In August 1996, bus drivers Marcel Van Loock and Wim Moreels are apprehended by the Moroccan Customs for drug trafficking. Inside their bus, hidden behind a false compartment, they have ...
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In August 1996, bus drivers Marcel Van Loock and Wim Moreels are apprehended by the Moroccan Customs for drug trafficking. Inside their bus, hidden behind a false compartment, they have discovered 700 pounds of hashish. Although the owner of the bus company is arrested as well and makes a full confession clearly indicating that both drivers were unaware of the hidden drugs, the Moroccan judge sentences both men to 5 years in the Moroccan prison of Tangiers. Nothing could have prepared the two men for life inside a Moroccan prison. Without food, clothes or medical care, they must learn how to take care of themselves to survive their stay in prison. Corrupt guards, corrupt lawyers and judges, a consul who doesn't care and frequent beatings are only part of the terrible prison. Meanwhile their families at home are left without any information, any help or any hope - finding out that their own government doesn't care for Belgian people in prisons abroad. Written by
This film was shot from back to front, so it would be easier on lead actor Filip Peeters. He lost around 60 pounds by only drinking liquid foods for a few months, and could then gain weight throughout the shoot. He said it was very awkward to play a very worn out person (as his character Marcel van Loock was at the end of the movie), when you've just started shooting. See more »
"HELL" perfectly epitomizes the atmosphere of the film.
Ah, the cinematic industry of my beloved home country I'm usually very skeptical when it comes Belgian movies, because for some reason the writers and directors in this nation always exaggerate immensely when it comes to building up atmosphere. Either the films become so over-the-top dramatic that the story becomes implausible and pathetic, or the script contains too much typically Belgian (= rancid) humor that brings down the quality of the story. "De Hel van Tangiers" is entirely different! Of course, it's not the type of story that lends itself to revert to comical situations, but I was particularly concerned about the drama elements. If you're familiar with the facts in the case on which this movie is based, you just know that it is the ideal opportunity for scriptwriters to exploit the drama and sentimentality. But I'm pleasantly surprised to see that all the emotional sequences are realistic and sincere. Most of the based-on-true-story dramas try ridiculously hard to bring tears to your eyes, but "De Hel van Tangiers" achieves this simply through powerful acting performances and by maintaining an objective point of view. Even though padded with fictional aspects, the plot remains fairly loyal (at least, as far as I recall the news reports of that time) to the horribly inhuman drama that overcame tourist bus driver Pierre Stukken in 1996. On his way back from Morocco, he (renamed Marcel Van Loock in the film) and his co-driver Wim Moreels were arrested because there was more than 300Kg of drugs hidden in their bus. Despite confessions from the company's boss, stating that the driver was completely unaware of the drugs he was smuggling, Stukken was nevertheless sentenced to five years in a Moroccan prison, only because of the corrupt system. Whilst he spent 27 inhumanly months in a place worse than hell, his helpless family is catapulted back and forth between the complex Belgian legislation without any results. "De Hel van Tanger" is a courageous and important Belgian piece of cinema, because it effectively depicts the malfunctioning of both national and international legal systems! The Belgian government didn't do anything for the poor family until the media got too closely involved and particularly the mismanagement of non-European prisons is forcefully criticized. The comparisons between this film and "Midnight Express" are fairly just, as both films terrifically capture the gritty and claustrophobic atmosphere of foreign prisons. The sequences inside the prison's walls are genuinely shocking and definitely not appropriate for people with a weak stomach. The place is filthy, the cells are severely overpopulated and you can't even afford half-decent food if you don't exchange it for cigarettes. Observing Marcel's physical & mental deterioration in this god-awful place is honestly depressing and therefore the title "Hell of Tangiers" is aptly chosen. The film owes a lot of its power to Filip Peeters magnificent and truly devoted performance. Peeters lost over 30kg of weight to make for the role and, near the end of the film, it really looks as if he spent those 27 months in hell. The rest of the cast exists of solid performers who are all quite famous and reliable according to Belgian standards and Frank Van Mechelen's directing is more than satisfying as well. With the financial help of commercial TV-stations, Flemish cinema is moving upwards lately and "De Hel van Tanger" is proof that things are moving towards the right direction.
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