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RTM at IFFR, film festival can't get more Rotterdam-like

RTM stands for Rotterdam. Ronny Theeuwes of International Film Festival Rotterdam has fun when I want to know something so simple. And at IFFR, RTM stands for the programme of Rotterdam films.

You had to look for it a bit in previous years, so amid that plethora of cinema from all corners of the world. But this year it is unmissable. That joyrider with Surinamese roots, the artists on the Rotterdam fray, the teenagers from the South, the Indonesian son, the glorious black women, Jules Deelder and many more.

Good energy

RTM was created four years ago by Theeuwes and Mieke van der Linden, both associated with IFFR. RTM programmer Theeuwes explains that something was gnawing. "As festival staff, we were always making contacts in the city, showing our face. Then we sometimes came across young makers who felt that such a big festival was not for them after all. At the same time, we felt a lot of good energy. That's how we came up with the idea of bringing that to the festival."

So a programme of films by makers who live or work in Rotterdam, or have a very strong link to it. From newcomers to renowned artists. This time it is by necessity online, but previously a whole day was reserved for it in LantarenVenster each time. "There, the makers could also meet each other. That networking function is a very important part of the RTM programme."

Because, according to Theeuwes, you can definitely speak of a real Rotterdam film scene. "Rotterdam is a very creative city, where everyone also just goes about their business, whether or not through official channels. That is great, although it also means it is sometimes difficult for us to find all those who organise their own film evenings and make their own productions. There is SO much happening off the beaten track, which makes it really fun and very Rotterdam."


Which does not alter the fact that it is good if there is some kind of base of funds, producers or other facilities. "Together with broadcaster Open Rotterdam, and with support from the municipality, we are investigating the maker climate in Rotterdam. What is needed, what do people need. We have now sent out a number of surveys. In the coming months, if the weather is allowed, we will also organise meetings to find out where the needs are. There is sometimes the feeling: 'Yes, there is a Film Fund, but then you have to comply with all kinds of rules. We are just enjoying making things.'"

"People are also making films in many other ways these days. Very interesting, but the question is how do you move in this new situation, how do the lines run? Rotterdam has funds for arts and culture. the question is whether there should be a Rotterdam film fund. These are all things we can discuss."

The Willem de Kooning Academy is also a name that pops up regularly. "Certainly, that's a very special place, a lot of great things come from there, fortunately sometimes also in the field of film," laughs Theeuwes. "The Willem de Kooning has been a regular partner of the festival for years, also in the educational field."

RTM pitch

IFFR supports Rotterdam makers not only with the RTM programme, but also with the RTM pitch. "That is a project where makers submit their pitch, after which a jury considers it. Part of the prize for the winner is not only a sum of money with which the maker can get started, but also a coaching programme and help in finding a producer. In any case, the film will be screened at IFFR. The third edition will be announced soon. Now we see the winner of the second RTM pitch, the short film So Loud the Sky Can Hear Us by Lavinia Xausa. This portrait of a group of Feyenoord supporters unfolds a hidden world of faith, love, compassion and vulnerability, according to the website. It certainly makes one curious.

This festival's RTM programme consists of 12 titles, short and long. Mainly documentaries, alongside a short fiction film and experimental work. Asked for something that caught his eye, Theeuwes mentions Mouthy South By René van Zundert. "A series, four 15-minute episodes, we had that before. A documentary about young kids living in Rotterdam-Zuid, with or without their problems. Loving portraits, very nicely made, also for younger viewers. A very cool project that will later be broadcast by the public broadcaster."

Gingerlip and Babel

Shabu (image: IFFR)

Haven't seen everything myself yet, but enough for an impression. Rotterdam-Zuid is also the world of 14-year-old mischief-maker Shabu from Shamira Raphaëla's documentary of the same name, which will be released in cinemas later this year. A lively and infectious coming-of-age, filmed one summer around the illustrious Peperklip flat. After a joyride gone wrong, Shabu has something to make up to his family, but at the same time dreams of becoming famous as a hip-hopper. In the process, we see how the rapport with his boyfriend and girlfriend falters, and we honestly learn something about the things Shabu struggles with. Recommended as far as I'm concerned.

The Rotterdam hands-on mentality shows up nicely in Always everything else and If Paradise Is Half As Nice. In the latter, Marieke van der Lippe follows a group of Rotterdam artists working with their imagination on an abandoned industrial site. In Always everything else Christiaan Schermbeek shows how theatre producer Paul Röttger creates a new show with the very diverse company of Theater Babel. Many of the actors have disabilities, but that does not get in the way of making colourful and also moving theatre, as the moving final scene proves.

Pure Rotterdam, of course, are also those revived 16mm recordings of Jules Deelder from 1979.


Here (image: IFFR)

Completely different is short experimental work such as SHE By Sheree Lenting and Kiraly Saint Claire or Here. By Wendelien van Oldenborgh. SHE tells no story yet effortlessly carried me along with defiantly beautiful film poetry in images, spoken word and confident black women. Something similar, although in a very different way, happens in Here.. Strictly a documentary, it impresses above all as a freely composed exploration of feeling around the question "who am I?". Krontjong music and poetic reflection, colonial heritage and Indo background, carried by the strength and friendship of young women.

Science Around Us

Science Around Us (image: IFFR)

And don't miss the short feature film Science Around Us with which the Indonesian Rotterdam native ARIV (who plays the lead role himself) graduated cum laude from the Willem de Kooning Academy. Barely recovered from a wild sex party in his flat, the protagonist is overwhelmed by an unexpected phone call to his father in Indonesia, whom he has not seen for a long time. And who has now, in hospital, decided to forgo further treatment should his cancer named Lucky return. Suddenly, there appears to be a lot of emotional clutter to clear up. About love, for better or worse. Was also noticed at the Dutch Film Festival's student competition. And not just because of the exciting camera work.

And more, of course.

Theeuwes: "Yes, when you look at that whole mix, and consider that it's all one city, this is all Rotterdam, that really makes me very happy."

Good to know Good to know
IFFR-online can be followed via All titles in the RTM programme will be on show from 27 January to 6 February.

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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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