Jonas Govaerts, Belgian Director (CUB, Tabula Rasa) - Interview

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Meet Jonas Govaerts. He is the latest, greatest thing to come out of Belgium along with beer, chocolate and fine art. 

Jonas Govaerts is a director and writer, known for Cub (Welp )(2014), Of Cats & Women (2007) and Forever (2005)  and Tabula Rasa , a TV Series now streaming on Netflix. 

He spoke with DeerWomen about horror today, it's role in culture, and his collection of movie theatre ticket stubs. 

Check out Tabula Rasa now on Netflix and CUB (Welp) on Shudder. 

DeerWomen: Can you describe yourself and what you do, your role in horror and how you started this passion? 

Jonas: My name is Jonas Govaerts, and I'm a film aficionado from Antwerp, Belgium that occasionally gets to make cinema himself. My role, I think, is that of an eternal student: I try to watch and study film every day. I love all genres, but horror was and will almost be my first love. I blame Sam Raimi's Evil Dead movies.

DeerWomen: We know horror and cinema is a huge part of your life, can you explain when you fell in love with it and how it has impacted you? 

Jonas: As a child, my parents were quite wary of me watching anything too violent, so I only got to see glimpses of cinematic horror. A VHS cover in the local supermarket, or a flash of Poltergeist on the TV before it was turned off. Oddly, without proper context, these horrors became all the more fantastic and grotesque in my imagination. Later, when I was a teenager, I would hear my scout leaders talk about films like A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday The 13th, and once again imagined scenes and images far more surreal and nightmarish than the actual movies offered up. That’s why I set my first movie CUB at a scout camp: it’s really a homage to my childhood, when my love of horror blossomed. 


DeerWomen: What attracts you to the artists that you work with? In many of your projects, you hire friends and artists you are familiar with such as Fia Cielen, Visual Artist. What attracts you to the artists you work with and how do you find them?

Jonas: I firmly believe that, as a director, you should always strive to be the least talented person on set. Cinema is a collaborative art: the more talented people you gather around you, the less things you have to worry about on set. So I’m always on the lookout for like-minded people, be they writers, make-up artists, costume designers, technical crew… I’ve known Fia for a long time: she’s an Antwerp-based artist that likes to work with pagan imagery and has a big love for the horror genre. So when I needed an iconic mask for CUB, she seemed like the perfect fit. 

DeerWomen: That mask definitely had a visual impact on our memories. In your Instagram, could you explain your ticket stubs? What kind of ritual is this for you? 

Jonas: God, this makes me sound like such a nerd! I'm an avid cinema goer, and I used to keep all my stubs in a big photo book. These days, I just post them on Instagram; an online diary, if you will. I guess it’s the unavoidable convergence of my narcissism and my neuroticism. I realise it makes it seem like all I do in life is watch movies. Which is not that far from the truth.

DeerWomen: What role/physiological aspect does horror have in the world today, especially with the political climate as it is? 

Jonas: I was at a lecture on Italian genre cinema from the seventies recently, and heard a wonderful quote. When a politician tried to blame the violence in society on violent movies, a filmmaker shot back with, ‘That’s like blaming the thermometer for the fever!’ So at its best and most potent, horror is kind of a thermometer for the times, more than any other film genre: I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, a year after Trump was elected, not one but TWO genre movies made it into the Oscar race (The Shape of Water and Get Out).

DeerWomen: In your opinion, what effects does the European horror genre have on the American horror genre? Ie; Italian splatter became cult classics, Dario Argento became a household name and pushed GOBLIN into mainstream music stores. 

Jonas: I think the European filmmakers are a bit more in touch with their surreal side. Hitchcock - who was British—born but is very much an American filmmaker-  liked to toy with dream imagery (Spellbound, Vertigo) but always had a very coherent plot in place. European directors like Dario Argento are far less concerned with structure, which makes his best films both more elusive and more memorable at the same time. Another great quote I heard at that lecture I mentioned was, ‘Violence is an Italian art’. America is and probably always will be a largely repressed and conservative place, which means artists often had to code their art. European directors, especially those working in the genre, seem to be a bit more daring and outright brutal. 

DeerWomen: Much agreed. And finally, could you give us some details on your future projects and films/festivals and your looking forward to?

Jonas: I’ve recently finished work on a 9-part TV series called Tabula Rasa, which is currently streaming on Netflix. It’s the first horror-themed show coming out of Belgium, and it’s been a great success so far. I’ve got a few projects lined up, but I believe it’s bad luck to speak too much about them before they actually happen… They’re all genre films, though. 

In the mean time, I’m taking in as much cinema as possible. Next month, I get to moderate a masterclass with Guillermo Del Toro at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. And CUB is still doing the festival rounds: I’ll be travelling to Estonia next month, where apparently they have ‘healing mud and a haunted castle’.  

 Congratulations, Jonas on all your well-deserved success and much to come. Thank you for speaking with us. 



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