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HEARTOF THETIGER photo: Bram Belloni

43rd International Film Festival Rotterdam #10 Saturday 1 February 2014

Programmer Edwin Carels (right) points out details of the POST SCRIPT exhibition in De Gouvernestraat – installations ‘haunted’ by art-house classics . The installations can still be visited today.

Signals: Regained

Programmed for pleasure The cinephiles who wandered through the Signals: Regained section of this year’s IFFR hoping to recapture cinema history might find out there’s more to discover than they bargained for – a disconcerting feeling, at first, perhaps, but a necessary starting point for a deeper and wider understanding. By Irina Trocan

As Regained aptly presents it, the history of cinema is more than the history of film narratives (which makes their material support seem irrelevant) or of ‘name’ directors and film artists who should be revered unquestioningly. From this perspective, Hynek Pallas’ and Jane Magnusson’s documentary Trespassing Bergman, which gives the spectators privileged access to Ingmar Bergman’s intimate space, is no more and no less important than a work of more ‘peripheral’ interest: Keith Sanborn’s The Gillian Hills Trilogy (shown as part of the Post Script exhibition), which focuses on a little-known actress who appears in Antonioni’s Blow Up, Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and Edmond T. Gréville’s Beat Girl. (It is the latter and lesser-known film that shows a more complex expression of her sexuality, and Sanborn’s re-edit of Gréville’s material takes central place in the installation, aiming to build up Gillian Hills as the racy film star she had the full potential of being. Sanborn’s effort emphasizes the barely disguised and highly magnetic eroticism that is often present in respectable art film, but rarely at their moral core.) POST SCRIPT

Regained is curated by IFFR programmer Edwin Carels, who is particularly enthusiastic with the eclecticism of the POST SCRIPT installations. United by the fact that they are ‘haunted’ by art-house classics, the installations belong to well-known artists like underground director Mark Rappaport (present with the photomontage ‘Mon beau souci’) as well as to passionate film school students in their early twenties. “But it’s all new work,” Carels stresses, “and it’s


all on the same level.” Entering the vestibule of the De Gouvernestraat exhibition, the visitor is surprised to see a portion of the wall covered with bits and pieces of movie posters which lose their tried-and-true effectiveness when taken out of context: Belgian artist Jelena Vanoverbeek’s ‘Wide. Love. Resist. Beautiful. Seduction. Violence. Your. Game.’ draws attention to iconic postures and catchy designs and phrases of classic film posters; it’s the graphic equivalent of, say, a bombastic trailer voice-over running over a trailer with no sound effects and no CGI. Film fascination

Also promoted as part of Signals: Regained is a collection of books available at the Print Room (Schietbaanstraat 17) with images that are slightly macabre, but endlessly fascinating. Steven Jacobs’ and Lisa Colpaert’s ‘The Dark Galleries. A Museum Guide to Painted Portraits in Film Noir, Gothic Melodramas, and Ghost Stories of the 1940s and 1950s’ presents an alternative iconography to Hollywood classics of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Thoroughly researched, it brings together a wide collection of portraits which were featured in the films of dark-minded directors such as Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo); Fritz Lang (Scarlet Street, The Woman in the Window); Otto Preminger (Laura); Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Dragonwyck, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir); Jacques Tourneur (Experiment Perilous) and Edgar Ulmer (Bluebeard). The authors of the book group these portraits together in various imaginary exhibitions which correspond to the recurrent obsessions in the films themselves – since noirs and gothic melodramas are probably the most sombre genres Hollywood ever got away with. There is ‘The Gallery of Dying Portraits’. ‘The Gallery of Patriarchs’. ‘The Gallery of Matriarchs and Female Ancestors’; ‘of Ghosts’; ‘of Fatal Portraits’. What’s discreetly innovative about this guide through Hollywood classics is that it redirects attention from the stars (all films had ‘name’ actors of Hollywood studios) to the paintings themselves, which are now the protagonists – despite the fact that most of them were painted by anonymous artists.


The authors of the works in Regained are generally self-effacing, leading spectators’ attention to the subjects of their films or installations. Nevertheless, the works are intelligently stylized – like Aïda Ruilova’s extended Abel Ferrara interview Head and Hands: My Dark Angel, which basically becomes a documentary of the director’s mannerisms, while letting the viewers illustrate for themselves Ferrara’s meandering anecdotes. The mise-en-scene suffers very few alterations throughout the 45 minutes of the film, not to distract us from the process of searching through his memory; at one point the director says that Jack Palance is his favorite actor, and it’s easy to spot their affinities – he looks and acts like him throughout. Sitting at a desk with a black, polished surface that mirrors his gestures, Ferrara makes a show of reliving his anecdotes about Pasolini while the writer Alissa Bennett takes a seat by his side, looking poised and innocent but asking provocative questions and having quick (and generally positive) reactions to Ferrara’s most controversial statements. Assembly

Edwin Carels says that, for him, this programme depends a lot on how the films are put together. Tessa Louise-Salomé’s Mr. X, depicting Leos Carax as an excluded genius of French cinema, functions well as an introduction to another documentary – Paul Duane & David Cairns’ cinematically rich Natan, about a film industry innovator from the Pathé studio who has been unjustly taken out from the pages of history for not being ‘part of the club’ (it would be unimaginable for a suspected Romanian Jew to make French film history). The other assembly that Carels is particularly proud about is grouping James Franco’s slightly-insecure Interior. Leather Bar with the much more genuinely eccentric Tiger Morse by Andy Warhol. “And it’s a European premiere, even if it was made in 1967. I must admit I programmed it so I can watch it myself.”

international film festival rotterdam

Rewarding diversity At the Awards Ceremony last night, IFFR interim artistic director Mart Dominicus praised the quality of this year’s Hivos Tiger Awards Competition: “I believe the Tiger Awards Competition was particularly successful this year. The diversity of the fifteen competing films was unprecedented. They covered the whole spectrum: from understated humour to intense drama; from heart-rending to heart-warming; from hyper-personal to universal; from historical to highly current.” The three equal Tiger Awards (with a cash prize of €15,000 for the filmmaker) were awarded to Anatomy of a Paper Clip by Ikeda Akira (Japan, 2013); Something Must Break by Ester Martin Bergsmark (Sweden, 2014) and Han Gong-Ju by Lee Su-Jin (South Korea, 2013). Of Ikeda Akira’s film, the jury said: “Challenging narrative form with precision and economy, this film elevates observations of the absurd in human behaviour, and brings it into the poetic domain.” Ester Martin Bergsmark’s film, the jury described as “A free-floating personal voyage traces the pains and pleasures of intimacy, recounted in a tender depiction of characters, with a sincere and playful use of cinematographic language.” The jury described Lee Su-Jin’s winning Tiger entry as: “A skilfully crafted and highly accomplished debut – deviating from classicist structure, this film lures the spectator to participate in the pleasures of storytelling through an extraordinary and intricate narrative puzzle.” The Big Screen Award, given for the second time this year, was awarded to Another Year by Oxana Bychkova (Russia, 2014). The NETPAC Award 2014 (for the best Asian film at IFFR) went to Prasanna Jayakody’s 28 (Sri Lanka, 2014). The Rotterdam FIPRESCI (International Association of Film Critics) Award 2014 is for The Songs of Rice by Uruphong Raksasad (Thailand, 2014). The winner of the KNF (Association of Dutch Film Critics) Award 2014 is To Kill a Man by Alejandro Fernández Almendras (Chile/France, 2013), and this year’s MovieZone (youth jury) Award goes to Jacky au royaume des filles ( Jacky in the Kingdom of Women) by Riad Sattouf (France, 2014).

photo: Bram Belloni

Continuity management Artistic director Rutger Wolfson may have fallen ill, but IFFR 2014 has been ably shepherded to success by interim artistic director Mart Dominicus. The man who “jumped aboard a moving train” speaks about his time at the helm. By Laya Maheshwari

It was a huge setback when Rutger Wolfson had to be hospitalized for recovery from autoimmune disease, but the festival was not left orphaned. The 43rd edition of IFFR would not have been such a grand success had it not been for Mart Dominicus, who “jumped aboard a moving train” and has some great memories of his time heading the festival this year. Asked how he would describe his experience as the interim artistic director, Dominicus describes it as, “Adventurous, difficult and hard” – but with a laugh. “But it was also very rewarding. […] It’s a huge festival and a huge organisation. It’s quite difficult to get control of. I was not under the illusion I could control it completely, but I was striving to at least control the nucleus of the festival. I have the impression that I managed it, but it was hard work. […] In the beginning it was quite a shock.” Family of cinema

Rotterdam is such a vast festival, with dozens of things going on at the same time. Surely it must be

a challenge to organize the various facets of the festival while retaining the festival’s identity? Dominicus asserts: “Our identity is the same: this broad spectrum of several things. So we have huge audience-pleasers, so to speak, but also very tough avant-garde elements. The combination of these is what we are striving for. The broad programme we offer represents our philosophy. All these films belong to the same family: the family of cinema. And on each level, we try to have high quality. So, we are offering a lot; we are ensuring we offer many different things, and that there’s a connection between them.” Takeaway

Now the festival is drawing to an end, what will Dominicus remember the most? Out of the many potential answers, he chooses: “The State of Europe section, of course, will be my biggest takeaway. I hope the festival has succeeded in one of its goals to continue the debate on Europe and prolong and maybe renew the quality of the discussion.” This is not the only thing,

however. He continues, “I personally hope that the oeuvre of Nils Malmros, the Danish filmmaker, will be more well-known now. I didn’t know him. I had only heard of him. For me, it was really a surprise to discover his films. In the past, I have seen just one film by him but he is quite well-known and I like it if the festival of Rotterdam can bring such an important filmmaker into the spotlight.” Tradition

Justifying this approach as being in line with the festival’s past, Dominicus delves into history to explain, ”And we have a long tradition of discoveries from these kinds of filmmakers. Twenty to twentyfive years ago, we discovered Miike Takashi in more or less the same way. Several guys discovered Takashi in Rotterdam. Maybe the same now goes for Malmros. He deserves it, in my opinion.” Having seen my first Malmros film at IFFR this year (Tree of Knowledge), and liked it a lot, I think Dominicus may be onto something.

IFFR is not only dedicated to supporting the next breed of filmmakers. Michael Pattison reports In addition to the Hubert Bals Fund, CineMart and IFFR’s various other projects to stimulate up-andcoming film talent, each year a number of young film critics are selected from an international pool of applicants to take part in IFFR’s Young Trainee Critics Project. Catching up with recent graduates from the scheme gives a good indication of benefits reaped. Jutta Sarhimaa, from Finland, took part in last year’s Young Trainee Critics Project. At the time, she had recently completed a master’s degree from Helsinki University and the only overseas festival she had attended prior to IFFR 2013 had been the Berlinale. At the time of writing, she is attending Gothenburg Film Festival, following a brief return to this year’s IFFR. For Sarhimaa, the experience was very intense. “We were in a constant hurry to see more films and we were asked to update our Young Film Critic blogs every day. We attended FIPRESCI jury meetings and tried to see all 24 nominated films.” Italian Giovanni Vimercati, who took part in the 2012 Trainee Project, agrees. “[It was] very intense. My priority when at festivals is to meet people, not to write – I do that once I’m back home. Film critics especially need more human interaction and festivals are a great opportunity for that.” Vimercati notes that much of his professional progress is down to participation in the Trainee Project. “Back then, writing about films earned me enough money to cover 6 months of toilet paper supplies – today we’re talking about almost 12

months, so I guess things have progressed considerably thanks to the IFFR Trainee Project.” Kiva Reardon, from Canada, took part last year. “At that point I was writing full time and the biggest publication I’d written for was Cinema Scope. Because of IFFR, I ended up writing for the National Post, a national Canadian paper, which I’d never done before.” Networking is key to progressing into the film industry. A structured way of meeting contacts is an important aim of the Trainee Project. Aaron Cutler, of the USA, took part in the scheme in 2012. “I made contacts with editors, film distributors, producers and filmmakers, several of whom I am proud to still know and deal with.” Of course, sustaining professional relationships in such an industry has its equally rewarding ‘grey areas’. Says Cutler, “How professional the relationships are I can’t say; it’s sometimes hard for me to tell whether I’m doing something related to cinema because I enjoy it, might get paid for it, both, neither, or for some other reason.” Indeed, the strength of a trainee initiative like IFFR’s is the paid work resulting directly from it. Reardon says, “I met several critics and editors, which led to writing for new publications. Thanks to IFFR I feel part of an international community of young critics.” In addition, Reardon has since become the founding editor of cléo, a film journal informed by feminist perspectives, whose readership and list of contributors has been boosted because of the network she consolidated at IFFR. “Having an international roster of contacts has helped grow the journal quickly, as it’s shared and read worldwide and we get pitches from writers living outside of Canada.” Of course, IFFR’s Trainee Project is now sufficiently established that selection alone is something of a confidence boost. Says Sarhimaa, “Finland is a small country and we don’t have that many positions for

photo: Nichon Glerum

Critical success

Kiva Reardon (second right) and Jutta Sarhimaa (centre) with the other IFFR Young Trainee Critics 2013

film-related journalists. I got the feeling that by being selected for Rotterdam’s exclusive program, I proved to many at home that I could do this.” Reardon agrees. “I think the biggest contribution was the recognition that came from being selected for the programme. It’s prestigious and when you’re starting out it helps to have that kind of recognition – both professionally and in terms of encouragement to continue in an unstable field!” The experience has enabled Cutler to broaden his reach beyond mere criticism. “My hope is to be always evolving. I would also be horrified with myself if I were ever a full-time critic, because to me that would mean that I wouldn’t give time to anything aside from criticism.”

international film festival rotterdam

As Cutler goes onto note, “Ours is by nature a parasitical art, and it dies without life to feed on.” Vimercati, for whom attending festivals is primarily about meeting people, echoes this sentiment: “The very fact of being in Rotterdam allowed me to meet people. And meeting people is always good, also for professional reasons, though that shouldn’t be the only reason why one wants to meet people...” Indeed, festivals are social events attended by likeminded people brought together through shared passions. And that’s the case if you’re attending as a filmmaker looking for funding at CineMart, a programmer scouting the next Hubert Bals Fund discovery, or a young trainee critic.


Daily Tiger #10 (English)  

The daily newspaper of the 43rd edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam, from 22 January to 2 February 2014.

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