World soundtrack awards
Special Joseph Plateau Honorary Award
Special Joseph Plateau Honorary Award
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The Special Joseph Plateau Honorary Award 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.


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:

Geraldine Chaplin, actress ES

Agusti Villaronga, director ES

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 


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