 1992 onwards and making documentary films from 1994 onwards with Szymon Zaleski: Fin de Siglo (1994), École 27 (1996), Elian, l’enfant captif (2001), À toute épreuve (2004).

Since 2005, she has devoted herself to making radio documentaries. Marylin Watelet has been programming films at the Belgian Week in Havana since 2015. She is also an associate administrator of the Fondation Chantal Akerman.