The Ghent Film Festival absorbed a shock in April when a panel charged with assessing its artistic merit delivered a thumbs-down, wounding its pride and threatened its funding. While organizers managed to turn their critics around, months passed before the cash-strapped Flemish culture budget was expanded to accommodate the fest.
In the end it got an increase in coin up to 2016, but the experience left a bad taste. “The whole system has been called into question,” says artistic director Patrick Duynslaegher. “In four years we will probably have the same uncertainties, and maybe there should be a more viable subsidy model.”
Previously a film critic and magazine editor, Duynslaegher was appointed just before the event’s 2011 edition. A year in, he has no plans to break the fest’s tradition of showcasing film music, but he wants to extend its range beyond the symphonic.
“There are a lot of young musicians, in all kinds of contemporary music, who are very interested in movies.”
The opening picture for the upcoming 39th edition (Oct. 9-20), “The Broken Circle Breakdown,” shows the way, with a story built around a pair of bluegrass singers. The pic’s Flemish stars will perform at the fest’s closing World Soundtrack Awards ceremony alongside guest of honor James Newton Howard and Pino Donaggio, who will receive a lifetime achievement award.
Ludovic Bource will also attend, celebrating his Oscar for “The Artist,” with the fest’s resident orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic, which recorded the soundtrack.
Other musical events include a concert of songs from the Bond movies, performed by local talent, and a live soundtrack for Hitchcock’s “The Lodger: A Story of London Fog.”
In the film program, Duynslaegher has been charged with slimming the selection from 116 titles last year to around 80. This is about audience focus rather than saving money.
“You can’t just show endless lists of films,” he says, “you have to try to put them context.”
Thematic paths will be plotted through the program, for example linking crime scenes in the Taviani brothers’ “Caesar Must Die” to Ken Burns’ docu mini-series “Prohibition,” to a concert of film noir music.
Another theme traces the changing face of cinema, from British docu “The Last Projectionist” to Gallic thriller “La Derniere seance.”