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Director Wolfson bids farewell to Film Festival Rotterdam - three puzzles in advance for successor

Today, the International Film Festival Rotterdam announced that director Rutger Wolfson is handing over the baton after the 2015 edition.

About his decision, Wolfson says in the press release, "Eight years is a long time to lead an important film festival and with the 44th edition, which is going to be very strong, I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve. Together with my family, I have decided that it is then the right time to retire and give another the unique opportunity to lead the festival further into the future."

So we are looking for a successor, which has not always been easy in the past. Here are three puzzles for the new standard-bearer to ponder.

1. Attraction

The festival is sandwiched between Sundance and Berlin, not an enviable position. Does it still have enough appeal to make filmmakers choose Rotterdam as their premiere venue, rather than one of the other two? My strong impression is that it doesn't. We increasingly hear the complaint that too few well-known filmmakers turn up. Partly unjustified. Just last year, for instance, I had a one-on-one interview with Korean phenomenon Park Chan-wook following his first American film Stoker. But whether we will encounter Tim Burton at the next festival I doubt.

2. Abundance or excess

IFFR is the biggest cultural event in the Netherlands, but does that make it the most talked-about? A well-known complaint is that you drown in that abundance of films. This is true. It is also true that there is so much running that something surprising always turns up. And also a lot that disappoints. Actually, you can go in too many directions with Rotterdam. Is there a bold vision that invites discussion and controversy? Last year, British film journalist Neil Young vented his heart on the matter in a reasoned way in a article in the web magazine Indiewire.

3. Time for new boldness

The first titles recently unveiled by the festival included Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako, Big Eyes by Tim Burton and Phoenix by Christian Petzold. Promising. But all titles that already have a Dutch distributor and will be released soon. Is this the high-profile news the festival wants to wake us up with?

There have always been such previews, and now Rotterdam has given that part a name: Limelight. But are we waiting for such cosmetic changes, or do we crave cinema that is truly new and startling?

I remember the time (long ago) when the Rotterdam festival was still small and manageable. But you did look breathlessly at the exciting new German cinema there, and could encounter Fassbinder, Wenders and Herzog in passing. I am not advocating nostalgia, but I would love to see that feeling again.

Leo Bankersen

Leo Bankersen has been writing about film since Chinatown and Night of the Living Dead. Reviewed as a freelance film journalist for the GPD for a long time. Is now, among other things, one of the regular contributors to De Filmkrant. Likes to break a lance for children's films, documentaries and films from non-Western countries. Other specialities: digital issues and film education.View Author posts

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