Romanian filmmaker Teodora Mihai, whose La Civil screened in Cannes Un Certain Regard in 2021, will direct the feature Heysel 85, about the Heysal Stadium disaster in which 39 people died at the European football final in 1985. She takes over from original director Hans Herbots who has dropped out because of scheduling conflicts.
The project is being produced by Belgian production outfit Menuetto Films; co-founder Hans Everaert pitched the project this week at Connext, the platform where new film and TV work from Flanders and Brussels is presented to the International industry.
Everaert explained the film will be set completely in the “catacombs,” the underground part of the Heysel stadium where the dead bodies were brought. The main protagonist is the spokeswoman for the mayor of Brussels. The narrative will follow a distracted mayor and the spokeswoman who has to take charge of the public response to the event. The football match between Liverpool and Juventus went ahead despite the deaths of 39 people.
“Teodora came to mind [as] La Civil is also about a strong female protagonist,” said Evereart of why he approached Mihai. He said the film will also combine strong “emotion and action.”
The project already has financing from the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF) and the Netherlands Film Fund as well as Belgian tax shelter support. The Dutch co-producer is Topkapi. Kinepolis Film Distribution has also come on board with what Everaert calls “a substantial MG.”
“And because Teodora is now aboard, this opens up co-production opportunities with Romania,” the producer added. “We will co-produce with Cristian Mungiu of Cobra Films, and from the French community we will co-produce with the Dardenne brothers [through Les Films Du Fleuve].”
Everaert said he also hopes to bring on Wildside in Italy, its partner on Cannes Jury Prize winner The Eight Mountains, and will be applying for Italian public support in November. “We are financing the remainder of what we need and we will shoot in October or November next year. That will be the time frame to release in the fall of 2025.”
The film will be shot in Dutch, French, English and Italian. “Teodora speaks all those languages fluently,” explained Everaert. “It will be easier with a director who can relate to all the languages and all the actors in their own languages.”
Casting is underway and Everaert is also talking with sales agents now Mihai is attached.