A creative documentary by Jan Lapeire

Two old brothers, somewhere between France & Flanders, between the 20th & 21st century, are trying to get rich growing flax. They are hard and hardworking men.

Flaxmen is the story of a family of flax growers in Wevelgem, Flanders, as told by Walter, the eldest of the Devos clan. Walter, who has passed his seventieth birthday, has worked since his youth at the family’s flax mill. Flax is his whole life.

Living in post-industrial Flanders as if time stood still, nothing ever seems to change in the pre-war dark and dusty mill. Indifferent to time, they strictly stick to the inexorable routine of working seven days a week. While the brothers try to ignore the changing world around them, their rural village transforms and suburbia closes them in.

Flax cultivation was crucial to the development of these regions and it shaped their identity, but today almost all of the flax is exported. Consequently, the flaxmen are confronted with the macroeconomic laws that govern their industry too: modernisation and globalisation. As in other sectors, the Chinese have entered the fray.

And there are more clouds on the horizon. In the past, the brothers always pretended to be deaf to the subject of environmental licences. But that time is gone. The local authorities want to shut down the flaxmill. Walter’s habitat is in danger of being destroyed. Now everything is going to change. The family is put into crisis. Still there is hope. The son of the youngest brother wants to continue the business. Will the flaxmen adapt or disappear?

About the director

Director Jan Lapiere graduated in Television Journalism at the Flemish Film Academy in Brussels in 1987. Soon after Jan was one of the founding partner of Associate Directors. Between 1987 and 1993 he made several documentaries on aviation. Jan worked on a series of documentaries for an NGO in South-Amercia and Africa. In his spare time he directed several short experimental and video-art films. During 2006 Jan took part in the Seminar “Ecriture Documentaire” of the regional film fund of Nord-Pas de Calais CRRAV, in which Flaxman was initiated.

Currently Jan is working on a new documentary project about the Belgian The Flat Earth Society Orchestra.


Directed by Jan Lapeire

Editor - Leen Anthonissen

Dop - Jan Lapeire , Wim Van Laere

Sound - Stijn Wastyn, Kristof Sadones

Awards & festivals

Docville, Leuven (BE) - award Best Belgian documentary

Human Rights festival Pravo Ljudski, Sarajevo, 

Production details

Duration: 71'

In collaboration with VRT Canvas and Docaddict vzw.

With the support the Flanders Audiovisual Fund (VAF), community of Wevelgem, Province of West Flanders, city of Kortrijk and the Flax museum.

With distribution support by Promotiecentrum voor het Vlas vzw, Cera, Fedustria, Algemeen Belgisch Vlasverbond vzw

Language: Dutch, French

Subtitles: English, Dutch