Festival's opening film receives standing ovation

06 Oct 2004
The emotional and festive opening of the 31st Flanders International Film Festival - Ghent with the moving film Omagh certainly was a memorable occasion. Both director Pete Travis and the "real" Michael Gallagher and his daughter Cathy received a standing ovation of several minutes from the 2,500 guests.

Omagh is a powerful film based on the events and aftermath of August 15, 1998 when the Real IRA carried out a bomb attack in the Northern Irish town of the same name. Michael Gallagher, who lost a son in the attack, has since brought together the relatives of the victims and they forced the authorities to launch an investigation into the circumstances of the attack and the perpetrators. This group has gone beyond the terror attack and is pursuing an indomitable campaign. This moving film has thus become a sign of hope, and this is exactly what Michael Gallagher emphasised when he was interviewed after the film.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = 'urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office' />

Numerous reactions at the reception confirmed that by choosing Omagh as the opening film, the Festival team had made a "brave", "sound", "truly cinematographic" selection. Some guests saw it as a "statement" by the Festival about an aspect of contemporary social reality. In any case, the Flanders International Film Festival - Ghent has put Omagh firmly on the festival map.

Throughout the years, the Festival has also developed into a discussion forum on Flemish film policy. The new policy proposals of Bert Anciaux, the Flemish Minister for Culture, presented at the Festival did not fall on deaf ears. This presentation was followed by animated discussions and robust newspaper articles.

All this has certainly had an impact on ticket sales. Tickets can also be booked over the Internet, and more than two thousand people have already used this facility. Go to: www.filmfestival.be.

The 31st edition of the Flanders International Film Festival - Ghent is taking place from October 5 to 16 and this year's focus is on South African cinema. The full festival programme can be consulted on-line at the Festival's website (www.filmfestival.be) or in the free Focus Knack Special programme guide.