The wait is over: Intl. The Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), which is set to kick off on January 25, is returning to its first fully on-site edition in three years.
“Finally we were able to present the new shape program in theaters across Rotterdam as it was intended. We find it incredibly encouraging to see that the number of recognized guests is the same as in the pre-COVID version,” said festival director Vanja Kaludjeric.
In addition to IFFR’s Tiger competition strand, which celebrates innovative and adventurous up-and-coming filmmakers, there are retrospectives by Judith Elek, Stania Kahn, Arc and Japanese animator Yuasa Masaki, as well as “Sunshine State,” the much-anticipated masterpiece by Steve McQueen. Originally commissioned for the festival’s 50th anniversary in 2021
“It’s great to see that this extra time has allowed it to evolve into what it is today: a monumental two-channel video projection that is sure to move everyone who sees it,” he added. “With this commission, we continue IFFR’s decades-long tradition of championing the cinematic industry, in all its shapes and forms.”
The idea of ”expansion and diversification” has been on its team’s mind for a while — in addition to introducing its media outreach and inclusion scheme, IFFR announced its new team lineup and structure in May, aiming to welcome diverse voices to the festival.
The 52nd edition will also feature previously represented countries, with Asian, African and Middle Eastern titles claiming the spotlight such as the India-focused “The Shape of Things to Come?” A number of Hong Kong film segments, including “Where the Wind Blows” starring Tony Leung Chewwai and Anastasia Tsang’s “A Light Never Goes Out,” offer a glimpse of “the broad spectrum of what different national cinemas have to offer.”
“For example, think of our Indonesian titles this year, which include satirical mid-length titles, auteur movies and female-centric superhero films,” Gina S. Kaludjaric notes “Likes and Shares” by Noir or “Mr. Ashish” by Up Avianto, which “puts Marvel to shame.”
“IFFR has a long history of working in the presentation genre. Where earlier they were lumped together in special programmes, now we do not make such a distinction-
tions,” he said. “Bright cinema can take many forms. The most important thing is that we look everywhere, and we’re there for different audiences.”
It’s a sentiment echoed by Henrik Martin Dahlsbakken, director of the opening film “Munch,” which explores the life of the famous painter Edvard Munch through four interconnected stories and with four different actors.
“I love the genre and I think that part of me helped me make this movie,” he says. “If this film has anything to say about the upcoming festival, it should be bold and diverse. It is not a traditional biopic in any sense.”
New solutions are also expected on the industry front with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the festival’s co-production market, CineMart. “We really wanted to focus on our core and bring people together. But we couldn’t contain ourselves,” said Inke van Looke, newly appointed head of IFFR Pro, responsible for the fest’s activities for film professionals. “We ended up hosting more events than ever before; We have invited more entrants and put in place a strong talent development framework. All in close collaboration with our partners.”
While BoostNL projects will now get a separate, tailor-made training program, making more room for CineMart titles (“It’s 20 [feature film] As in the past, instead of about 16 projects,” notes van Looke), five works in progress will be presented at the IFFR Pro Darkroom.
“This is the first year we’re doing this, and we’re developing it further with fellow industry professionals to make it a strong strand of the IFFR Pro,” says van Looke. “We noticed the need for more support at this late stage of development. We give these projects more visibility, set up more one-on-one meetings with potential partners and offer expert sessions. We will do this in close collaboration with the Hubert Balls Fund.”
While the present seems pretty exciting, IFFR is willing to reflect on its future and the future of film festivals in general, which is the focus of Reality Check, its industry-focused symposium.
“To prepare for this edition, we really wanted to take a look at ourselves,” continued van Looke. “We explored all these existential questions: ‘What is our role? What can we contribute?’ As a festival, we can’t be afraid of soul-searching.”