Festival's movie music focus enters 10th year

Any film composer lucky enough to be invited to the Ghent Intl. Film Festival — whether it be to showcase their music in a live setting or simply to hobnob with peers and their handlers — can testify to the event’s unique appeal, as well as the charms of this largely 16th Century medieval city in the Flemish region of Belgium.

Alexandre Desplat, who cut a magisterial profile on the podium while leading the Brussels Philharmonic in a program of his music for the event’s grande finale, the World Soundtrack Awards, acted as if he’d just been released from composing prison.

“We are recording artists, we’re always locked in studios,” he said at a press conference prior to the WSAs. “So, of course, being here sitting and having the opportunity to make jokes with fellow composers is a blessing.”

Ghent’s movie music focus, entering its 10th year and concentrated in the last few days of the 12-day event, is becoming tough to ignore among those in the know.

Those who made the trek this year included three-time Oscar winner Marvin Hamlisch, who was honored with a lifetime achievement award; Japanese composer Shigeru Umebayashi, whose deliriously romantic music for the likes of Wong Kar Wai and Zhang Yimou was performed by a 30-piece ensemble; Oscar winner A.R. Rahman (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and ASCAP’s ubiquitous Nancy Knutsen, who helps assemble the fest’s music talent.

Four of the event’s five scheduled concerts were sold out and the Bijloke Music Center, where the WSAs took place, was bursting at capacity, with plans to move the show to a larger hall next year.

BMI’s Doreen Ringer Ross likens Ghent to the New York Film Festival, which, she says, is less about industry schmoozing and more about discerning tastes. “You don’t go there because you’re working it like you would at Sundance,” she says. “(Ghent) is the European intelligencia that just kind of gets the aesthetic value of what they’re seeing.”

— Steve Chagollan

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