Belgium, The Netherlands, Bulgaria


The King of the Belgians is on a state visit in Istanbul when his country falls apart. He must return home at once to save his kingdom. But a solar storm causes airspace and communications to shut down. No planes. No phones.

With the help of a British filmmaker and a troupe of Bulgarian folk singers, the King and his entourage manage to escape over the border. Incognito. Thus begins an odyssey across the Balkans during which the King discovers the real world – and his true self.

Director's Statement

An Icelandic volcano erupted and an idea was born: let’s drop a Belgian King in Istanbul, stir up a natural disaster, spark a political crisis and then launch him on a homeward overland journey, incognito, that features trip-ups, show-downs and moments of grace.

Displacement as the essence of comedy, in other words.

The challenge was how to actually tell this tale ... The Royal Palace hires Duncan Lloyd, a Brit, to upgrade the King’s dull image. Lloyd’s lens is the sole prism through which we experience these six extraordinary days in the life of a King. And what about Belgium, a complicated little country that specializes in surrealism and compromise? The ongoing political turmoil in our peanut kingdom and Europe's ever-deepening identity crisis were a key source of inspiration. But the political tangent of the film remains secondary to the inner transformation of the King as he savors his anonymity and begins to discover his genuine yearnings. To enhance authenticity and spontaneity we often invited the actors to improvise. And we filmed chronologically. The situations become increasingly outrageous but actually remain delightfully believable.

The result is KING OF THE BELGIANS, a road movie about a wayward monarch profoundly lost in the Balkans.

Director's Biography

Since 2000, Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens have been a solid team of independent filmmakers and producers. After having made numerous documentaries, including Peter’s STATE OF DOGS and Jessica’s THE VIRGIN DIARIES, they turned to fiction filmmaking. Their debut, KHADAK', won the ‘Lion of the Future’ at the 2006 Venice Film Festival. Their second feature, ALTIPLANO, was launched at the Cannes Critics’ Week in 2009 and won the Grand Prix at the Bangkok IFF. In 2012 they completed their trilogy with THE FIFTH SEASON, which premiered in the Official Competition of the Venice Film Festival where it won two awards. In 2016 Brosens & Woodworth launched their first comedy, KING OF THE BELGIANS at the Venice Film Festival, which went on to become an international hit.


2019 THE BAREFOOT EMPEROR (financing)

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens

Written by: Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens

Produced by: Mira Staleva, Stefan Kitanov, Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth, François Touwaide, Frans Van Gestel, Arnold Heslenfeld, Laurette Schillings

Cinematography: Ton Peters

Editing: David Verdurme

Production Design: Sabina Christova

Costume Design: Eka Bichinashvili, Claudine Tychon

Make-Up & Hair: Petya Simeonova

Sound Design: Michel Schöpping

Cast: Peter Van den Begin (King Nicolas III), Lucie Debay (Louise Vancraeyenest), Titus De Voogdt (Carlos De Vos), Bruno Georis (Ludovic Moreau), Pieter van der Houwen (Duncan Lloyd), Nina Nikolina (Ana)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Comedy 2017