The Joseph Plateau Honorary Awards is presented to special guests of Film Fest Gent whose achievements have earned them a special and distinct place in the history of international film making.
The award itself is a replica of professor Joseph Plateau’s Phenakisticope, the device he designed to illustrate his theory of the persistence of vision, which turned out to become the basic principle of the idea of “moving images”. Plateau invented the Phenakisticope, by which the illusion of motion could be created.
- WHY JOSEPH PLATEAU ?
Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau (1801-1883), professor at the Ghent University (Belgium), became known as the blind genius, who did more than 40 years of scientific research whilst being blind. Plateau remains most famous for his research on visual perception, the synthesis of movement and persistence of vision: the ability of the retina to retain an image of an object after its removal from the field of vision.
- The Phenakisticope
Around 1827, Plateau tried to measure this persistence and found an average duration of 34/100 of a second. Today, we know that the persistence of light images is between 1/20 and 1/5 of a second. The difference between the two measurements is explained simply by the rudimentary nature of the instruments used by Plateau. In 1832, he came up with the idea of dividing a disk into sectors and of painting the same figure at the edge of the circumference of each of them. He then cut slots between these drawings, turned the painted side to face a mirror, spun the disk round an axis and looked through the slots. As he had expected, Plateau saw an immobile figure and one disk. The images were prevented from merging thanks to the slots of the disk that acted as a shutter.
Plateau then came up with an ingenious idea: “If, instead of having identical figures” he wrote, “we have them gradually go from one position to the other, and if the speed is high enough for these successive images to blend, but without interfering with each other, we will get the impression that each of these small figures gradually changes state…”.
Plateau therefore drew different phases of the movement of a dancer doing a pirouette at the edge of the disk. The result was astounding as movement could now be created by rotating the disk. Plateau called his device “Phenakisticope” (from the Greek for “deceitful view”). This was the first device to synthesise movement, which would later prove to be the base for filmmaking.
During previous Film Fest Gent editions, the Joseph Plateau Award has been given to:
Robert Altman, director USA
Lord Richard Attenborough, director, UK
Elmer Bernstein, composer USA
Sandra Bullock, actress, USA
Alain Cuny, actor France
Toni Curtis, actor USA
Luc & Jean-Pierre Dardenne, directors Belgium
Carl Davis, composer UK
André Delvaux, director Belgium
Catherine Deneuve, Actress France
Brigitte Fossey, actress France
Morgan Freeman, actor USA
Andy Garcia, Actor Cuba
Paul Greengrass, director UK
Isabelle Huppert, Actress France
John Hurt, actor UK
Shohei Imamura, director Japan
James Earl Jones, actor USA
Michel Legrand, composer France
Mike Leigh, director UK
Ken Loach, director, UK
Gina Lollobrigida, actress Italy
Jeanne Moreau, actress, France
Jean Claude Petit, composer France
Sir Alan Parker, director UK
Sydney Pollack, director USA
Sir David Puttnam, producer UK
Christopher Plummer, actor Canada
Alain Resnais, director France
Philippe Sarde, composer France
Hanna Schygulla, actress Germany
Henri Storck, director Belgium
Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, directors Italy
Kathleen Turner, actress, USA
Sir Peter Ustinov, actor UK
Irwin Winkler, producer, USA
Robert Wise, director USA
Richard & Lili Fini Zanuck, producers, USA
Jeremy Thomas, producer UK