Each year since 1972, Rotterdam home the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), one of the most famous film festival in Europe. It focuses on independent and experimental cinema by young talents, as well as recognized filmmakers.
For more than 10 days (from January 23rd to February 3rd this year), you can watch long and short films, from fiction to documentary, in various theaters of the city, but also attend conferences and workshops.
Here, no red carpet or couture dresses. The IFFR is committed to create a link between the filmmakers and the public and encourage the interactions.
The program is consistent and very eclectic: nearly 500 films , more than 50 nationalities represented and hundreds of guest artists.
So I choose 3 movies, that I will talk about later during the festival. I will also give my impression on this festival, and of course I will reveal what movies won the Tiger Award!
The first movie I watched is by the controversial Swedish actress and director Anna Odell. Why controversial? Because she dares everything, she has a very provocative side, and this movie is no exception.
In this movie, she chooses to focus on discovering herself. With the famous Swedish actor Michael Persbrandt, they play their own role and invite 6 other renowned Scandinavian actors who play their alter ego and each represent a facet of their personality.
This movie is above all an exploration of oneself, one’s identity and the other. It questions our perception of ourselves but also the way we are perceived in the eyes of others.
At the end of the screening, we obviously wonder what is true, what is fiction, and Anna Odell expertly maintains this confusion. The movie may seem confused or weird, sometimes crude and disturbing, sometimes frankly comical. What is certain is that it is impossible to feel indifferent.
I also watched Sunset, by the Hungarian director László Nemes.
In Budapest, in 1913, in the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Irisz is looking for her past. She returns to the hat shop, formerly owned by her late parents. While looking for answers, she uncovers dark secrets, in this troubled time, on the eve of the First World War.
The atmosphere of the movie is mysterious, dark, oppressive. This impression is reinforced by the director’s filming, whose camera is constantly focused in close-up on the protagonist’s face, which reinforces the immersion and the tension of the spectator. The dialogues are few, everything is suggested, half hidden by darkness or blur. Only the face of Irisz emerges.
I really liked this film, but I must admit that I left a bit hungry for more. Everything is so just suggested, that we do not always understand what is happening. But beyond that, the film is very beautiful, the costumes are well represented and the story is interesting.
Doubles vies, Olivier Asayas
There were very few French movies at the IFFR, but I still managed to go see one.
Doubles vies tells the story of Alain (Guillaume Canet), a publisher that tries to adapt to the renewal of the sector, with the arrival of e-books and other audiobooks and his wife, Selena (Juliette Binoche), actress in a tv show. It is also the story of Leonard, an author a bit pathetic, published by Alain and the controversy surrounding his new book. Double vies is a storie of infidelity and renewal (professional and personal).
The characters in this comedy drama are sometimes funny and sweet, sometimes really insufferable. It’s a typical french movie, with many scenes in Parisian brasseries or around a meal, with characters and discussions a bit brainy, but I found the reflection about the publishing world very interesting. On the other hand, if I really liked the performance of Nora Hamzawi (who plays Valérie, Léonard’s girlfriend), I found that Christa Theret (who plays Laure, Alain’s collaborator) quite mediocre, because her lines are too “elaborated”, giving unnatural airs to her performance.
Closing Night – The Hummingbird Project
Finally, I saw a fourth film at the closing night, The Hummingbird Project, directed by Kim Nguyen.
Jesse Eisenberg interprets Vincent, who has the crazy project of passing a fiber optic cable from Kansas City to New York, 1600km, in a perfectly straight line, to transmit financial information a millisecond faster than the others, giving a definite advantage in the market. For this, he is helped by his cousin Anton. Nevertheless, their former boss is determined to put a spoke in their wheels.
Beyond the thriller, this film is first and foremost a reflection on time, which we seek to save by always going faster, and what we do with it.
After the film, silent disco party until the end of the night at the Doelen! For those who do not know the silent disco, the principle is that each participant wears a headset and can switch between 3 different channels and put the music he wants. It also means that when you take off your headphones, you do not hear the music, but the others singing out of tone, histerical laughter guaranteed!
I just LOVED this festival! If I had had more time and money, I would have watched way more films, and I would have attended conferences. But I was able to discover movies and directors that I did not know, works that made me all think and learn something.
I really liked the atmosphere of the festival, very popular, not this glamorous image of the red carpet in Cannes, but on the contrary, a simplicity, and the will to discover works different from what we are used to see.
Definitely, I will come back next year, and I would even like to be a volunteer, to see behind the scenes of this huge machine that is the IFFR!
In any case, the International Film Festival Rotterdam has found a new follower this year!
And you, have you already participated in the IFFR? Or at another film festival? Did this article make you want to come to Rotterdam for IFFR in 2020?
PS: This year, the Tiger Award was awarded to Chinese director Zhu Schengze, for her film Present.Perfect.