Screened as part of NZIFF 2008

Ben X 2007

Directed by Nic Balthazar

Virtual reality meets vérité in a bold and emotionally shocking tale from Belgium of online gaming hero Ben X, who is bullied mercilessly in real life.

Belgium / The Netherlands In Dutch with English subtitles
90 minutes 35mm

Director, Screenplay


Lou Berghmans


Philippe Ravoet


Praga Khan


Greg Timmermans
Marijke Pinoy
Laura Verlinden
Pol Goossen
Titus De Voogdt
Maarten Claeyssens


Berlin 2008


Online, Ben X is a high-scoring superhero with an arsenal of deadly weapons and a princess sweetheart named Scarlite. In the real world, he finds life so unfathomable that even the simplest greeting from his mother induces a meltdown. With insight matched by dazzling technical assurance, first-time Belgian director Nic Balthazar takes us deep into both worlds. We first meet Ben at home galloping through popular digital fantasy game ArchLord. But school for a boy diagnosed with everything from Asperger's Syndrome to hypersensitivity is a hellish nightmare of bullying and bewilderment. What happens to Ben there is gut-wrenchingly shocking, though it probably occurs daily in dozens of schools around the world without anyone batting an eyelid. The genius of this film is the way it transports you into the mind of an eccentric and deeply traumatised individual and then makes his experience your own. — BZ

"A galvanizing portrait of autism and its profound impact on both the autistic person and their families and community, Ben X boldly melds virtual reality with live-action vérité style and docudrama to create what may be a new film grammar. Inspired by actual events... first-time director Nic Balthazar has adapted his book and his stage play without committing the sins of over-exposition and staginess those provenances can spawn. Buttressed by strong performances - particularly newcomer Greg Timmermans in the lead - the film has not an ounce of fat or histrionics. Rarely has so much emotion and excitement been compressed into 90 minutes of screen time." — Denis Seguin, Screendaily