Belgian film director and screenwriter.
Wandel made her feature-length debut in 2021 with Playground, a drama film following the life of a seven-year-old girl dealing with the children’s and adult’s worlds. Playground premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Caméra d’Or award for best first feature film, winning the FIPRESCI Prize. It received the André Cavens Award for Best Film given by the Belgian Film Critics Association (UCC) and was selected as the Belgian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards. At the 11th Magritte Awards, Playground was nominated for ten awards and won seven, including Best First Feature Film and Best Director for Wandel.
Laura Wandel’s beautifully observed debut feature follows seven-year-old Nora (Maya Vanderbequel) as she starts a new school. Navigating her way across the playground (more psychological battleground) where Darwinian rules are still very much at play, Nora soon comes to realise that her sibling neediness has drawn unwanted attention to her older brother Abel (Günter Duret) who becomes the victim of a gang of bullies.
Nora’s own fragile friendships soon falter as Abel becomes a social pariah, and Nora rejects him (literally denouncing him), resulting in the fracturing of their once strong bond.
Both are alone now. Both victims. Wandel’s sparse script and deft, unsentimental direction pulls us along from the moment the school gates open – not least because we literally follow Nora as she is firmly led away from her father to her classroom.
A small but intense (bordering on terrifying) loud, often out of focus world seen, heard and felt from the POV of a small anxious child.
No matter how old you are, you will never forget the loneliness and isolation of being seven at a new school. The power struggles. The heart-breaking moments when hard-won fickle friendships are lost.