In advance of its world premiere in the Tiger Competition in Rotterdam this weekend, Koen Mortier's Ex Drummer is provoking controversy in Belgium. One leading arthouse exhibitor, Studio Skoop in Ghent, has refused to show the film, which features scenes of graphic violence, rape and self mutilation. Industry sources have even suggestions that exhibitors are nervous about the crude references in the film to former Belgian monarch, King Baudouin, who died in 1993.

'They (exhibitors) have suddenly become scared because of the reactions the film could cause,' producer Eurydice Gysel said.

Speaking in the Belgian press earlier this week, Skoop representatives suggested that Ex Drummer was 'too mainstream' to screen in a specialist theatre. Gysel dismissed this explanation as 'absurd.'

However, Gysel has admitted that it is proving harder than anticipated to secure screens for Ex Drummer.

'There is a lot of controversy around the picture because it is very unusual for a Flemish film to be so open and direct around some themes,' acknowledged Maud Van de Velde of exhibitor Kinepolis. Van de Velde confirmed that Kinepolis will screen Ex Drummer, but not in all its theatres. The film won't be shown in the chain's French-language theatres nor in smaller communities.

'It's unusually controversial for a Belgian film,' agreed Erik Engelen of distributor A-Film, which will be releasing the film on nine screens in in Flanders on Jan 31. A-Film's plan is to open the film 'fairly small' and then 'add prints if it goes well. ' At this point, he admitted, it is impossible to predict how the controversy will affect the film at the box-office. Gaspar Noe's controversial French feature Irreversible, which elicited a similarly fraught response in Belgium, underperformed despite its notoriety and an aggressive release.

Ex Drummer is adapted from a novel by Herman Brusselmans, 'the enfant terrible' of Flemish literature. It's a story about a manipulative writer who agrees to become drummer for a nihilistic, self-destructive punk band, all of whose members have a disability.