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50e Film Fest Gent 2023

The long-awaited 50th edition of Film Fest Gent runs from 10 to 21 October. For this anniversary edition, the festival launches the unique project 2x25, for which 25 filmmakers make a short film inspired by music by 25 composers. The festival abandons its focus on a country which results in a bigger and more challenging official selection. For the third year in a row, FFG opens with a Belgian film: Holly, Fien Troch's fifth feature. Closing film is The Boy and the Heron by anime legend Hayao Miyazaki.

Lovers of the seventh art enjoy an extremely diverse programme of 114 features, over 40 short films, 3 series, a collection of musical VIDEODROOM-trips, two unique symphonic concerts, numerous talks and unforgettable Closing Party dedicated to Twin Peaks. During this festive anniversary edtion, the audience in Ghent again falls for films that sharpen the mind and the senses. Less obvious films such as Youth (Spring), Smoke Sauna Sisterhood and Samsara attract many people, despite their challenging form.

Once again, the festival encourages encounters between filmmakers and the audience. One such encounter leads to a combative speech by 87-year-old Ken Loach during his Director's Talk after his final film, The Old Oak. "Cinema is more important than just escapism," the British filmmaker says at Kinepolis Ghent. "Cinema is part of our social discourse. Ant that was very cherished. People were applauded for it. But now the opposite is the case. And I think we've seen a real change of consciousness here. Now, directors fear that if they nail their colours to the mast, if they come openly about where they stand politically, they won't work again. That's a big change. And it can mean, cinema is muted, robbed of its teeth. Because if a film tells a story about the world we're in, you have to have a view of that world."

More than ever, the festival revolves around bringing people from all generations together. New generations of filmmakers arrive in the spotlight, not least thanks to the Competition for Belgian Student Shorts and many debut features. The festival pays tribute to its past (and present), and invites filmmakers and staff who have meant a great deal to FFG over the past decades. On Friday 13 October 2023, more than 60 directors - whose films once premiered at the festival - gather on the steps of Kinepolis.

Especially for the 50th edition, Classics curator Patrick Duynslaegher dives into the FFG archives and constructs a programme of films and directors that have contributed to the festival's history. Despite the competition of avant-premieres of new films, classics such as The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (Peter Greenaway), Novecento (Roberto Bertolucci) and A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang) manage to lure full theatres. At the same time, Film Fest Gent has both eyes on new forms of cinema. The first VR project in FFG's official selection - Floating With Spirits by Juanita Onzaga - finds its audience and sells out completely.

As every year, Film Fest Gent welcomes guests from Belgium and abroad. In total, more than 300 guests (from the film and film music industry) grace the festival locations, including the red carpet at Kinepolis. Many directors present their project in person: Fien Troch, Anthony Chen, Elene Naveriani, Baloji, Bas Devos, Sepideh Farsi, Matteo Garrone, Ken Loach, Sean Price Williams and Radu Jude are just a few from the long list of names.

Film music industry professionals attend the WSA Film Music Days en masse, including a talk between Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, one of Japan's greatest directors of the 21st century, and Eiko Ishibashi, who wrote the music for Hamaguchi's Oscar-winning film Drive My Car. Film Fest Gent has the honour to present GIFT, Ishibashi's live performance to Hamaguchi's new film, in world-premiere. For the first time in its history, the festival has a focus on video game music, with panels and with the concert PRESS PLAY: Music in Games. As per tradition, the festival closes with the World Soundtrack Awards. Composer Volker Bertelmann wins the award for Film Composer of the Year.

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25 composers, 25 filmmakers, 25 ultimate symbioses of music and cinematography that fit completely within the DNA of Film Fest Gent and the World Soundtrack Awards. For 2x25, a unique anniversary project, the festival asked 25 composers to write a short piece of music. Among those composers are legends in the field, Hollywood composers, experimental musicians, and more. All of them have one thing in common: they all have their own chapter in the history of Film Fest Gent. Their film music sparked the minds of 25 filmmakers who all made short films based on the music. Never before have these directors and composers been paired together. The result: 25 wholly different short films; their form, narrative and texture inspired by the composer's short piece.