The Swedish-born Greta Garbo stares out from under thick lashes on the leaflets and posters, emphasizing the festival’s focus on Nordic cinema this year. Besides screening the 1933 classic Queen Christina with an electrifying Garbo in the lead, Film Fest Gent is showing Swedish Pernilla August’s handheld A Serious Game, while the Scandinavian absurdist approach is held high by Mans Mansson’s unsentimental drama The Yard.
Reaching across to the Far East, Japan will also be playing a prominent role in all sections. Creative director Patrick Duynslaegher is intent on showing that the land of directorial legends Akira Kurosawa and Yasujirô Ozu also has new talents who aren’t done ‘surprising us and carrying us away with their original or provocative perspective on their country and their history in a unique style that’s incomparable to any other film culture.’ Case in point is Kôji Fukada’s Harmonium – winner of Cannes’ Un Certain Regard jury prize – and 12 other new Japanese films. Guest of honor at the festival’s parallel World Soundtrack Awards is Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose musical stylings can be admired during a live concert by the Brussels Philharmonic as well as in the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.
The acclaimed producer of that last classic, Jeremy Thomas, will be the one heading the jury this year. Thomas and his fellow international judges will be choosing from 12 films that have been selected to duke it out for the big prize, including Fien Troch’s Home. The intimate drama won the Belgian director the Silver Lion in Venice’s Orrizonti program just recently and will be opening the competition in the attendance of Troch and her cast. Other noteworthy Belgian premieres (outside the competition) are Brosens & Woodworth’s King of the Belgians, also a Venice attendant, and Peter Monsaert’s Le Ciel Flamand, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. In total, there will be nine new titles representing the Belgian film and television industry.
Big names joining Troch in the face-off for the Grand Prix for Best Film are Terence Davies with the British-Belgian coproduction A Quiet Passion, starring Cynthia Nixon, Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu with psychological study Bacalaureat (Graduation), and Marco Bellocchio with his gentle drama Fai bei sogni (Sweet Dreams).
Other art house high-flyers populate the section ‘Galas & Specials,’ giving Belgian audiences the chance to catch these gems before they appear in local theaters. Ken Loach’s opening film I, Daniel Blake is among them, as well as Jim Jarmusch’s small-scaled and much-praised Paterson. Auteur deity Olivier Assayas will be making his way over to attend the screening of the Kristen Stewart vehicle Personal Shopper, with Derek Cianfrance doing the same for his adaptation of the M.L. Stedman novel The Light Between Oceans. Both Ken Loach and Terence Davies will put in an appearance, as will Isabelle Huppert. The veteran French actress will be stretching her vocal cords in the festival’s closing film, Souvenir, a musical outing by Ghent-born director Bavo Defurne, who will be playing on home turf.
The 43rd edition of Film Fest Gent runs from Tuesday, October 11th to Friday, October 21st with the World Soundtrack Awards wrapping things up on Wednesday, October 19th and Thursday, October 20th. Tickets are now available.