By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire January 11, 2012 at 11:05AM
The 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam has selected its 15 films vying for their 2012 Tiger Awards Competition, including eight world premieres. All films mark first or second features for the filmmakers.
Highlights include "It Looks Pretty from a Distance," the directorial debut of Polish visual artists Anka Sasnal and Wilhelm Sasnal, and "A Fish," directed by Hong-min Park, the first 3D film to screen in Rotterdam's competition lineup.
This year's jury was also announced. Among the chosen members: Brazilian actress and filmmaker Helena Ignez ("The Red Light Bandit"); Ludmila Cvikova, Head of International Programming of the Doha Film Institute, Qatar and former programmer of the International Film Festival Rotterdam; Tine Fischer, director of CPH:DOX, the international documentary film festival in Copenhagen, Denmark; filmmaker Eric Khoo from Singapore, who’s animated feature film "Tatsumi" screens in the festival; Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz, who’s first feature film "Lebanon" won the Golden Lion in Venice.
In addition, IFFR revealed the 21 films in their Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films (list below).
The winners of the Hivos Tiger Awards will be announced on February 3.
Tiger Awards Competition for first and second feature films 2012 (descriptions provided by Rotterdam):
"Thursday Till Sunday," Dominga Sotomayor, Chile/Netherlands, 2012, 96’, World premiere, Hubert Bals Fund-supported film
Sotomayor’s feature film début, expertly shot by Barbara Alvarez, is a Chilean road movie set in and around the car belonging to a middle-class family. Seen through eyes of the kids in the back, they embark on a four day holiday trip to the north, while the marriage is falling apart. Dominga Sotomayor’s short film Videojuego was screened in Rotterdam in 2010. De jueves a domingo was selected for the Cannes Cinéfondation Résidence 2010.
"Voice of My Father," Orhan Eskiköy & Zeynel Dogan, Turkey, Germany, 2011, 87’, World premiere, Hubert Bals Fund-supported film
Voice of My Father is a powerful meditation on identity and family ties, and a profound portrait of a country in transition. Co-director Zeynel Dogan plays a character called Zeynel who lives with his pregnant wife in Diyarbakir, while his mother lives alone in the old family house in a nearly deserted village. Eskiköy and Dogan co-directed documentary short films and the feature length documentary On the Way to School. Voice of My Father is a fiction, based on Zeynel Dogan’s family history.
"Neighbouring Sounds," Kleber Mendonça Filho, Brazil, 2012, 100’, World premiere, Hubert Bals Fund-supported film
For his gripping. slow burning feature film début Kleber Mendonça Filho expanded on a theme from one of his short films, Eletrodoméstica. In the middle class street where a rich family owns much of the real estate, life takes an unexpected turn when a private security outfit offers its services to the inhabitants. The presence of the guards brings a feeling of security but also adds good deal of anxiety to a culture that runs on fear. In 2007, IFFR presented five short films by Kleber Mendonça Filho as a ‘Profile’ in the short films section.
"Living," Vasily Sigarev, Russia, 2012, 119’, World premiere
Vasily Sigarev's second feature, after his acclaimed Wolfy, is a grim portrait of existence in a wintry Russian town, showing some characters living through their own ordeal. A mother wants to reunite with her twin daughters; after a wedding ceremony, a young couples’ love is tested in the most brutal way; a boy wants to see his estranged father, despite his mother's protests. Celebrated young playwright and director offers an unsentimental, sincere and personal film on the complexity of life – and death.
"Egg and Stone," Huang Ji, China, 2012, 97’, World premiere
In the Hunan province village where she was born, Huang Ji shot her first elegant feature, a quietly disturbing drama about 14-year-old Honggui, who lives with her aunt and uncle in the countryside. It seems she is not very wanted. Her parents intended to farm her out to family for only two years so they could work in the big city, but in the meantime, seven years have passed. In 2009, she presented her mid-length fiction The Warmth of Orange Peel at the Berlinale.
"Clip," Maja Milos, Serbia, 2012, 100’, World premiere
Maja Miloš’s first feature film is a dynamic, disturbing portrait of contemporary youth. Jasna, played fearlessly by Isidora Simijonovic, is a pretty girl in her mid-teens. With a terminally ill father and dispirited mother at home, she is disillusioned by her unglamorous life in a remote Serbian town. Opposing everyone, including herself, she goes experimenting with sex, drugs and partying.
"In April the Following Year, There Was a Fire," Wichanon Somumjarn, Thailand, 2012, 76’, World premiere, Hubert Bals Fund-supported film
At first sight, an atmospheric, suitably languid portrait of a young man returning to his home town in North Eastern Thailand from his job in Bangkok to attend a friends’ wedding in the hottest month of the year, Wichanon Somumjarn’s first feature turns into a semi-autobiography, and a journey into the labyrinth of the real and the imagined, the past and the present, the personal and the political.
"Black's Game," Óskar Thor Axelsson, Iceland, 2012, 100’, World premiere
Reykjavik, April 1999: Iceland’s crime scene is in violent flux and young Stebbi suddenly finds himself in a world of tough guys, drugs dealers, stunning blondes, drugs, robberies and slaughter. The feature début by Óskar Thor Axelsson is based on the bestselling Icelandic gangster story Black Curse by Stefán Máni and was executive produced by Nicolas Winding Refn (Pusher, Drive).
"It Looks Pretty from a Distance," Anka Sasnal & Wilhelm Sasnal, Poland, USA, 2011, 77’, International premiere
The feature film début by visual artists Anka & Wilhelm Sasnal focuses on a small Polish community during a hot summer. Everyone is either about to explode or come to a complete halt. Hidden aggression, hatred, discrimination, as well as fears, longings and emotional crises are on the edge of breaking through the surface. Using a precise and austere style, the Sasnals create a physical portrait of a micro society that turns into a viscous swamp, unresistingly absorbing any kind of violence.
"Romance Joe," Lee Kwang-Kuk, South Korea, 2011, 115’, International premiere
Lee Kwang-Kuk, former assistant director to Hong Sang-Soo, plays the storytelling game with unmistakable pleasure in this elegantly shot first feature. In a web of intertwined stories, a film maker seeks inspiration and finds it with an energetic waitress who in return for some payment is willing to tell him about, for instance, the time she met a suicidal guy called Romance Joe.
"A Fish," Park Hong-Min, South Korea, 2011, 105’, International premiere
Park Hong-Min’s feature debut A Fish is the first 3-D film in the Rotterdam Tiger Awards Competition. Little by little, the filmmaker reveals where this unfortunate road movie is taking its characters. In a roadside restaurant, the protagonist, Professor Lee, picks up the detective who says he has found Lee's missing wife on an island off the coast. The men head for the sea, but that night, the professor has a curious dream.
"Return to Burma," Midi Z, Taiwan, Myanmar, 2011, 84’, European premiere
Return to Burma, first feature by Midi Z, offers a unique, authentic story from Burma (Myanmar). Xing-hong, a Burmese guest-worker in Taiwan, has the duty of returning the ashes of a friend to their native country. At home, there’s the joy of seeing friends and family. Young people still sing romantic songs and dream of working aborad, like his younger brother. Xing-hong starts to look around for local business opportunities.
"Southwest," Eduardo Nunes, Brazil, 2011, 128’, European premiere, Hubert Bals Fund-supported film
Sudoeste, a tale of fantasy and mystery shot in stunning black-and-white, is Eduardo Nunes’ fiction feature début, after several successful short films, three of which were screened at IFFR. Situated in a sleepy Brazilian coastal village, a baby, a girl and a woman named Clarice seem to live their (or is it her?) life in one single day.
"L," Babis Makridis, Greece, 2012, 86’, European premiere
The protagonist in L, a man aged 40, is a more than dedicated driver. His work is his life, and his car is more than a means of transport. He lives in his car, receiving his family at fixed times. His employer is a rich narcoleptic who can’t drive himself. But The Man loses his job and decides to go looking for another means of transport. A unique combination of abstract comedy and existential drama, Makridis debut feature is filled with singular dialogue, a stuttering Mondscheinsonate and a great song about bears.
"Tokyo Playboy Club," Okuda Yosuke, Japan, 2011, 97’, European premiere
In 2010, young film maker Okuda Yosuke made a name for himself with his low-budget gangster comedy Hot as Hell: The Deadbeat March. This year, he returns with his first commercially made film, a dry-humorous crime story set in the fringes of Japanese society. A gangster drama that focuses on people who primarily live by instinct, which results in reckless behaviour, bad decisions, and violence.
Tiger Awards Competition for Short Films 2012 (descriptions provided by Rotterdam):
"the meaning of style," Phil Collins, Malaysia, 2012, 5’, World premiere
A deceptively complex Malaysian reverie featuring a cast of skinheads, butterflies and the sounds of Gruff Rhys and Y Niwl in perfect harmony.
"The Waves," Miguel Fonseca, Portugal, 2012, 22’, World premiere
An expertly played, effortlessly cosmic topography of surf, sea and sand from one of Portugal’s rising cinematographic stars.
"Scene Shifts, in Six Movements," Jani Ruscica, Finland, Germany, Denmark, 2012, 15’, World premiere
Latest work by Finnish artist Jani Ruscica (retrospective at IFFR 2008) alternately describes locations in words, images and music.
"Big in Vietnam," Mati Diop, France, 2012, 29’, World premiere
Diop, who won a Tiger Award in 2010 with his short Atlantiques, has two new films including this mysterious tale of a director who gets distracted during a shoot.
"In Search of a City (in the Papers of Sein)," Hala Elkoussy, Egypt, United Kingdom, 2012, 34’, World premiere
Idler Sein’s perambulations become a layered declaration of love to the city of Cairo. Shot before, but edited after the Egyptian revolution.
"Postcard from Somova," Romania, Andreas Horvath, Austria, 2012, 20’, World premiere
Life in the Danube Delta almost stands still. The postcard is a suitable anachronism for a message from this inconspicuous place.
"Agatha," Beatrice Gibson, United Kingdom, 2012, 14’, World premiere
A psychosexual sci-fi about a planet without speech. Based on a dream had by the radical British composer Cornelius Cardew.
"Field Notes from a Mine," Martijn van Boven, Tom Tlalim, Netherlands, 2012, 20’, World premiere
Abstract documentary about a data environment. Based on a list of cities, villages and unnamed places in North Africa that were part of old pilgrim routes.
"Springtime," Jeroen Eisinga, Netherlands, 2012, 19’, World premiere
Maker Eisinga described this performance - which people can now watch - as 'A liberating experience' during which his body was taken over by insects.
"Generator," Makino Takashi, Japan, 2011, 20’, International premiere
Generator is a response to the disaster in Fukushima and visualises Tokyo as an eroding metropolis accompanied by Jim O'Rourke’s dark soundscapes.
"In the Open," Albert Sackl, Austria, 2011, 23’, International premiere
A three-month sojourn on Iceland linearly condensed into 23 minutes by the camera. An existentialist portrait of an awe-inspiring setting.
"Light Escapes Through the Intervals," Tasaka Naoko, USA, 2011, 15’, International premiere
An attempt at thinking without language. Point-of-view, observation, flexibility... and surf!
"The White Disease," Christelle Lheureux, France, 2011, 42’, International premiere
A night-time party in a mountain village in France; a reflection on the essence of our existence and a monster that preys on girls.
"Shadow Life," Cao Fei, China, 2011, 10’, European premiere
How something as old-fashioned as hand shadow play can be elevated into a higher art form. A witty, intelligent animation.
"I'm Lisa," Charlotte Lim Lay Kuen, Malaysia, 2010, 8’, European premiere
Almost sensual observation of a young cleaning lady. The heat of the Malaysian evening is almost tangible.
"Lack of Evidence," Hayoun Kwon, France, 2011, 9’
Experimental, animated documentary tells the tragic tale of a Nigerian refugee who becomes entangled in European bureaucracy.
"The Arc," Cristóbal León, Joaquín Cociña, Netherlands, Chile, 2011, 17’
After an idyllic start, things go drastically wrong with this Noah’s Ark. The paper-mache actors elicit realistic emotions.
"5000 Feet Is the Best," Omer Fast, USA, France, Ireland, 2011, 27’
Film based on meetings with anonymous Predator drone pilots from the US military, operating the un-manned flights over Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"Dinosaur Eggs in the Living Room," Rafael Urban, Brazil, 2011, 12’
Extremely idiosyncratic portrait of an eccentric widow who looks after the impressive collection of fossils and documents left behind by her late husband Guido.
"Restricted Sensation," Deimantas Narkevicius, Lithuania, Spain, 2011, 46’
Disturbing fiction recounts the systematic homophobia of the Soviet regime through the experience of an aspiring theatre director in Vilnius.
"Bobby Yeah," Robert Morgan, United Kingdom, 2011, 23’
A breathtakingly bizarre, hilariously horrifying, button-pushing stop-motion saga featuring a subhuman troublemaker who falls perilously out of his depth.