Previously known as the Flanders International Film Festival, this is one of the most prestigious events in the international movie events calendar. With positive reviews by the likes of Variety Magazine and The Wall Street Journal, the cultural significance of this annual event in Belgium is unmistakable. Here is a quick look at some of the many opportunities Ghent opens up every year.
The Ghent Film Festival is organized every year in October. It screens roughly 80 films and 50 short features, entertaining and enthralling more than 130,000 viewers. The festival attracts a vast array of underground, experimental, and independent movies from local and international filmmakers. Producers from all over the world vie for a chance to showcase their work. Being screened at Ghent can be the highlight of one’s filmmaking career.
What sets Ghent apart is its emphasis on bold auteur cinema rather than mainstream commercial films. Movies made by well-known names including Robert Altman, Sandra Bullock, Juliette Binoche, and Colin Farell, as well as indie favorites like Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Robert Altman have been screened at Ghent.
The recently concluded 47th edition of the festival was attended by international guests of much renown. In addition to 110 films and 30 short features, the event also screened 2 television series. To make the festival ‘corona-secure’ each of the screenings was limited to 200 attendees. For those who chose to stay at home the festival offered a specially curated selection from this year’s program on their digital platform.
More than films
Music concerts, galas, and other events run concurrently to the film screenings. The World Soundtrack Awards is one of the few ‘soundtrack-exclusive’ awards events in the world. Every year the World Soundtrack Academy celebrates the art of music composition in films by recognizing composers for their achievements in various areas. Some of the biggest names in film music composition, including James Newton Howard, Alan Silvesteri, Alexander Desplat, Carter Burwell, and Marco Beltrami have performed live in concerts at Ghent.
Springboard for success
The Ghent Film Festival is one of the only 2 major cinema events in Belgium, the other being the Brussels Independent Film Festival. The Ghent festival is a world apart from the Brussels show in the international talent it attracts. Short filmmakers see Ghent as an opportunity to get noticed. Indie filmmakers participate in Ghent to market their films. They can sometimes get very attractive distribution deals. The Flemish and the Dutch throughout Belgium are drawn to the festival, not least by the ensemble of international celebrities.
Dozens of film production companies operate in Ghent. They often require the services of bilingual translators and interpreters. According to Belgium’s 2019 Census 34.3% of Ghent’s residents are of foreign descent. There is a profusion of bilingual and multilingual specialists in town. Working with film production companies is an attractive employment option for many migrants.
Film financing and incentives
To fully understand the attraction of Ghent one must take into account the local tax regime. The Belgian government offers a range of attractive tax incentives to local and international film producers under a ‘tax shelter’. These incentives are designed to encourage the number of films made in Belgium. The tax shelter naturally includes Belgian filmmakers. International producers must find local co-producers to enjoy the benefits of the scheme. Qualifying productions can also receive additional funding of 25-45% of the total film budget.
These incentives make it attractive for foreign filmmakers to come to Belgium. The Ghent Film Festival works in tandem with the Belgian ‘tax shelter’. This creates job opportunities for migrants and locals. Ghent creates many seasonal and permanent jobs which are filled by migrants. Foreign workers in Belgium regularly send remittances to their families via trusted channels such as the Ria Money Transfer App.
A promising future
The Ghent Film Festival homepage records a 10-15% increase in ticket sales revenues each year. In 2020, despite the COVID-19 precautions, the event saw on average 80% occupancy across all screenings.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.