16 April 2024

A quick start guide for the 51st International Film Festival Rotterdam

We are just a few days before the 51st International Film Festival Rotterdam knocks on our screen. IFFR 2022 (26th January-6th February) goes digital for the second year in a row, but we don’t spoil our enthusiasm for the coming 10 days. Because the line-up for the two Big Competitions (Tiger and Big Screen) seems to be according to the festival’s principle: discovering and celebrating the “innovative and adventurous spirit of up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the world.” Now, the greatest part about film festivals that build the screening program with a keen eye on new filmmaking is that of the honestly fresh feeling a screening can provide. That also means that there are no must-watch as there are no benchmarks and no targeted expectations. Nevertheless, there are always ways to move around a program of dozens, and following is a start.

A Criança, by Marguerite de Hillerin, Félix Dutilloy-Liégeois (Portugal), Tiger Competition

In the middle of the 16th century, near Lisbon, an adopted young man called Bela tries to find his place in a family that is free but trapped in a world where each shadow allows defects to shine through. This film is a free adaptation of “Der Findling”, a story by Heinrich von Kleist. And it is already figuring on MUBI.

Excess Will Save Us, by Morgane Dziurla-Petit (Sweden), Tiger Competition

The debut feature film of the (so far short) filmmaker Dziurla-Petit follows the story of her titular (short) film documentary based on a small village in the North of France. The synopsis reads, “An attack alert has been set off due to the combination of two events: the beginning of the hunting season and an argument between drunk Polish workers.”

Broadway, by Christos Massalas (Greece/France/Romania), Big Screen Competition

The second (and last) debut feature film of this list is written and directed by Christos Massalas, who has been already spotted and awarded by international film festivals (e.g. “Copa-Loca”, screened in Cannes, Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, to name a few). The film was shooted on location in and around Athens, as it tells the story of dancers and thieves in modern-day Athens.

Splendid Isolation, by Urszula Antoniak (The Netherlands), Big Screen Competition

Part of the Big Screen Competition program of the festival, this film is (surprise!) expected to be nothing but poetic and cathartic. Antoniak is a known filmmaker, with 5 feature films in her portfolio, awards from film festivals (e.g. “Nothing Personal”, Best First Feature and the FIPRESCI Prize at Locarno in 2009), and the constant support of Family Affair Films B.V., the Amsterdam based film production company focusing on artistic pictures. This time she delivers an allegorical story about the overwhelming sense of responsibility in loss and death.

My Emptiness and I, by Adrián Silvestre (Spain), Big Screen Competition

Raphi, from France, fantasizes about romances with princes, and about starting a traditional family. But in reality, things aren’t like that. She works in a call center in Barcelona, struggles with at times embarrassing dates, and is diagnosed by her therapist as having gender dysphoria. The director, Adrián Silvestre, is an awarded non-fiction maker and a FIPRESCI winner for 2016 (“The Objects of Love”). The film was supported by the 4th Malaga Work in Progress Awards—a key industry section at Spain’s Malaga Festival.

Eami, by Paz Encina (Paraguay/Germany/Argentina/Netherlands/France/USA), Tiger Competition

Miami’s homeland is invaded by settlers. Embodying Asojá, the bird-god-woman, she falls into a trance in which she walks slowly and stunned through her beloved forest as she prepares to leave it forever. This is not a debut film for Paz Encima; she is already known as the winner of the FIPRESCI Award of the Cannes Film Festival 2016 (“Hamaca Paraguaya”). She is also known for presenting her work in expanded forms, just as art installations displayed in exhibitions. We expect nothing but a poetic aria on deforestation and the eradication of populations.

Third Grade, by Jacques Doillon (France), Big Screen Competition

I know we said let’s keep our focus on the newcomers, but here is an exemption, for the sake of the theme; the endless implications of school bullying. After being constantly bullied at school by her classmate Kevin, 8-year-old Claire discovers that the boy who is giving her a hard time is also suffering and might need her help. It is a film supported by Kinology (the Paris-based company handling Leos Carax’s and Mia Hansen-Love’s next films). According to the chief producer, Gregoire Melin, “‘Third Grade’ is in the same vein as ‘Ponette,’ one of Doillon’s most beautiful films, and it’s intelligent in the way that it shifts perspectives between the girl and the boy who go through things that we have all experienced.”

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