International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019: Movies, schedule, highlights — all you need to know

Sucheta Chakraborty

Jan 25, 2019 11:48:33 IST

The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), the first major event on the annual film festival calendar known particularly for its focus on experimental and independent cinema, kicked off its 48th edition on 23 January, 2019 with the world premiere of Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak’s Dirty God.

The film, which is Polak’s third feature and first English-language venture, is the story of a young mother who suffers a violent acid attack and features a powerful lead performance by newcomer and real-life burn survivor Vicky Knight. The film screens under the Voices section, one of the festival’s four main segments.

 International Film Festival Rotterdam 2019: Movies, schedule, highlights — all you need to know

Sacha Polak’s Dirty God will be the opening film at IFFR 2019. Image from Facebook.

While Voices includes narrative features and films with distinct themes, characters and stories that audiences can connect to, Bright Future, centred around the idea of discovery, showcases the works of emerging filmmakers who bring fresh approaches and views and present their first or second films. The Bright Future section is also the home of the festival’s main competition – the Tiger Competition ­– where 8 films vie for the prestigious Tiger Award worth €40,000. Films like the political thriller Sons of Denmark by first-time feature director Ulaa Salim and Ena Sendijarević’s road movie Take Me Somewhere Nice will compete in this section. The Ammodo Tiger Short Competition focusing on experimental, inventive cinema and featuring 24 short films also belongs to the Bright Future section.

Of the 8 films selected for the Big Screen Competition, whose winner is guaranteed a theatrical release in the Netherlands and an award of €30,000, are the human drama The Best of Dorien B and the documentary Hail Satan? on the activist group known as The Satanic Temple.

The section Deep Focus with its emphasis on the medium itself looks at cinema’s history and the ways in which art and cinema converge. It draws attention to the signature styles of and new works by established filmmakers and includes retrospectives, compilations, restored classics and art installations. This edition of Deep Focus includes works like I diari di Angela which is a compilation of the illustrated diaries and video reports of artist Ricci Lucchi, and Ziva Postec which tells the story of the eponymous editor of the monumental Holocaust documentary Shoah and looks especially at the period in which she worked on the film with director Claude Lanzmann.

Finally, Perspectives brings together themed programmes and films focused on highlighting relevant social and political issues of the day. Misho Antadze’s The Harvest, which explores the increasingly blurred relationship between the natural and the virtual in a country like Georgia, belongs to this section.

Soul in the Eye, a programme which looks at the key works and contributions of Brazilian actor, producer, filmmaker and film activist Zózimo Bulbul and simultaneously at an emerging generation of black Brazilian filmmakers who have drawn from Bulbul’s legacy, is one among the many highlights of this year’s edition. Along with a selection of Bulbul’s films, the programme will show works by contemporary directors like André Novais Oliveira.

Yet another of IFFR 2019’s programmes is the compelling Rotterdämmerung, a selection which brings together films which experiment with the limits and possibilities of genre. Zhang Yimou’s Shadow and Elizabeth Sankey’s documentary film debut Romantic Comedy, which will have its world premiere at the festival, are part of this programme. With its aim of celebrating the scope of the visual image in all its forms, IFFR will also present Art Directions, an extensive arts programme running alongside the main film programme and comprising installations, performances and exhibitions.

Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project will be the closing film of IFFR 2019.

This year’s edition will also host a number of talks and masterclasses by important figures from the filmmaking world like Carlos Reygadas, Agnieszka Holland, Philippe Parreno, Claire Denis, Fabrice Aragno and Jia Zhangke. Polish director Agnieszka Holland will be delivering the Freedom Lecture, an event organised by the organisation De Balie along with IFFR, on the state of art and politics in Europe. French auteur Claire Denis, whose latest feature High Life is screening at the festival, will reflect on her career while sixth generation Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke will talk about his methods and pay particular attention to his recent Ash is Purest White which too will be shown at the festival.

IFFR also promotes and supports filmmakers through various initiatives like the Hubert Bals Fund which helps talented filmmakers to complete their projects, and CineMart, the international co-production market, which allows filmmakers to present their ideas to film professionals and find ways to get them financed. Sixteen feature films which were helped by these initiatives, and which include Ali Jaberansari’s tragicomedy Tehran: City of Love and Soudade Kaadan’s The Day I Lost My Shadow, will screen at the festival.

Canadian filmmaker Kim Nguyen’s thriller The Hummingbird Project which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival will close the festival.

Updated Date: Jan 25, 2019 11:48:33 IST