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Golden Lion winner 'Nomadland' and 'Vitalina Varela' selected for the Official Competition of Film Fest Ghent
Golden Lion winner 'Nomadland' and 'Vitalina Varela' selected for the Official Competition of Film Fest Ghent Festival
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Nomadland, winner of the Golden Lion Award in Venice last weekend, and Pedro Costa's Vitalina Varela will compete among an international selection of films for the Grand Prix for Best Film and the Georges Delerue Award for Best Music and Sound Design at the 47th edition of Film Fest Ghent. The competition will be opened by the avant-premiere of the Belgian film L'ennemi, inspired by a true story. 

The films, selected for the Official Competition of Film Fest Ghent 2020 are:

  • ADN - Maïwenn
  • Eden - Ágnes Kocsis 
  • L’ennemi - Stephan Streker 
  • First Cow - Kelly Reichardt 
  • Gagarine - Fanny Liatard & Jérémy Trouilh 
  • Ghosts - Azra Deniz Okyay 
  • The Nest - Sean Durkin
  • Nomadland - Chloé Zhao 
  • Petite Fille - Sébastien Lifshitz 
  • Servants - Ivan Ostrochovský 
  • Stories from the Chestnut Woods - Gregor Božič
  • Vitalina Varela - Pedro Costa

ADN, a partly autobiographical portrait by actress and director Maïwenn, immediately punches you in the face with a confronting chunk of cinematic emotions. Maïwenn's observing camera allows you as a viewer to experience how intensely complicated blood ties can be. Her mixed roots - she has Breton, Vietnamese, French and Algerian roots - lay the foundations of the film. Full of conviction, she puts herself in the shoes of the insecure Neige, who is visibly weighed down by her troubled past. In the supporting roles we see a sublime Fanny Ardant as the hard-hearted, unyielding mother of Neige and Louis Garrel as her ex-boyfriend and listening ear.

Ten years after Adrienn Pál - at the time screened at Film Fest Ghent -, the Hungarian director Ágnes Kocsis finally releases a new picture with Eden. The film focuses on Éva, a woman who is allergic to just about everything and who can only leave her sterilized room in a spacesuit. A pharmaceutical company, which may or may not be responsible for Éva's precarious condition, sends her a psychiatrist, interpreted by Belgian musician Daan Stuyven. Kocsis contrasts Éva's loneliness with our ever-growing dependence on technology and suggests a twisted relationship between men and nature. All captured in tight, cold blue-lit frames and with a predilection for slow cinema.

L'ennemi by Stephan Streker will open the Official Competition on Saturday 17 October. In this psychological drama, Jérémie Renier plays the leading role of Louis Durieux, a Belgian politician who is accused of murdering his wife Maëva (Alma Jodorowsky) in their hotel room. As with Noces, Streker starts from a news item that occupied the press and public opinion in Belgium. L’ennemi is a compelling thriller with a great number of Flemish actors, including Sam LouwyckPeter Van Den Begin, Bruno Vanden Broecke and Jeroen Perceval.

Someone who steals a bucket of milk. Kelly Reichardt doesn't need more to turn First Cow - her understated drama about two pioneers in 19th-century Oregon who seized the opportunity to make something of their lives - into a wonderful study of the American dream and the greed that underpins it. Throughout this tender tale, Reichardt explores her fascination for people on the margins of the capitalist society. First Cow is her fifth film in which the densely forested state of Oregon plays a leading role.

The French banlieues often serve as the setting for gloomy social-realist stories of gray neighbourhoods where (youth) crime and decline are rampant. However, the French directing duo Fanny Liatard and Jérémy Trouilh throw the clichés overboard with Gagarine, a masterful extension of their 2014 short film of the same name. A poignant, ambitious and dreamy full-length debut in which both the sci-fi escapism of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and the vérité style of Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake (2016) are visible. Contributing to the visual spectacle: the hypnotic score of Amine Bouhafa and Evgueni & Sacha Galperine.

Film Fest Gent

From social unrest, mismanagement and political activism to the place of women in society and malicious gentrification: Azra Deniz Okyay does not shy away from any topic in her feature debut Ghosts to portray Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Okyay ingeniously interweaves the stories of four different people with careful documentary-like observations - and ditto aesthetics. Her past as a documentary filmmaker clearly comes to the foreground. Is Okyay the voice of a new generation of Turkish filmmakers?

In his highly anticipated second film The NestSean Durkin zooms in on the family of Rory (Jude Law) - “a poor child who pretends to be rich” according to his wife Allison (Carrie Coon) - who has to move from the US to Great Britain in the mid-1980s because Rory has found a large estate and an even greater job opportunity. Durkin cleverly plays with genre conventions of horror and drama, turning Rory's luxurious abode into a horror house one moment, a family prison the next. This uncanny atmosphere is further fueled by the detached photography of Mátyás Erdély as well as the first film score by Arcade Fire musician Richard Reed Parry.

Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The third feature film from director Chloé ZhaoNomadland features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West. Nomadland is a sweeping panoramic portrait of the American nomadic spirit set on the trail of seasonal migratory labor, a road movie for our times, now doubly relevant and resonant in this moment of redefinition and change. 

"When I grow up, I want to be a girl." Sasha's parents are surprised when they hear those words coming from the mouth of their child. Sasha is three years old and was born in the body of a boy. In the documentary Petite fille, the French director Sébastien Lifshitz introduces us to three extraordinary people. He resolutely chooses Sasha's point of view, also literally as the camera is often at eye level. Lifshitz does not intrude, an important characteristic of his cinema. He observes and lets the viewers draw their own conclusions in this inspiring and delicate portrait of a child with a dream.

A car drives down a deserted road in the dead of night and stops under a ghostly overpass. A body is taken from the suitcase. A few moments later, two men exchange mysterious looks in a hallway, after one scrubs the blood from a pair of shoes. Just when you think you have landed in a film noir, Servants jumps 143 days ahead in time, to the moment when the young priests Michal and Juraj enter an ultra-strict Catholic seminary in Bratislava. Shot in an impressive black and white photography that is rich in contrast, coupled with a gripping score, the Slovakian director Ivan Ostrochovský makes the power struggle between the church and the communist state in the eighties tangible.

Inspiration sometimes comes from where you least expect it. Stories from the Chestnut Woods, for example, was derived from Gregor Božič's passion for Mediterranean pomology, the teachings of fruits. From his conversations with local horticulturists, the filmmaker constructed a magic-realist fable about an old carpenter and a young chestnut saleswoman who reminisce together and await the future in fear. The result is an enchanting visual poem about isolation, mourning and suffering that at the same time is an ode to a lost world and culture.                                                                                                              

Pedro Costa's Vitalina Varela, his fifth trip through the slums of Fontainhas in Lisbon, focuses on the past of the Cape Verde immigrants who once lived there. “Your husband was buried a few days ago”, is what Varela hears when she has just landed. "Portugal has nothing to offer you anymore." And that "nothing" in Costa’s work becomes a mysterious and hypnotic web of musings, dreams and visions about postcolonial pasts with a ghostly character. Not surprising for a filmmaker who prefers to give his shots a picturesque dimension by means of chiaroscuro photography. Whit his unique blend of styles, influences and determination, the Portuguese filmmaker remains one of the most distinctive European film authors within the festival landscape today.

The full program of the coronaproof 47th edition of Film Fest Ghent will be presented during a press conference on Friday 18 September in Sphinx Cinema (Ghent).

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