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Final chapter anniversary edition Rotterdam Film Festival kicks off with The World to Come

One important question could not yet be answered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam's online press conference held on 18 May. Festival director Vanja Kaludjercic presented there the programme with which the IFFR wraps up its anniversary edition in early June. A special extended edition with which the festival celebrates both the 50th anniversary and cinema itself.

But corona also plays along. The first part in February, with the Tiger and other competitions, was of necessity online. At least the final week will also be online. But will it be more than that? The expectation in February was that audiences will surely be welcomed back to the cinema halls in June, for the real festival experience. Kaludjercic now calls it the "million dollar question". Will cinemas be able to open on 2 June? A slim chance, she estimates. Plans are being drawn up to possibly use quick testing, but nothing concrete can be said about that possibility yet either.

Supplement: It has now been announced that the festival has been granted test event status. This means that with a digital test certificate (with negative result) from can also physically attend the festival.

The World to Come

Over to the film that opens this final chapter of the festival - online at least, that is. That honour falls to The World to Come from Norwegian director Mona Fastvold. The title of this American production is reminiscent of science fiction, but it is the story of a forbidden love between two women in an American settlement in the mid-nineteenth century. Kaludjercic says she was impressed by the two actresses at the premiere last year in Venice, where the film was well received. Judging from the clip shown at the press conference, it is a relatively classic production, an opening that can appeal to a wide audience. And a subject that still matters, according to the director via zoom.

A haven for cinema

A first is the new and also largest programme component Harbour, to be launched in June. With a name that refers to the dynamics of Rotterdam as a port city, Harbour should be a home for the wide variety of contemporary films. Kaludjercic believes it is important that Harbour acts as the backbone of the festival alongside the competitions. A programme full of surprises and discoveries.

Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus (image: IFFR)

How great that diversity is at Harbour is already evident from two titles she cites as examples. Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus is a highly curious Croatian animated film crammed with finds, references and riddles. As challenging as the title itself. Have we sometimes ended up in the fevered brain of an avid film noir lover? When I saw this free explosion of imagination at the Annecy animation festival, I wrote in my notebook: put reality and logic on pause for a while.

But you can at Harbour also Lutar, lutar, lutar encounter. A (according to the IFFR catalogue) passionate and compelling documentary about two Brazilian football fans. Which also shines light on injustice, opposition, racism and machinations of those in power.

A Man and a Camera

A Man and a Camera (image: IFFR)

Personally, I would like to tip the Dutch Harbour title. A Man and a Camera by Guido Hendrikx, which has already attracted a lot of attention at the Danish documentary festival CPF:DOX with it. As in his earlier Stranger in Paradise again based on a very own idea. Hendrikx rings people's doorbells, lets the camera run but otherwise remains silent as the grave. Like an alien visitor, you sometimes think. The result is an intriguing, unpredictable and sometimes even moving film like you probably haven't seen before.

That Harbour can indeed act as a solid festival base is evident when we compare this year's IFFR programme with previous editions. With Harbour's arrival, the necessary pruning has been done to the proliferation of (sub)sections that had developed over time. It certainly adds to the overview.

Bright Future

In addition, the familiar Bright Future section complements Harbour nicely. Work by emerging talent, selected in a slightly different way this year. Each of the 14 festival programmers was allowed to pick a favourite. Again, a striking Dutch production: BERG by Joke Olthaar. At first sight a film about three mountain hikers, but you hardly get to see them. The mountains are the real protagonists. Breathtaking black-and-white images in what could be called a cinematic meditation.

Also on the programme are IFFR Talks, there are four IFFR Classics, historical curiosities can be enjoyed at Cinema Regained and there is a section of short and medium-length films. With some pride, Kaludjercic points to the Art Directions section. Here, connections are made between art and cinema. With installations, virtual reality and more. What I find exciting is the visit of the Werner Guerilla Cinema. An extremely cool-looking vehicle that will visit Rotterdam as a mobile cinema. Its name is an homage to the unsurpassed Werner Herzog.

The closing film is the Japanese animation Poupelle of Chimney Town. Like the opening, this expressive film adaptation of a successful children's book will be able to appeal to a wide audience. Theme climate change in a philosophical tale in which a rubbish monster helps a little boy raise his sights. For film lovers of all ages, the festival promises.

Good to know Good to know

The final part of the festival takes place from 2 to 6 June. Films remain available online until 9 June. For the full programme, and instructions on 'testing for access': The opening film The World to Come is expected to hit cinemas in July.

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Wijbrand Schaap

Cultural journalist since 1996. Worked as theatre critic, columnist and reporter for Algemeen Dagblad, Utrechts Nieuwsblad, Rotterdams Dagblad, Parool and regional newspapers through Associated Press Services. Interviews for TheaterMaker, Theatererkrant Magazine, Ons Erfdeel, Boekman. Podcast maker, likes to experiment with new media. Culture Press is called the brainchild I gave birth to in 2009. Life partner of Suzanne Brink roommate of Edje, Fonzie and Rufus. Search and find me on Mastodon.View Author posts

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