FFG honours animation film pioneer Raoul Servais with Joseph Plateau Honorary Award

Raoul Servais Joseph Plateau
News 15 Oct 2022
Raoul Servais, the absolute pioneer of Belgian animation film, was honoured on Saturday 15 October by Film Fest Gent with a Joseph Plateau Honorary Award, a prize that recognises the Ostend-born and -based filmmaker's rich and groundbreaking oeuvre. Servais received the award after the premiere of his latest film, Der lange Kerl.

On Saturday afternoon, Film Fest Gent honoured one of Belgium's most innovative and legendary filmmakers. 94-year-old Raoul Servais received a Joseph Plateau Honorary Award for his unique contribution to the medium of film. Servais, born in 1928, stood at the cradle of animated film in Belgium and became world famous with his wildly creative films that perfectly balance magic, realism, expressionism, and surrealism. His love for the sea and his imaginative animation style earned him the nickname "the magician of Ostend". Servais' debut Havenlichten, released in 1960, immediately won him prizes. The same year, he was appointed as a decorative art teacher at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent (KASK). When KASK established an autonomous animated film course in 1963, then a unique development in Europe, Servais was given the opportunity to share and develop his knowledge and know-how.


In the decades that followed, the filmmaker constantly reinvented himself and produced a dozen of acclaimed short films. With Chromophobia (1965), a perfect example of the anti-militarism that runs through Servais' work, he won the Primo Premio for best short film at the Venice Film Festival. In 1979, with Harpya, he became the first Belgian director ever to win a Palme d'Or (for best short film) in Cannes. The film was Servais' first attempt to combine live-action images with animation and proved to be a pivotal moment in his career. Raoul Servais' oeuvre is a mix of different film techniques and is full of intriguing symbioses between live-action, graphic sets and animation. Influences range from Paul Delvaux and René Magritte to global icons such as Picasso and Joan Miró. Even at 94, he continues to appeal to and inspire new generations both as an artist and as a human being.

"Dear Raoul, from the pioneer of the Belgian animated film, you grew into its nestor. A nestor who is still pioneering with proud stubbornness. You yourself cherish the word 'hermit' when talking about yourself. But behind that hermit we find a philosopher, a virtuoso stylist, a committed artist, a passionate pacifist and a beautiful human being."
Wim De Witte Programme Director

Raoul Servais accepted the Joseph Plateau Honorary Award after the premiere of his latest film, Der lange Kerl, realised in collaboration with Rudy Pinceel. Der lange Kerl is a story of the Great War in which two soldiers (one French, the other German) meet in the trenches. Before the screening of Servais' 16th short, three of his most iconic films were shown - Chromophobia, Atraksion (2001) and The False Note (1963) - with live music by Belgian collective Boshaard.

Joseph Plateau Honorary Award

The Joseph Plateau Honorary Award is presented to distinguished guests of Film Fest Gent whose achievements have earned them a special and distinct place in the history of international filmmaking. The award itself is a replica of professor Joseph Plateau's phenakistiscope, the device he designed to illustrate his theory of the persistence of vision, which became the basic principle behind the idea of 'moving images'. Past winners include Céline Sciamma (who received the award on Wednesday), Andrea Arnold (2021), Viggo Mortensen (2020), Géraldine Chaplin (2019), Ken Loach (2016), Isabelle Huppert (2011), Walter Hill (2007) ... The full list of winners is available on the website.

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Raf Butstraen

With decades of film history behind him, former film critic Raf Butstraen is the ideal man to bring the latest film news for Film Fest Ghent.