The Party of the Housing Dream

A series of characters who have left their homeland, or their hometown, spend their days and nights traversing the city of Brussels, searching for somewhere to live. Yet, despite their best attempts, they repeatedly find themselves back where they started – humiliated, cheated, outside, and alone. Gradually, the idea emerges that the only solution to their problems is to take democracy seriously and launch their own political party. Little do they suspect where their dream will lead them…

For many years, the Groupe ALARM have been using a variety of ludic and theatrical strategies, inspired in particular by Augusto Boal’s “theatre of the oppressed”, to provoke citizens and politicians not only to reflect on the housing crisis that affects the Belgian capital, but above all, to do something about it. One of the concepts they first came up with, many years ago, was an imaginary political party that served as a platform for them to present their demands: the Party of the Housing Dream.

The film we made together had its roots in a series of collective writing and improvisation workshops held during the winter of 2013-14. By inventing a fictional backstory for the Party, we were able to tie together many of the stories and scenes that emerged during those sessions. While none of the actors in the film plays “themselves”, all the situations that they enact for us are rigorously true to their collective experience of searching for somewhere to live, and often failing to find anything but public impotence and private criminality.

The Party of the Housing Dream, then, is an exercise in collaborative creation. The Groupe ALARM are collectively the authors of the film. The film was shot over a period of six months in 2015-16, in irregular bursts of activity, with a small professional crew. The dialogue was improvised before the camera, the story-line was constantly revised and rewritten as the production progressed, and the edit was progressively validated by the group as it proceeded. In this way, the film allowed the members of the Group to achieve the programme that Rahim sets out in the film’s final scene: “Instead of being just spectators, we ourselves have to become actors.”

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