Cultural action = political action! Press cuttings about the occupation, the sentencing of Hugo Claus and the murder of Bobby Kennedy.

“You've got the box but we've got the matches”

Anectode from the C4 collective

Un manifeste sur les murs de l'enseignement
8 lignes qui ont ébranlé l'école
Une exclusion par son tribunal
Appliquant des lois fascistes
La riposte par une boîte d'allumettes
Qui signifiait le feu.
Puis le cinéma pour le rendre culte
Un film dans l'air du temps
Confirmé ensuite par Mai 68.
Un scénario pertinent
Une parabole
Une réalisation collective
Envers et contre tous.
Mais aujourd'hui?
D'autres chantent
Allumez le feu
Pour cramer des quartiers
Sans aucune autre idée.
Héros des barricades souvent joyeux
Mimant la révolution permanente visant l'utopie
Alors que les héros des meurtres de masse d'aujourd'hui
Avec leurs voitures béliers
Ne visent que le paradis du néant.

– Richard Kalisz (mai 2018)

During the 1966-67 school year, three students from the INSAS (l’Institut national supérieur des arts du spectacle et des techniques de diffusion, founded in Brussels in 1962) posted a text of a few lines of situationist inspiration attacking showbiz society on the noticeboard of the school. Heard by a court made up of members of the teaching body immediately gathered by the management, Richard Kalisz (assiduous reader of Guy Debord’s texts), Jean-Paul Tréfois (a follower of Belgian surrealism), and Dimitri Dimitriadis (renowned Greek author), were expelled from the establishment for impertinence, answering back and excessive language. The class came out in solidarity with them, protested, demonstrated. The three students sent send Raymond Ravar, director of the school, an empty matchbox, accompanied by the text: “You’ve got the box but we’ve got the matches”, leading to the fear that a fire would break out. Those who signed “the conspirators” would not be allowed to return to the school but would provide their fellow students who remained on the benches of the INSAS with the screenplay for Collectif C4, a collective film which would constitute the following year’s end of year project.

“This film, made between October 1967 and March 1968 has two important particularities”, wrote Annie Goldmann, who, in her capacity as teacher at INSAS closely followed the group’s project: “First and foremost it’s a group creation, which means it’s not a series of individual sketches brought together under a common title, as is usually the case, but a work in which the role of each participant, be it in relation to the preparation of the script, editing or directing, is impossible to determine, because everything was done as a collective. What’s more, it’s a work of fiction which stages the actual problems the directors were faced with, and it’s surprising to see, just a few months before May 1968, to what extent the problems which would come to light existed in a latent state in the student milieu, both in intellectual terms and in relation to the form the action took. We can already see a break with the traditional educational system, the refusal to fit in with society, the hardening in relation to any attempt at recovery, followed by the violence, solitude and failure... In our opinion, the conditions in which it was made and the testimony it bore to the revolt seen from the inside make for an exceptional document …” (Annie Goldmann, Cinéma et Société Moderne, Éditions Anthro­pos, Paris, 1971).

Out of a desire for complete anonymity, the film doesn’t have any credits. Co-directed by Jean-François Bre­ton, Paul Paquay, Michel Perin and Jean-Marie Vervisch, based on a script written by Richard Kalisz, it was edited by Denise Vindevogel. Éliane Dubois, Grace Winter and Daniel De Valck who, as of the 1970s would be the protagonists of the Brussels struc­tures of production and distribution of politically engaged cinemas, also collaborated on it. Illustrating the events experienced in the school, the actors in Collectif C4 are students from a variety of departments of the INSAS but also several of its teachers (who play the roles of teachers). In this fiction in which the documentary rubs shoulders with the filmed performance, you can see the influence of Jean-Luc Godard and a spirit similar to that which was the driving force behind experiences of collective cinema of the time. Chris Marker, who had taught at the INSAS, would run a course at the IAD – groups like La Ligne Générale (at the INSAS) and Cinélibre (at the IAD) would be created in its wake. Filmed, produced and edited at the school, Collectif C4 is a hybrid, even incoherent work, which reflects the diverse profiles, political orientations and artistic aspirations of its authors in the spirit of its time. If Kalisz, Paquay and Vervisch came out as avid readers of Raoul Vaneighem and the Internationale Situationniste, Michel Perin went on to direct and produce variety programmes, whereas Jean-François Breton moved towards a career in industrial film. Jean-Marie Vervisch would work as a television scriptwriter before becoming a second-hand goods dealer, technical director of theatre and lighting engineer. The man behind numerous theatrical projects, radio director at the RTBF and on France Culture, Richard Kalisz would go on to become the co-founder of the Atelier de Création Sonore et Radiopho­nique de Bruxelles with Thierry Génicot. In the 1970s, Jean-Paul Tréfois and Robert Stéphane created Vidé­ographie, the first broadcast in Europe to be exclusively devoted to video.

Collectif C4 is rarely shown and only had a limited circulation. A screening organised in 2012, celebrating the 50 years of the INSAS as part of the Cinéma du Réel festival in Paris, saved it from oblivion.

Xavier García Bardón, based on an interview with Jean-Marie Vervisch (March 2018) and an email correspondence with Richard Kalisz (April-May 2018).


Anti-Censorship  Protest Read-In 2 on 20 May in the Centre for Fine Arts. Eddy Van Vliet is given a light. On that evening Hugo Claus, Louis Paul Boon, Hubert Lampo, Ward Ruys­linck and Herman J. Claeys spoke. Self-declared anarchists threw chairs.

See also