The Road To Rotterdam and Berlin: Part 1

The 4 1/2 weeks between now and the end of February is arguably one of the two busiest such spans of the year as far as international film festivals go, with the August-September bunching of Locarno, Edinburgh, Montreal, Venice, Telluride, Toronto and New York being the other. It’s also a chance for me to get out of New York in the dead of winter and wander a bit across Northern Europe, connect with friends I don’t see very often and catch up on some exceptional cinema.

Sundance and Slamdance kick off today, the 35th Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR) runs from the 25th of January through February 5th (with their Cinemart co-production market running from 1/29-2/2), Göteborg runs from January 26th through February 6th and Budapest is the place to be for the 37th Hungarian Film Week from February 1st through the 7th. If that wasn’t enough, on February 9th the 56th Berlin International Film Festival, or Berlinale, kicks off alongside the European Film Market in its new home, the Martin-Gropius-Bau.
This year, as in each year since 2001, I will be eschewing the sycophants, snow, Sturm und Drang of Sundance and instead making my way to Northern Europe. In fact I will be doing my favorite fest double header and making the scene at both Rotterdam and Berlin. They are among the largest fests of the year and two of my favorite ways to spend 4 weeks. This year will be the 4th (I think) time that I have embarked on this month-long cinematic odyssey and I am anxious to get started.
An Early Marathon Remembered
The year was 2000 and the pre-9/11 world was a much different place. After seven straight years at Sundance, 5 of them with my indieWIRE partners in crime, the publication had grown in scope and it was decided that it was time for us to broaden our international coverage and that I, along with a stable of freelancers were the folks to launch iW’s in-depth coverage of the European festival scene. Over the course of a month, a fantastic stable of freelancers and I provided a feature and a review each day for a total of 40 feature-length articles from the IFFR and Berlinale. Now THAT was insane and I got sick as a dog as soon as the Berlinale ended, but I don’t regret it for a minute. You can read these articles by going to the following two indieWIRE sections and choosing from the drop-down Monthly Archives menu:
One The Scene (January and February)
Movies (February and March)
In the course of 4 weeks I was immersed in the world of European film and was able to introduce indieWIRE to the continent. I learned more about sales agents and national film commissions and met wonderful people like Lucius “He Who Knows Everyone” Barre, the multi-talented and musically omnicient Helen Loveridge, and many others, some of whom became very dear friends.

Back In The Rotterdam Groove

The IFFR has long been known for original and imaginative programming choices and has one of the most educated and involved audiences in the world, eager to soak in the hundreds of films being screened over the 10-day event. This year’s fest will screen 92 feature-length premieres, including 53 world, 19 International and 20 European bows, among its offerings and films are divided into several categories, including the prestigious VPRO Tiger Awards competition in which three winner (out of 14 competition films) each come away with €10,000 and Dutch television screening on public network VPRO. There will be more on these films posted soon.
pathe-rotterdam.jpgYou’ll have to check out the IFFR’s official site to really get a feel for the films and sections in the fest. It’s far too huge an event to put into one blog post. Suffice to say that there are films you’ll see in Rotterdam that you’ll be hard pressed to see on screens of this caliber. The main screening venue, the Pathé cinemas are among the best festival screening venues in the world and they are packed with fervent and knowledgeable cinephiles. And then there’s Chocomel. Because after all, who loves the chocolate? Everyone loves the chocolate!
Some of the things on offer at this year’s IFFR include tributes to the London-based, New York born avante garde filmmaker Stephen Dwoskin who will be world premiering his latest film, Oblivion and the often provocative Japanese filmmaker Nagasaki Shunichi, who will be on hand to present Heart, Beating in the Dark (2005), a re-make/sequel to his 1982 8mm film of the same title, also screening at the festival.
This year the IFFR is also presenting a section on drugs in cinema, entitled White Light (after the Velvet Underground song, White Light, White Heat) in which my friend Mike Tully‘s debut feature Cocaine Angel (official site) is world premiering. Go Mike!
There will be many more films and events to blog about and I know I’ve been remiss, but I promise a steady stream of posts, podcasts and pix from both the IFFR and the Berlinale. Really. I swear. Cross my heart!

Logos, L to R: Rotterdam International Film Festival © IFFR, Berlin International Film Festival © Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin
Photos top to bottom, L to R: Pathé Cinemas, Rotterdam by Mark Rabinowitz ©GreenCine LLC, Tom McSorely & Eddie Cockerell, Tom M. & Jack Vermee, Marc Papanastasiou and Paul Byrnes, all ©2002-4, Mark Rabinowitz

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