A relatively subdued forty-second edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam came to a close Sunday, after awarding its three top prizes, the Hivos Tiger Awards, at a ceremony Friday night.
The winners were Austrian Daniel Hoesl's "Soldate Jeanette," a low budget marvel held over from Sundance's World Narrative competition about a pair of women who respectively leave lives of wealth and rural agrarianism behind to pursue something more meaningful; Iranian Muhammad Shirvani’s controversial "Fat Shaker," about an extremely obese man who, when he isn't getting his blood sucked on by leeches is pimping out his half-retarded son; and, perhaps most surprisingly, Slovakian Mira Fornay's uncompromising shocker "My Dog Killer."
The movie is a wrenching look at an inept neo-Nazi youth who owns the titular dog and carries the secret of having a little brother who is a gypsy. Their mother, an escapee from the neo-Nazi environs that have shaped her first born son, is doing her best to settle old scores within her former milieu while keeping her brainwashed and potentially dangerous son out of harm's way. Sadly, her youngest child might not be so lucky in this harrowing vision of a society boiling over with racial hatred that is reminiscent, in its own, peculiar, heart-wrenching way, of early works by Michael Haneke and Matthew Kassovitz.
With the Dutch economy in crisis and the news dominated by the resignation of Holland's Queen, Rotterdam was relatively subdued this year. Nonetheless, it unfurled a typically varied and dense slate, featuring sidebars on the works of Ukranian provocateur Kira Muratova and German Dominik Graf, a sweeping collection of recent Iranian cinema and a program titled "Changing Channels," devoted primarily to new TV work and web series. Lena Dunham's "Girls" popped up here, as did recent work by Rotterdam alum Kitao Sakurai for Comedy Central, Ry Russo-Young's Paper Magazine web series "Muscle Top," the first foray into TV production of Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda, and an hour long dramatic series titled "Burning Bush."
The 30th edition of CineMart, the festival's thriving network, closed on Wednesday, with heavy hitting young auteurs claiming two of the top three prizes in the largest and longest running co-production market of its kind. Over the past week, nearly 700 industry professionals descended upon Rotterdam's De Doelen convention center to hear pitches from 32 curated projects at various stages of development and financing by some of the international festival scenes most promising young filmmakers. The sprawling Rotterdam Lab takes place along side Cinemart, where 29 partner organization — including the Sundance Institute and the IFP — sponsor 74 young producers to take part in a three day series of panels, workshops, parties and mentorship sessions with the goal of developing the next generation of producers.
Eurimages, the Council of Europe's fund for co-production, distribution, exhibition and digitization, awarded its 30,000 Euro Co-Production Development Award to Swede Johannes Nyholm's "The Giant." A regular at Sundance and Cannes with his short work, which often straddles the line between animation and traditionally photographed narrative, Nyholm's latest project — budgeted at just over a million Euros with less than a twentieth of that figure in place when they arrived in Holland — is about Rikard, an autistic and severely deformed man who is reeling from the loss of his mother when he escape to an imaginary world in which he is the hundred foot tall giant of the title.
ARTE France, the French-German TV network which is a key player in funding many co-productions and is newly headed by ex-Director's Fortnight and Locarno festival chief Olivier Pére, awarded its International Prize of 7,000 Euros to "Dogtooth" and "Alps" auteur Yorgos Lanthimos' new film "The Lobster." The project, which has just 25,000 Euros in place on a 1.9 million Euro budget, is Lanthimos first English language production. Hoping to shoot in 35mm throughout the UK and Ireland, Lanthimos has prepared a dystopian love story in which being single is illegal and those caught doing so are transported to an ominous place known as The Hotel. Once there, they have 45 days to find a mate or they must be transformed into an animal of their choosing, at which point they are released in the woods.
The WorldView New Genre Fund Development Award of 5,000 Euros went to "The Headless Woman" and "The Holy Girl" auteur Lucrecia Martel’s Spanish-Argentinian co-production "Zama," about an provincial official in an unnamed 18th century Spanish colony winding down what he thinks are the last days of an assignment that gets extended time and time again. Eventually he begins a quest to track down a dangerous Indian bandit, hoping to attract the attention of the crown and bring his perpetually elongated mission to an end. At just under four million Euros, the film is one of the largest-budgeted CineMart projects. Martel and her producers have raised about a third so far.