Bouli Lanners: The Belgian filmmaker behind Scotland’s new cinematic love story

Belgian writer, actor and director Bouli Lanners spent more than 30 years going to Scotland on holiday before deciding he wanted to make a film there.

Now he is set to put the Outer Hebrides on the international movie map with a new Scottish cinematic love story.

Shot three years ago on the Isle of Lewis, where his story is also set, Nobody Has To Know sees Lanners play Phil, a Belgian farmhand left with amnesia after suffering a stroke, who is told by the farmer’s daughter that they have been secret lovers.

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Game of Thrones, Suits and 24 star Michelle Fairley plays Millie, who is helping Phil with his recovery. She insists their rekindled relationship must remain a secret in the close-knit Hebridean community.

A Scottish-French-Belgian co-production, Lanners’ film, which was awarded £500,000 from government agency Screen Scotland.

Lanners wrote, directed and starred in the film, one of three features made on Lewis in the last few years.

He said: “I had been coming to Scotland on holiday for well over 30 years before I made this film. Sometimes I would come two or three times a year – I really love the country.

“When I was a lot younger, I was sure I was Scottish. I don’t know where that came from, because I was from a poor family and we didn’t really go on holiday. It might have come from something I had read or a movie.

“The first time I went to Scotland it was like a revelation to me. I've been everywhere now except for St Kilda.

"I went to Lewis on holiday about seven years ago. It was a bit of a shock to me at first because the influence of the church is so strong, but I felt that the people were so friendly.

“I kept telling my wife that I wanted to make a film in Scotland and decided to stay in Lewis to write something. I rented a house and stayed there for seven months.

“At first I thought I would write a thriller, but when I was there I was listening to the band Soulsavers, especially their track Wise Blood. The mix between the music and the landscape suddenly made me want to make a love story – it just felt so emotional and romantic.”

Belgian actor, writer and director Bouli Lanners. Picture: Brian Sweeney

Nobody Has To Know, which also stars Harry Potter and Indiana Jones star Julian Glover and Glasgow-born screen star Cal MacAninch, will get its UK premiere next month at the Glasgow Film Festival.

Organisers have billed the film as a “quietly touching, unabashed weepie”.

Lanners added: "I actually got the idea for the story after going to church to try to meet the local people.

“After a few weeks, everybody on Lewis seemed to know who I was and that I was writing a movie there.

Michelle Fairley and Bouli Lanners star in the new Scottish love story Nobody Has To Know.

"I didn’t want to write about two young, beautiful people. I wanted to write about two normal people in their fifties, because love can happen at any time in your life.

"The movie is set in the modern-day but the exceptional thing about Lewis is that the landscape looks as if the film could be set in the 19th century. I don’t think you can get that anywhere else. Filming was an amazing experience.”

Nobody Has To Know was filmed entirely on location on the Isle of Lewis.
Game of Thrones star Michelle Fairley plays Millie in Nobody Has To Know. Picture: Brian Sweeney
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