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27th International Film Festival Rotterdam

27th International Film Festival Rotterdam

27th International Film Festival Rotterdam

by Christian Gaines

Like Rotterdam itself, the International Film Festival is a marvelous
testament to measured growth and adaptability. In its 27 years, IFFR has
matured into a vital business place for European distributors while
maintaining warm alliances with artists, financiers and enthusiastic

General good feelings are only part of the story; Rotterdam learned to give
back to the film community in many ways several years ago. When founder
Hubert Bals died in 1988, a fund was created in his name to provide grants
of up to $50,000 to filmmakers worldwide, with few strings attached. Ten
years later, sixteen films screening in the Festival are recipients of the
Hubert Bals Fund, among them Dariush Mehrjul’s “Leila” (Iran), “Perfect
” (Bosnia/France) and the world premieres of “Fibra Optica” (Mexico),
directed by “Lolo“‘s Francisco Athie, and Martin Schvartzapel’s “Fuera

The Tiger Awards Competition was comprised of fourteen diverse films, from
Gary Burns’ enjoyable “Kitchen Party” (Canada), to Rajan Khosa’s “Dance of
the Wind
” (India), to Park Ki-yongs’ anticipated “Motel Cactus” (Korea),
which could also be found at Sundance. Eventually, three new directors
shared the Tiger Award: Petr Zelenka, “Knoflikari” (Czech Republic);
Guiseppe Gaudino, “Giro di Lune Tra Terra E Mare” (Italy), and Stefan
Ruzoqitzky, “Die Siebtelbauern” (Austria).

Where the Tiger Awards are the brain and the Hubert Bals films are the
heart of the festival, then the Main Programme must be the spine and
central nervous system. Dozens of films are packed into this section,
representing a delectable free-for-all of world cinema. Tried and trusted
denizens of past festivals like “Deconstructing Henry“, “Chasing Amy“, “The
Sweet Hereafter
“, “Taste of Cherry“, “Gummo” and “Ulee’s Gold” are
programmed for their quality and just prior to commercial release in the
Netherlands, but many other intriguing selections abound. Among them:
Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s “Without Memory” (Japan), a riveting documentary about
memory loss; “Louis & Frank” (USA), the world premiere of Alexandre
Rockwell’s larger-than-life and often hilarious tale of the reunion of two
do-wop singing cousins; “French Dressing” (Japan), Saito Hisashi’s
eccentric and disturbing portrait of an incendiary relationship between a
teacher and his students; and “The Kingdom II” (Denmark), Lars von Trier’s
hotly anticipated follow up to the Danish hospital soap.

Exhaustive special sections were also reserved for experimentalist Ernie
Gehr, prolific Japanese filmmaker Rokuro Mochizuki, whose brand new 35mm
film “The Outer Way” premiered in Rotterdam on video with electronic
subtitles, and Russian filmmaker/videographer Alexandr Sokurov. Also
featured: a special section on Italian exploitation cinema, an overview of
recent Dutch production, and The Cruel Machine, a heady selection gathered
to provide a detached and scholarly perspective on the use of violence in

Running concurrently with the Film Festival, the Cinemart provides an
opportunity for independent filmmakers to meet with producers, broadcasters
and bankers in a structured, coached environment. With its emphasis on
getting films made as well as the diversity of the projects selected for
the process, the Cinemart never sinks into an atmosphere of cutthroat
desperation often felt at film markets. Rather, a balanced blend of art and
commerce (often scarce in the United States) reminds us of the intrinsic
usefulness of the film festival environment, while never distracting
participants and festival-goers from a fundamental shared respect for film.

From a logistical standpoint, the IFFR is practically faultless. The recent
addition of the Pathe Cinemas, an imposing but technically superb multiplex
monolith allows for centralized and consistent viewing possibilities. The
layout of the city of Rotterdam, with its light traffic, tram and metro
systems is ideal for a film festival. The Hilton Hotel is across the street
from the Luxor Theatre, which is next door to the Hotel Centrale (a
favorite festival watering hole, and where certain filmmakers known for
their culinary abilities are invited as guest chefs during the festival).
The Hotel Centrale is just around the corner from the Pathe Cinemas, which
faces the Schouwberg where tickets, festival merchandise or a beer are
easily available anytime. Each theatre venue is buzzing with excitement and
well-stocked with coffee and beer behind clouds of Drum smoke, generated by
hordes of Dutch film fans who clearly are here to make the most of what
there is to offer. Clearly, the city of Rotterdam is proud of the film
festival and judging by the scope, ambition and accomplishments in
programming, administration and development, they have every reason to be.

[Previously a Sundance programmer, Christian Gaines is now director of the
Hawaii International Film Festival.]

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