This book and documentary film is about Julia and her pub Café Bostella, located in Belgium, only a stone’s throw from the Dutch border. In her 80s, Julia still runs the immensely popular pub on her own, just like she has done for more than 40 years. The success has not come easy, and now Julia faces a new threat: what will happen to the pub when working round the clock becomes too much for her? In the film, Julia shows her life that is for a great part defined by the pub, and the struggles belonging to it. Also, regular guests from near and far talk about the importance of the pub for their social life.

The guests attach to the cafe. It is a second home for many, and for many, Julia has a mother-like, caring role. The guests take turns helping her with difficult tasks. She also sells food and stuff in the café, not so much to earn extra but as a service to the guests. The book and the film show different sides of this community.

Café Bostella is about persistence and loyalty in the face of a quickly changing society and vanishing folk pub culture.

‘Brought into view with a lot of patience and a great empathy.’
– De Volkskrant


  • Café Bostella, (Book with DVD), Slowdocs Publishers 2016, ISBN 978-90-809375-7-4.
  • De laatste ronde, De Volkskrant (NL), A. Haijtema, 24-2-2017.
  • Portret van een echt volkscafé, BN/De Stem (NL), C. Hagenaars, 3-10-2015.


    Credits: Paul van der Stap: photos; Elisa Veini: essay; Lex Reitsma: book design
    Financial support by: Province of Antwerp;
    The municipality of Essen
    Special thanks to: Julia van den Bergh and family, Angèle van der Stap, LECA, CineCrowd, and all regular guests of Café Bostella
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