Vortex by Gaspar Noé and Clara Sola by Nathalie Álvarez Mesén win top prizes at Film Fest Ghent 2021
Grand Prix for Best Film
On Friday 22 October the Official Competition of the 48th Film Fest Ghent came to a spectacular close. The Competition was packed with an eclectic line-up of fifteen features, including debuts, a documentary, the Lady Di film Spencer and two Belgian films, Un monde and Inexorable. The International Jury consisted of Hlynur Pálmason, Lucas Belvaux, Florencia Di Concilio and Jury President Doreen Boonekamp. Unfortunately, Iranian filmmaker Panah Panahi couldn’t participate at the festival as a jury member due to administrative issues with his travel documents. Panahi could, however, make it in time to present his debut Hit the Road to Belgian audiences.
During the closing ceremony, right before the closing film The French Dispatch, the four-member International Jury crowned Vortex by Argentinian provocateur Gaspar Noé the winner of the 2021 Grand Prix for Best Film. Noé previously attended Film Fest Ghent in 2018 with his ingenious party film Climax, which was screened out of competition, and walked the red carpet in Ghent again tonight to accept the prize in person. The Grand Prix comes with a €20,000 distribution grant for Belgian distributor Paradiso Films, which releases the film in Belgian theatres on 16 February 2022, and a media campaign worth €27,500.
With his latest chef d’oeuvre, Gaspar Noé surprisingly leaves his trademark depictions of graphic sex, violence and psychedelic drug use behind. Vortex tells the coming-of-old-age story of an elderly, unnamed couple - played by Italian giallo maestro Dario Argento and French icon Françoise Lebrun. Noé’s newest feature may deviate from the excesses and taboos of his previous work, but by making the drastic choice to show almost the entire film in split screen, he reminds us that he is driven by the need to push boundaries and make rebellious choices. “In this film it makes total sense to use the split screen. It makes sense because they live under the same roof and one loses his mind. The two have different realities,” Noé told the audience in Ghent. He manages to show both the agonising and isolating effects of dementia in a particularly inventive and cinematic way.
Critics compare the film to Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman and Michael Haneke’s Amour. There is also a major Belgian contribution from Director of Photography Benoît Debie who, together with Noé, explores the endless possibilities of the seventh art. The Argentine iconoclast dedicates his film “to all those whose brains will decompose before their hearts.” Working with a screenplay of a dozen pages, he knew from the start that - beyond the split screen composition - he wanted to keep his film close to a documentary.
The strong Official Competition also made the International Jury hand out a Special Mention, which went to Memoria by Thai film auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul “for a mysterious and deeply stimulating experience,” the jury said. Starring Tilda Swinton, Memoria is a visual poem about a botanist who visits her sick sister in Bogota and is plagued by a strange sound. For the first time, Weerasethakul made a film outside Thailand, but his distinctive and mesmerizing style remains.
Georges Delerue Award for Best Music
The main theme of the Official Competition is still “the impact of music on film”. Therefore, the Georges Delerue Award for Best Music is one of the top prizes of the festival. The jury, which included composer Florencia Di Concilio, gave the Georges Delerue Award for Best Music to the magical-realist coming-of-age film Clara Sola by Costa Rican-Swedish Nathalie Álvarez Mesén. Ghent native Ruben De Gheselle provided the poetic score, the result of an intense collaboration between him and Mesén. “One of the first things I told Ruben was that there would be no references,” said Nathalie Álvarez Mesén. The four judges found it “reassuring to rediscover that music can not only be well composed and well performed, but also necessary, if not essential.” The award is accompanied by a cash distribution grant of €10,000 and a media campaign of €12,000.
Short film awards
On Sunday 17 October, the winners of the short film were announced. Double Helix by Qiu Sheng received the Award for Best International Short. In the Competition for Belgian Student Shorts, Z Bratem got the Award for Best Belgian Student Short, worth €5,000, supported by Amplo. THE PACK Audience Award for Best Belgian Student Short, as voted by the festival audience, went to L’enfant salamandre by Théo Degen.
Last night, Pleasure, the audacious feature debut by Swedish director Ninja Thyberg, received the Explore Award by the Explore Zone Jury. The unflinching porn drama gives us a clinical look at porn and the exploitative industry behind it. Both Thyberg and lead actress Sofia Kappel - appearing in her debut role - attended Film Fest Ghent to present their film and were given the award after one of their Q&As, before travelling on to Amsterdam. Thanks to the Explore Award, the film can count on a media campaign in De Morgen, Knack Focus and on StuBru, worth €27,000. A Special Mention went to the intense and impactful Animals by Nabil Ben Yadir.
On Monday 25 October Film Fest Ghent will announce the winner of the North Sea Port Audience Award.
Distributor Paradiso Films is releasing Vortex in theatres on February 16, 2022.
September Film will bring Memoria to theatres in 2022.
Clara Sola does not have a Belgian distributor as of yet. International Sales by Luxbox.