50th edition of the IFFR! Huge film festival with an amazing history!
Ok, to start, let’s be honest. Make a film festival come true in such a difficult period not only for culture but basically for any of us is an incredible challenge. Of course, it had to be in a digital format, since in the Netherlands, like in most countries worldwide, theatres and other venues are closed.
But beyond that, IFFR organization took the challenge to divide the festival in two separate parts, the first one in February and the other one is coming next June. Maybe a hope that we all will be able to join physically at any of the usual festival venues in Rotterdam. Fingers crossed and let’s hope it will indeed happen.
By these few lines, after assisting the festival from my couch, only 500m from the IFFR head office, I don’t intend to make any film critic, but more to give my vision of the 50th IFFR edition and how I lived it. Just to contextualize, I’m from Portugal, actually living in Rotterdam, where I worked for close to 10 years as a freelancer in Film and TV industry and founded and produced myself a film festival. Far from having an experience with such a major festival, the creation of a small one, allows me to know how difficult it is, in a normal period to organize such an event, so even more with a pandemic going on.
After assisting to last year’s edition physically, I must confess my expectations for this year were really high, mostly imagining the hard conditions needed to make it real. Just the fact to go ahead with this edition and make it happen deserves our respect and consideration. Audience and mostly filmmakers deserve it.
In general, it seemed to me, besides the lack of physical contact, all the concept and format of this online edition was great. Not much to say other than congratulations. Must also be highlighted that most Q&A, press conferences, and Big Talks were made possible on a live streaming format. However, and as it was absolutely normal to expect, there were in my opinion some fails, not only technical (not that much that I’ve seen) but mostly a matter of rights regarding the streaming of films online for such a broad international audience.
As a film professional with an industry badge, I was expecting to be able to watch all the movies in the official sections in competition. Unfortunately, it was not the case, starting from the opening film, RIDERS OF JUSTICE. I understand how difficult it can be, in this case for a distributor, not to make a non-released film in theatres available for an online audience, independently of the country where it is being watched. But isn’t it in the interest of the filmmakers that their film is seen by a broader audience, knowing it is for a limited period of time? Mostly considering that in this audience there can be regional buyers or festival programmers? As the opening film, I could mention a few more I was really expecting to watch such as FIRST COW or THE LAST FARMER. Independently of the several reasons why these and other films were not available to watch online, I think geo-blocking is a question, that as film and TV industry professionals, need to be discussed for better and safe promotion of independent filmmakers worldwide. After all, isn’t the aim of a film festival to encourage and stimulate young filmmakers taking into consideration the new platforms and online technologies available?
These limitations that really bothered me put on the table, I just would like to mention some of the films that I mostly found captivating. I will not write any review nor say much about them, just giving the titles linking to the trailers or any kind of content from the film, hoping most of them will be soon or later available in your countries to be watched, preferably in the big screen of a theatre. Here are some of my favorite ones:
- Archipel by Félix Dufour-Laperrière (Canada)
- Aurora by Paz Fábrega (Costa Rica)
- Bipolar by Queena Li (China)
- Friends and Strangers by James Vaughan (Australia)
- I Comete − A Corsican Summer by Pascal Tagnati (France)
- Mitra by Kaweh Modiri (Netherlands)
- Suzanna Andler by Benoît Jacquot (France)
And the short:
- Tracing Utopia by Catarina de Sousa and Nick Tyson (Portugal)
Now, I’m eagerly waiting for the second part of this memorable 50th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, keeping a slight hope that we will be able to gather all again around a drink and a nice film talk.
In the meantime, I want once again to congratulate the IFFR organization for making this major film festival real.