IFFR 07: A Mini Preview

pathe-rotterdam.jpgSince I Arrive in Rotterdam on Saturday for a week of films and filmmakers at one of the most hospitable festivals I travel to each year, I guess I ought to post a little bit about the program. The Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR) is one of the premiere festivals devoted to discovering new talent, especially from areas of the world that might not be thought of as traditional film powerhouses. In concert, CineMart (the IFFR’s annual co-production market) and the Hubert Bals fund (an IFFR initiative that gives “financial support to film projects from developing or southern countries”) are powerful forces in the development of truly international and independent cinema.
I urge those of you who usually skip over the IFFR by going from Sundance to Berlin to, at least once, leave the Wasatch wackos a few days early and make a trip to Rotterdam to check out the IFFR. For 12 days the fest hosts some 3,000 guests and screens 250 features and 425 shorts on 27 screens. I know I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I have been to some 80+ festivals (including repeats) around the world and nowhere have I found an audience as appreciative, enthusiastic and knowledgeable as in Rotterdam. “Obscure” and “experimental” are not the death sentence description for films that they are in many other festivals around the world.

Another wonderful thing about the IFFR is the number of young people attending the fest. Go to the main Pathé cinemas on any given evening during the festival and you’re bound to be surrounded by an audience that exudes electricity, vitality and anticipation. Much like the New York Film Festival…..Riiiiiight. They stream in from Amsterdam, Den Haag and other towns and cities in Holland, genuinely excited to see any one of the 93 premieres of cinema from around the world.
In 2000, my first year covering the IFFR, the filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako was on the Golden Tiger jury and this year he’s back for an “In Focus” tribute, along with filmmaker Johnnie To and visual artist Knut Åsdam. Combined, I’ve seen only one film from these three folks (Sissako’s Bamako, admittedly NOT my favorite film from the 2006 New York Film Festival) but I am excited to check out the rest, if I can.
In my last entry on the IFFR, I mentioned Peter Watkins’ La Commune (Paris, 1871), a 375-minute “documentary reconstruction.” To that I now say “Ha!” as I look upon the description of 540-minute Heremias (Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess) by Philippino director Lay Diaz. Erm…..not quite sure I can make that one.
What I think I can see is Eddie and David Ichioka’s Murch, a documentary about the Oscar-winning sound or picture editor of The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now, among others as well as a few films I’ve missed to date, including: Horatio Hornblower’s Awesome! I Fuckin’ Shot That! and Barbara Kopple’s Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing. And you know what? I’m going to see Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host again. Any bets on whether or not I’ll be stoned?
Of course, this doesn’t include Exploding Cinema, Music Please!, Rotterdämmerung, Cinema regained, Seatless Cinema, What (is) Cinema, and several other sections of the fest!
See you at the Pathé!

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