Discovery

Le Ciel Flamand

Peter Monsaert

A veteran brothel keeper in Belgium tries to keep her six-year-old daughter from discovering the details of the family business, in this quietly powerful film that asks us how far we would go to keep our children safe.

The women who work at Le Ciel Flamand give hugs to people who need help. That's how Sylvie describes her family's brothel business to her six-year-old daughter, Eline.

Veteran sex workers, Sylvie and her mother Monique are not ashamed of what they do. Sex is their profession. They read online reviews of their brothel as a hotel owner might do on Trip Advisor and they discuss how the latest technologies might improve their security. But Sylvie's business acumen doesn't prevent her from trying to preserve her daughter's innocence. She goes to great lengths to ensure that Eline has a happy childhood. Her daughter never enters the brothel; she eats her lunch in the car and is entrusted to her uncle Dirk after school while Sylvie works. But Sylvie's rules don't stop Eline from being fascinated by her mother's mysterious workplace, and one day Eline's curiousity gets the better of her. This changes everything.

Though Sylvie's life may appear unconventional to some, writer-director Peter Monsaert ensures that when we look at her, we don't just see a prostitute with a child; we see a strong, driven woman, and, most of all, a loving mother. Approaching his characters with sensitivity and without judgement, Monsaert imbues their circumstances with an authenticity that makes the film's darker turns all the more chilling. Aided by the strong performances of his mostly female cast, led by real-life mother and daughter Sara Vertongen and Esra Vandenbussche, Monsaert crafts a quietly powerful film about the difficult choices we face as parents, and asks us to consider how far we would go to keep our children safe.

KERRI CRADDOCK

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