In mid-October, after the students’ opening parties calm down and before gloomy November sets in, Ghent hosts its very own international film festival. Read all about some of our this year’s favourites.Expect 10 days of quality films and a chance to see some of the biggest names in international cinema. The festival is also a cosy escape from rainy days outside.
The more than 140 films of the festival, running from 9th until 19th October, are slightly confusingly sorted in several different ways. There’s the themes, then the sections, and finally parcours (“trails”). Or perhaps you would rather focus on seeing films where guests are present (actors/directors/producers …).
Spotlight on Hungary
The theme of this year’s festival is the Hungarian cinema. Six contemporary films will show that there is more to the Hungarian cinematography than their classics.
Aurora Borealis: Északi fényis is a drama about a woman who returns to Hungary to take care of her ill mother and along the way discovers some long-buried family secrets. Strangled is a dark and dramatic look at the true story of a serial killer on a loose in a small Hungarian village in 1950’s.
In Eternal Winter, two forced-labour camp inmates fall in love while trying to survive the harsh trials of WWII. And Satan’s Bastard tells the story of a girl from a small Hungarian community in the Sub-Carpathian who falls pregnant after being raped by the Red Army soldiers.
The Whiskey Bandit depicts the story of the ‘gentleman robber’ Attila Ambrus who became famous in the 1990’s for his elegant style of crime. In X-The eXploited, an ex-detective is on a trail of a serial killer, while her daughter is equally dogged in her pursuit of finding her real father.
Additionally, you can have a look at the selection of best Hungarian shorts.
Documentaries and shorts
An interesting section promises to be Artists on Film, a selection of documentaries about actors, directors and artists. Discover the lives of actors Jane Fonda and Ian McKellen, filmmakers Ingmar Bergman and Walerian Borovczyk, and the fashion icon Viviane Westwood. Or learn about the Belgian film and animation legend, the 90-year-old Servais, whose infectuous energy you can also experience in person as he will be present at the screening.
My favourites are always the shorts, as you just can’t go wrong with them. You’re guaranteed to like at least half of them and you get six or more films for the price of one, so what’s not to love! Check out the Belgian Student Shorts Competition for some insight into the local scene. See what’s new on the European short films scene at the European Shorts Competition or enjoy the wide selection of Global shorts.
An interesting insight into the local culture is definitely the Belgian Cinema Today trail, a selection of Belgian films that have made their mark at the international film festivals abroad. Girl is a story about a 15-year-old Lara who dreams of becoming a professional ballerina. But besides the demanding dance training she also needs to fight a private battle – she was born in the body of a boy.
Danish director Thomas Vinterberg takes on the dramatic story of the Kursk submarine in the eponymous film about the final hours of the vessel. The Belgian-Luxembourgish co-production reads like who-is-who of European cinema – expect to see Belgium’s Eva Van Der Gucht and Matthias Schoenaerts, France’s Léa Seydoux and the very British Colin Firth.
Films for children
Bring your kids to the Kidsproof section, which includes the quirky The Big Bad Fox and Other Stories. Or enjoy the story of mouse Paddy who decides to become a forest police detective and has to face the evil fox – but is the fox in fact as sinister as they say? Most of the films are dubbed in Dutch. But even kids not fluent in the local language can have fun at the English-language Swazi film Liyana.
World Soundtrack Awards
Film music has always been on the menu at the Film Festival Gent. The World Soundtrack Awards, a special feature focuses on the work of composer Carter Burwell, followed by an award gala for lifetime achievements to Philippe Sarde. This side event has grown into a major music event and now attracts established and upcoming names in the film music industry.
The second film music concert will focus on music in films set in space. Under conductor Dirk Brossé, the Brussels Philharmonic will play the memorable music from classics, such as A Space Odyssey, Star Wars and Alien.
Both concerts will take place at The Capitole in Ghent.
The main location of Film Fest Gent is the multiplex Kinepolis on the Schelde waterfront. This is where most of the screenings and all the main events (opening and closing nights) take place.
The main attraction is definitely the red carpet, where you can grab a selfie with your favourite actor or actress. This year, the whole square in front of Kinepolis will be turned into the festival venue, where you can also find the main ticket office and the festival cafe. Additionally, some screenings and concerts take place at other venues across town.
Kinepolis continues to show own movies during the film festival as well, albeit with a slightly changed schedule.
Tickets and discounts
Tickets are available online and at several ticket offices across the town. The one at St Baafsplein (next to NT Gent theatre) is already open, while the others open at the start of the festival. The ticket price depends on the screening times with evening performances being more expensive than daytime ones. Different discounts are available, which means you could pay something between 7 and 13 EUR for an individual movie. A cheaper option is to buy a 5- or 10-ticket voucher, giving you a flat rate of 9 or 7.5 EUR per ticket. You are free to share the voucher with your friends.
If you have time on your hands and a solid knowledge of Dutch, you can work as a volunteer at the Film Fest Gent. Work at least 6 shifts and you will be rewarded with a free pass for all the screenings (subject to available seats).
Volunteers usually check the tickets and collect voting ballots after screenings of films in the competition. Despite a sometimes difficult work schedule (expect late nights and working in blocks) this is a definitely a fun experience, as well as the cheapest way to see the festival.