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A packed house at Film Fest Gent 2015 | © Jerroenwillems.be/courtesy of Film Fest Gent
A packed house at Film Fest Gent 2015 | © Jerroenwillems.be/courtesy of Film Fest Gent

A Brief History Of Film Fest Ghent

Picture of Nana Van De Poel
Updated: 27 September 2016
Every October the canal city of Ghent plays host to Belgium’s biggest film festival, a ten-day movie-loving bonanza featuring 100+ film screenings with a generous smattering of international grandeur. Largely responsible for the respected spot it holds on the European festival landscape is its pioneering devotion to film scores. Live concerts with esteemed composers and the World Soundtrack Awards have become an indelible part of the experience.

Of a smaller scale than the big European three – Cannes, Venice and Berlin – Film Fest Gent is often said to boast a special character and can count on a loyal visitor base of about 130,000 people. Frequented by a young audience, Ghent offers affordable and attainable tickets to films by prominent directors, many of whom are happy to attend and present their work at the screenings. Over the past years Film Fest Gent has welcomed everyone from acting deities Juliette Binoche and Colin Farrell to grand auteurs Michael Haneke, Sydney Pollack and Ken Loach.

Film Fest Gent 2015 | © Jeroenwillems.be/courtesy of Film Fest Gent

Film Fest Gent 2015 | © Jeroenwillems.be/courtesy of Film Fest Gent

What has pushed Ghent to the forefront of the European festival scene over the course of four decades isn’t a focus on famous faces however, but rather its opposite. Ever since its eleventh edition in 1985, Ghent has made a habit of inviting film maestros – creative minds that don’t usually enter the spotlight – to perform their riveting soundtracks live to Belgian audiences. As the first festival in the world to put such an unwavering emphasis on the impact music has on film, Ghent carved out a niche spot for itself as the champion of the soundtrack.

This position led to the birth of the World Soundtrack Academy and its accompanying World Soundtrack Awards around the turn of the millennium. Since 2001, Film Fest Gent has been going out with a bang every time by celebrating the best scores of the year and their makers in a night of musical splendour. For the Brussels Philharmonic, the performing of soundtracks has become a foremost specialty by now, making top-tier composers such as Ennio Morricone and Hans Zimmer keen on visiting Belgium for a retrospective of their melodious legacies. Today the godfather of soundtrack awards has inspired many other music film festivals to pop up all over Europe, including the second-oldest, the Spanish International Festival of Film Music in Cordoba.

Film Fest Gent selects over ten films each year from all corners of the globe to compete for the Grand Prix for Best Film.