Terence Davies receives posthumous Joseph Plateau Honorary Award at 50th edition Film Fest Gent

Joseph Plateau Terence Davies
News 20 Oct 2023
At the 50th anniversary edition of Film Fest Gent, British director Terence Davies posthumously received a Joseph Plateau Honorary Award, a prize that recognises the impact the filmmaker had on audiences worldwide throughout his decades-long career. Davies was to be present in Ghent to celebrate his work, but sadly passed away on 7 October at home after a short illness. Passing Time, his contribution to FFG's 2x25 project for which 25 filmmakers were inspired by 25 composers, was Davies' last short film.

Before a screening of Terence Davies' celebrated classic Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), Film Fest Gent honoured the great poet of British cinema with a Joseph Plateau Honorary Award, fondly remembering his two visits to the festival (in 1996 and in 2016) and his deeply personal filmography. Memory and history were key to Davies' films, and so the festival deemed it right to commemorate the director together with an audience that has been given so much by the Liverpool-born storyteller.

In memory of Terence Davies, FFG showed the short film Passing Time, his contribution to the 2x25 project for which he was inspired by composer Florencia Di Concilio's music, on the opening night, and right before the screening of Davies' indisputable masterpiece Distant Voices, Still Lives. James Dowling, producer and cinematographer of Passing Time, accepted the Joseph Plateau Honorary Award on the behalf of Terence Davies and took the time to talk to Florencia Di Concilio - and the audience - about the making of Davies' very last film. Shot near the filmmaker's home in Essex, the film only has one shot, with Davies reading a self-written poem on the soundtrack: "There is a place called Silence where no hope or harm can be." His very last film is as transcendent as his others.

Terence Davies horizontal
Terence Davies

Terence Davies

Few have elevated sorrow into hope and turned misery into beauty like Terence Davies. His films are a profound exploration of memory, identity and the human condition, often drawing from his own experiences growing up in post-war Liverpool and vividly captured on camera as if the image is a haunting dream. Davies was sixteen when he left school to be an accountant for ten years before starting his studies at the National Film School. Even while studying, he worked on two short films, and after graduating he completed what is now known as The Terence Davies Trilogy (1983). These films are autobiographically inspired, just like his first two features Distant Voices, Still Lives and The Long Day Closes (1992). In his debut and sophomore feature, Davies reflects on his dominant father and his own struggles with his sexual orientation and Catholic faith. In the 2007 documentary Of Time and the City, he bids farewell to the city of Liverpool. Before that, he already had two brilliant book adaptations under his belt with The Neon Bible (1995) and The House of Mirth (2000).

Davies continued to find interesting stories to adapt. The Deep Blue Sea (2011) is based on Terence Rattigan's play and Sunset Song (2015) is adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbon's novel of the same name. His last two features focus on the life of poets. A Quiet Passion (2016) and Benediction (2021) zoom in on the lives of respectively Emily Dickinson and Siegfried Sassoon. In these films, Davies discovers traits of himself, not in the least a passion for poetry. A Quiet Passion was awarded the Grand Prix for Best Film at Film Fest Gent in 2016.

Terence Davies at Film Fest Gent

  • The Terence Davies Trilogy (1983)
  • Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)
  • The House of Mirth (2000)
  • Sunset Song (2015)
  • A Quiet Passion (2016)
  • Benediction (2021)
  • Passing Time (short, 2023)

In 1996, Terence Davies was a member of the International Jury together with Howard Koch Jr., Norma Heyman, Frédéric Devreese, Nicola Piovani and Frans Weisz.

In 2016, he won the Grand Prix for Best Film with A Quiet Passion. He also held an in-depth Director's Talk about his filmography.

Davies' last short film was made for the 2x25 project of Film Fest Gent which paired composers with directors. Inspired by the music of Florencia Di Concilio, he made Passing Time.

Joseph Plateau Honorary Award - Terence Davies (James Dowling)© Martin Corlazzoli

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 amongst others Céline Sciamma (2022), Raoul Servais (2022), Andrea Arnold (2021), Viggo Mortensen (2020), Isabelle Huppert (2011), Agnès Varda (2006) and Morgan Freeman (2000). The full list of winners is available on the website.