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DAILY TIGER

NEDERLANDSE EDITIE Z.O.Z

38TH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM #4 SUNDAY 25 JANUARY 2009

photo: Bram Belloni

Writer/director Alexis Dos Santos and actor Michiel Huisman discuss Unmade Beds, a story about a group of immigrants looking for love and family in contemporary London. Dos Santos joked before the screening that he was scared to do the Super Q&A because the sold-out crowd in Pathé 1 was so large. He overcame his fear, however, and the pair talked about how seeing the film on the huge screen made them re-live moments from the shoot, such as when Huisman wrote a song for the final scene between takes. Dos Santos returns to Rotterdam with the European premiere of his second feature after coming to the festival with his debut feature Glue in 2006.

Lean Machine Preparing for today’s launch, CineMart head Marit van den Elshout talks to Nick Cunningham about this year’s line-up

“It was essential that we had a very strong selection this year,” stresses CineMart chief Marit van den Elshout, ahead of a 2009 event that features an altogether leaner line-up of projects than previous years. “We reduced the number of projects because it was getting too big. We reacted to the feedback that we received from the industry and from our advisory board. Now we are placing the emphasis once more on the exclusivity of our market. Making CineMart smaller will help generate more openness. It will be less full-on. People will have more time for each other.”

This year, 36 projects (three fewer than last year) from 31 countries will be pitched to an army of international producers, sales agents and financiers, numbering just shy of 800. The festival selection welcomes back thirteen projects pitched at CineMarts past. These include two Tiger competitors, Edwin’s Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly (Indonesia), pitched at CineMart in 2008, and Armagan Ballantyne’s The Strength of Water (New Zealand/Germany), pitched at CineMart 2002. Nine of the directors pitching at CineMart 2009 have films selected elsewhere in the festival, includ-

Marit van den Elshout

photo: Bram Belloni

ing Peng Tao, whose Floating in Memory competes for Tiger honours. During CineMart, the director will discuss co-production potential for Straw Man (China). Beyond Dutch borders, the evident quality of projects pitched at recent CineMarts is underlined by the selection of more than twenty of these over the past year, at a slew of leading international festivals including Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Toronto and Locarno. Rigorous “We could have easily selected ten more projects this year, but we were rigorous in our choices, which meant that we had to disappoint ourselves, as well

as some of the filmmakers,” Van den Elshout continues. “We had to pass on a lot of projects that we really loved. When selecting projects we must look at the geographical spread, and at the level of the talent. We assessed three very strong projects from Sweden, but to choose them all was impossible, as our target number was 36 projects (the CineMart team eventually opted for Ruben Östlund’s Play). The balance is very important. For example, as well as the Chinese project from Peng Tao, we selected one from another more established Chinese director, Zhang Yuan, Beijing Bastards (1992), pitching Executioner Garden.” Van den Elshout is happy to go along with the widely felt industry assumption that a nod from the CineMart selectors can be taken as a general seal of approval for a project: “I feel that especially now, in these difficult economic times, the selection role that we play for sales and production companies is becoming more and more important,” she stresses. “These companies cannot commit to a lot of projects, and so need to get in early with the ones that they want to target. Quite often, they need a very effective market like CineMart to isolate the best projects.” “To a degree, CineMart is governed by the industry,” she continues. “We get feedback from industry professionals who say that, in its current format, CineMart is very effective. And you can see that they may be right when you see films originally pitched

in Rotterdam premiering in Cannes and Venice. But sometimes, you feel a little blocked from moving forward. We aim to offer a great service and we’re always talking and thinking about how to improve it. But within such a big machine such as Rotterdam, sometimes it is necessary to return to basics before you can progress.” Why DIY Hence the more compact CineMart selection this year, and Van den Elshout’s timely evaluation of newer finance/distribution models and multi-platform story-telling in the 2009 Rotterdam Lab workshop sessions. “I think the ‘Why DIY’ sessions will be very valuable. It’s a completely different way of thinking – to market your project across multi-media platforms. This is a completely different world, and I think that there is enough space and time and openness at Rotterdam to allow producers to get to know this stuff.” This year, four CineMart projects will board the Rotterdam-Berlinale Express, an alliance with the Berlin Co-production Market designed to facilitate co-production activity on high-quality projects. In addition, a separate CineMart wi-fi server has been installed to allow filmmakers to present some of their previous works to potential sales and co-pro partners.


GUEST COLUMN

Independent state Tonino De Bernardi’s new film is about the many ways of being Italian. It’s just a shame its national film industry doesn’t make room for independent-minded directors

My film Pane/Piazza delle Camelie is a work with two or more souls. Shot in Tuscany and the suburbs of Rome, it shuttles between two far-away worlds. We are divided easily in two or more parts in ourselves, not only in Italy. In my film, Carlo and Grazia make bread in their wood-burning oven in the mountains, just like their parents once did. In Rome’s suburbs, young people go about their business. These existences are so different, and yet they belong to the same time in Italy today (inevitably, we are the combination of old and new, and something more). I’m Italian and I know everyone has his or her own image of Italy; in Pane/Piazza delle Camelie I try to explore some of the contradictions of life in the country today; it sets up ancient traditions that are close to or oppose new trends, in the passage of one generation to another (I have dedicated the film to my parents). But the film scene in Italy is far less accommodating. I make so-called independent films (and everyone has his or her own idea of what this means). But my reality as a film director is that it’s impossible for me to find any money to make my cinema in Italy today, because my films don’t earn money. I am not in the system. All my life I’ve been a teacher in a village, and my earnings are from teaching. In parallel, I have always been a filmmaker, but I’ve never looked to the cinema to bring me money. This is my condition of existence: I live apart, but also I don’t wish to be in the centre; in fact I don’t even recognize it. That’s why Rotterdam is so important to me: it’s a window on the world; or a door into a different world. Pane/Piazza delle Camelie Tonino De Bernardi Cinerama 7 Sun 25 Jan 20:00 Zaal De Unie Mon 26 Jan 14:00 Zaal De Unie Thu 29 Jan 14:00

I’ll Be Watching… Belgian director Fien Troch, who is in Rotterdam with her second feature, Unspoken, is most looking forward to seeing two new films: Claire Denis’ 35 Rhums and Alexis Dos Santos’ Unmade Beds. Troch says: “I’m a big admirer of Claire Denis because she has a very personal and authentic way of telling stories, which inspires me a lot. Her films are like poetry. Also, I was with Alexis in the Cinefondation in Paris. I saw his first feature, Glue, there and it was so funny, interesting, emotional, refreshing. 35 Rhums Claire Denis Pathé 4 Tue 27 Jan 19:30 Pathé 1 Thu 29 Jan 18:30 Cinerama 1 Sat 31 Jan 22:00 Unmade Beds Alexis dos Santos Schouwburg Grote Zaal Wed 28 Jan 16:45

Pursuit of happiness Attending IFFR with his latest film Nucingen Haus, prolific Chilean auteur Raúl Ruiz tells Geoffrey Macnab why the best films are made with minimal stress

Many filmmakers spend half a lifetime trying to get a single movie made. Chilean master Raúl Ruiz completed five films last year alone and plans to make at least a further three this year. (“I don’t complain and pictures come,” he says.) Between times, he has also been busy teaching film to Scottish students at Aberdeen University. His latest feature, Nucingen Haus, is screening in IFFR’s Spectrum section. Shot in Chile with a cast led by Jean-Marc Barr and Elsa Zylberstein, it’s a cross between a Gothic melodrama and a freewheeling old Hollywood Bmovie. “My father used to say about women that if you paid too much attention, they went away. Money is like that and films are like that. With films, if you pay attention – if you want to make this film – the film will not be made. If you don’t pay attention at all, nothing will be made. But if you say from time to time, we could do this or do that, it may happen,” the 67-year-old explains of the philosophy that enables him to be quite so prolific. It helps, too, that he respects the “economic logic” underpinning any new project. (Make films which stand at least a chance of recouping their budgets.) Yes, Ruiz ponders, stress exists in filmmaking. “But if you have a small risk, you will have less stress – that is clear.” Yes we can Ruiz adds that he believes filmmaking is good for his health. “In general, to make films is a healthy profession. You walk a lot. It is good for old people.” He has lost count of how many films he has made. “More than 100, of course; less than 120, but I am not sure.” Between movies, Ruiz is often to be found teaching. The best film teachers, he believes, are working directors. They’re not consumed with bitterness about the way their careers have gone awry. One of his recent stints was at the University of Aberdeen. His first advice to students is always the same. “You have to forget about pain, gain and fame. If you can forget about that, you may be able to make film happily. It is important to make a film happily. If you are not happy, the film won’t be happy.” Initially, the students at Aberdeen didn’t seem much interested in what Ruiz had to tell them. Then, he started discussing religion. “I was using religious statements, Protestant statements. I said

Raúl Ruiz

photo: Ruud Jonkers

there is a moment that you have to stop and say it’s enough.” Ruiz quoted words by Martin Luther and Oliver Cromwell. In his formulation, the “great prostitute” was not the Rome of the Popes, but Hollywood. Cinema, he insists, isn’t only entertainment. It has a moral dimension too. The medium can be used to explore human nature in all its complexity. His message to his students was: “if you want to make film, make it. It’s not that different from Obama.”

Projects on the immediate horizon for Ruiz include The Mystery of Lisbon, a soap opera-style drama to be produced by Paulo Branco, and Sacher-Masoch a new film with John Malkovich about masochism. (“Punishment and discipline as a joy,” Ruiz explains.) He is also on post-production on A Closed Book, a Gilbert Adair-scripted thriller starring Tom Conti and Darryl Hannah. Whatever happens to these projects, Ruiz promises he won’t get too flustered. “Panic is one of the principal enemies of film creation.”

Pump up the Volya Rotterdam outfit Volya Films faces up to a challenging time in art house co-production with confidence. Nick Cunningham reports

“Nowhere else do you have this orgy of young filmmakers exploring all different sides and aspects of cinema,” explains committed co-production advocate Denis Vaslin of Rotterdam-based Volya Films. “That’s what makes Rotterdam one of the most unique film festivals in the world.” The production outfit is world premiering two films at the festival this year, Border by Harutyun Khachatryan (screening in Spectrum), for which Volya secured Hubert Bals Fund Plus finance worth €50,000, and On Looking For Faces in the Clouds, Sander Blom’s quasi-scientific investigation into this very particular nephological phenomenon. The film, which also screens in Spectrum, was shot for €65,000 with monies sourced mainly from the Dutch Film Fund and the Rotterdam Film Fund. At CineMart, Vaslin is pitching Kurai Kurai, the first film from experienced Dutch documentarian Marjoleine Boonstra (Bela Bela, 2001), for which he has already raised €450,000 from the Dutch Film Fund. He is hopeful of shooting in Uzbekistan in Autumn 2009 if he manages to conclude co-production deals with Belgium and Germany. Vaslin is also optimistic about “de-frosting” his last Cin-

eMart project, The House of My Father, which is on ice until director and business partner Ineke Smits completes the company’s ambitious The Aviatrix of Kazbek. Volya is also looking to lock, in February 2009, another project for which it has secured Hubert Bals Plus funding, The Wind Journeys by Ciro Guerra, a Colombian film that Vaslin picked up at the Atelier workshop in Cannes. In addition to the HBF Plus Denis Vaslin

38TH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com

photo: Felix Kalkman

monies (€50,000), he has raised €25,000 from the Rotterdam Film Fund and will complete post-production and sound design in Rotterdam in March 2009. “This is good,” Vaslin confides, “but projects from developing countries are becoming more and more difficult to set up. Last year in Cannes, for example, there was a film with nine co-producing countries and eighteen sources of financing, all for a budget of less than one million Euros. It’s becoming more and more like that.” “It is especially difficult with auteur movies in the Netherlands as well,” he continues. “But I have a feeling that we are going in the right direction. Dutch producers have more support from the Dutch Film Fund and now we have an unprecedented four Dutch films in Berlin this year, so we’re doing something right. A huge problem is that the Rotterdam Film Fund is facing a possible budget cut [€3.2 million in 2008 to €2.5 million in 2009, subject to revision]. This is the only regional fund in Holland. I think there should be more regional funds here, like in most other European countries. What’s more the commitment from Dutch broadcasters to auteur movies is not enough. There should be a greater obligation, based on quota systems and budgets, for broadcasters to commit themselves more to auteur films, and to foreignlanguage films as well.”

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CineMart Profile Nameless violence To mark the opening of CineMart today, Edward Lawrenson spoke to British filmmaker Nicola Mills on her CineMart project Greengrass

Attending CineMart with her debut feature Greengrass, Nicola Mills is relaxed about the pitching she’ll have to do. She developed her screenplay at a 2008 Script & Pitch initiative, which culminated in presenting the project to a room full of around 80 producers at the Torino Film Lab. Agreeing her skills here are now battle-hardened, she describes the prospect of pitching Greengrass to Cinemart’s more intimate number of producers as “much nicer.” London-based Mills’ screenplay is a comedy revolving around Maggie McDuff, a 12-year-old girl who concocts a plan to murder her existing family members in the hope of improving her unhappy domestic circumstances. It’s dark material, Mills agrees, but also “very funny and tender.” She says achieving the right tone will be a difficult balancing act, but she wants to challenge the audience’s impulse to judge her young heroine. “There were a number of stories in the newspapers about kids who were killing members of their families,” she says of the inspiration behind Greengrass. “I did some research into why, and generally the conclusion is no one knows. But the tabloid headline would always say something like ‘Pyscho teenage rampage through bosom of unsuspecting family.’” “I wanted to portray a kid who might be capable of murder and bounce responsibility around,” Mills says, “is it her fault, is it her parents’ fault, is it television’s fault? You have to adjust your judgment.” Casting will be crucial, but Mills has experience working with young performers on her prize-winning short The Toughest Girl in the World. She’s yet to cast the adult roles, but confirms she isn’t looking for established talent “The adults can’t be names because the main character is a child, and if you have name actors that will upset the balance.”

Thumbs Up from Brazilian Fund Producer Helvecio Marins Jr of Brazilian production outfit TEIA Filmes confirmed yesterday that his CineMart project Girimunho has picked up funding to the tune of 660,000 Reais (€218,000) from the Brazilian Programa Film em Minas Fund, reports Nick Cunningham.

In 2007, the project received a €10,000 script development grant from the Hubert Bals Fund. TEIA Filmes is no stranger to Rotterdam. Their short film Nacente competed in Tiger Shorts in 2006, while their documentary Acidente and short Trecho were both selected for IFFR 2007. Also, this year Marília Roscha’s Acácio – another TEIA production – screens in Bright Future. “We are six filmmakers who have worked together since 2002,” Marins describes TEIA Filmes. “We use a different kind of experimental language, which is a mix between documentary and fiction.”

Cicala goes forth Cicala Filmworks, the New York-based production outfit behind IFFR’s opening film, The Hungry Ghosts, reveals further details of its upcoming slate to Geoffrey Macnab

The company, run by Stefan Schaefer and Diane Crespo, is planning a Little Miss Sunshinestyle comedy called Forth and Multiply. Sopranos star (and The Hungry Ghosts director) Michael Imperioli is expected to take a central

role in the film, which is about a mother and two daughters at a transitional point in their lives. “It’s about fertility, love and loss,” Crespo (who will co-direct with Schaefer) says. The script is ready. Cicala is aiming to go into preproduction in the spring. This will be the second feature that Crespo and Scheafer have co-directed, after festival hit Arranged (2007), which was about the friendship between two women, one an orthodox Jew and the other a Muslim. HIGHER PLANE Meanwhile, Cicala is looking to extend its working relationship with writer-actor-director Imperioli. “We all had a very good experience (on The Hungry Ghosts). We have a very similar way of thinking about how to produce films,” Crespo said. “I hope and think that we will produce more work together.” Schaefer met Imperioli when they were appearing together in Icelandic film The Higher Force (see page 7 for full story). Like Schaefer and Crespo, Imperioli is from a theatre background. He and his wife Victoria run Studio Dante, a theatre company in New York. Many of the actors in The Hungry Ghosts came from the company. The Cicala founders acknowledged that the popularity of The Sopranos can only be to the longterm benefit of The Hungry Ghosts. “It definitely benefits us more than it detracts,” Crespo says. “It’s an opportunity,” Schaefer agreed. “Sales agents have to see that as a way to drive it (The Hungry Ghosts) into specific markets and look at where The Sopranos has done well. This is in no way a New York mob story, but I think anyone who is a die-hard Sopranos fan would definitely be interested in watching it.” Cicala was set up twelve years ago. Originally specializing in documentary and “client-based” work, the company is increasingly active in the feature film arena. The company recently completed a TV pilot called Late on Late, described as “a hybrid talkshow and variety show.” Cicala is also continuing with documentary projects. For example, Crespo and Schaefer are still at work on a long-gestating film following seven heart-failure patients over the period of their recovery. Shooting began several years ago and the film is now nearing completion.

Stefan Schaefer

photo: Bram Belloni

Binger of Glad Tidings In spite of the current gloomy financial situation, the Binger Filmlab is expanding its horizons, its director Ido Abram tells Nick Cunningham

Binger Filmlab director Ido Abram has reason to feel satisfied right now. As of March 1 2009, the Amsterdambased feature-film development centre will operate as a fully independent entity, following its break with the Amsterdam School of the Arts. Possibly of greater significance is the hike in the 2009-2013 funding that the Binger receives from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science: from €1.1 million to €1.8 million per year. All of the money will now be paid from the Ministry’s Department of Culture. “We are really proud and happy that the Department of Culture is making it possible for an institution like the Binger, based in Amsterdam, to operate for the Dutch and international film industries,” Abram told the Daily Tiger. The extra cash will fund a host of new coaching programmes and initiatives from mid-2009, to complement the existing Binger activities. These will include a long ‘Company’ producer programme, as well as shorter work-

shops for experienced producers. 2010 will see the introduction of a long documentary programme, preceded by short-term doc initiatives in late 2009. In addition, later in the year the Binger will introduce a coaching service for experienced writer/directors, called Coaching on Demand. “The value of the Binger is that we give film professionals and filmmakers the possibility to focus on new projects; to experiment, to try things out and to reach incredible heights artistically,” Abram added. The Binger will play a characteristically prominent role at this year’s IFFR. VPRO Tiger Awards Competition entrant The Strength of Water (Armagan Ballantyne) was further developed during the lab’s Director’s Programme. Also, 2009 CineMart project Gin & Tonic (Alice Bell, Australia) was developed in the current Writers Programme and Binger alumnus Nicola Mills will present her UK project Greengrass during the four-day pitching forum. In addition, the Binger will introduce their current crop of filmmakers to the international film business community attending CineMart, and present a showreel of their work at a cocktail on Monday evening.

38TH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com

Ido Abram 

photo: Bram Belloni

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VPRO Tiger Awards Competition

VPRO Tiger Awards Competition

Community Spirit

No Safe Harbour

Armagan Ballantyne discusses the splendid isolation of shooting her debut film on New Zealand’s Northwest coast. By Wendy Mitchell

Taiwanese Tiger competitor Leon Dai tells Wendy Mitchell about his striking debut, No puedo vivir sin ti

It took seven years of work and 36 hours of travelling for Armagan Ballantyne to become the first New Zealand filmmaker in Rotterdam’s Tiger competition. Her debut feature The Strength of Water began many miles away, on the other side of the world – literally. “[Writer] Briar Grace-Smith and I started this film with a road trip through the west coast of New Zealand. And it’s funny: if you drilled through to the other side of the world from there, you might just end up in Rotterdam,” Ballantyne says. The world premiere at IFFR is also something of a homecoming for Ballantyne, as she and producer Fiona Copland pitched the project at the 2002 CineMart. The film was later developed at the Sundance Labs in Utah and Amsterdam’s Binger Filmlab. “It was interesting to get perspectives from America and Europe on the story, to see what translates universally,” she says of these experiences. The Strength of Water is about 10-year-old Maori twins and their extended family in an isolated coastal town, where a stranger’s visit brings tragedy. Ballantyne doesn’t have Maori heritage, but co-writer Grace-Smith does. “We went to the Maori chiefs in the area and they read the script and loved it, and were really keen for us to shoot it,” Ballantyne remembers. “If they hadn’t embraced it, I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable making it.” Shooting in an area – Hokianga on New Zealand’s northwest coast – with no infrastructure was actually a bonus, she says. “There wasn’t always mobile phone reception, the production office was in the local school and some of the crew stayed with various old ladies from the community. It was actually really

Armagan Ballantyne

photo: Felix Kalkman

valuable, they were so welcoming,” she says. Most of the cast are non-professional actors of Maori heritage. Working with 10-year-olds and teenagers created a special environment on set. “This was serious subject matter, so we really made them feel safe in this environment,” she says. “If I thought it was daunting [directing my first feature], then for the children and teenagers it was 10 times more so. That helped me push aside my own nerves.” The Strength of Water Armagan Ballantyne Pathé 5 Sun 25 Jan 19:15 Pathé 5 Mon 26 Jan 10:30 Cinerama 3 Tue 27 Jan 16:15 * Pathé 5 Wed 28 Jan 13:15 Pathé 5 Sat 31 Jan 13:15 * Press and industry screening

Just when you start to get a handle on the wide international scope of the Tiger competitors, the title of writer/director Leon Dai’s second film No puedo vivir sin ti comes along to throw you off course again. This is a Taiwanese filmmaker making a film set in Taiwan – so why does it have a Spanish title? The expression, which translates to ‘without you I will die,’ is one that the filmmaker heard from a friend who lived in Latin America. “I thought this phrase expressed the spirit of the movie,” Dai says. “Taiwanese men are more conservative and would never express their feelings that explicitly. So I thought this phrase was powerful.” The film itself tells a striking yet simple story – a poor man loses custody of his daughter because of government bureaucracy and he takes desperate measures to get her back. The plot is based on a true story that happened several years ago. “I was interested in how feelings and human relationships can be affected by ‘the system,’” Dai says. “I’ve used something that happens in Taiwan, but it’s something that can happen everywhere.” The performances are naturalistically delivered by non-professional actors. “What’s important is giving them a degree of freedom,” says Dai, who has acted in dozens of films. “We talked in general about the shoot, but as an actor myself what I thought was most important was letting them gain in confidence. In general, I like a very natural way of performing.” With the film set largely in an industrial harbour where the father does odd jobs to survive, the landscape itself was a challenge to shoot. “It was hard for continuity because of the movement of the boats, so we had to become friends with the boat owners,” he says.

The desolate images of the harbour are enhanced by black-and-white cinematography. “I wanted my focus to be the narrative of the story, and the simplest way of ensuring this was to shoot in black and white,” the director explains. No puedo vivir sin ti Leon Dai Pathé 5 Sun 25 Jan 21:45 Pathé 5 Mon 26 Jan 13:15 Cinerama 3 Tue 27 Jan 14:00 * Pathé 4 Wed 28 Jan 10:15 Pathé 4 Sat 31 Jan 13:00 * Press and industry screening

Leon Dai

photo: Daniëlle van Ark

Call waiting

Dodgy geezers

‘Enfant terrible’ Cyrus Frisch tells Geoffrey Macnab about securing Rutger Hauer’s long-awaited return to Dutch cinema

Icelandic director Olaf de Fleur tells Wendy Mitchell about the hot-tub inspiration behind his new film, The Higher Force

Cyrus Frisch’s Dazzle (Oogverblindend), a world premiere in IFFR’s Spectrum section, is being billed as Dutch star Rutger Hauer’s return to filmmaking in the Netherlands after a 29-year absence. Hauer is certainly heard. He “voices” the role of an Argentine doctor, speaking on the phone to an anguished young woman (Georgina Verbaan). “I met him (Hauer) two years ago in Rotterdam,” Frisch recalls of how he first ran into the Dutch actor during the 2007 Rotterdam Film Festival, where his feature Why Didn’t Anyone Tell Me It Would Become This Bad in Afghanistan (shot on a mobile phone) was screening. When he was introduced to Hauer, Frisch jokingly proposed a remake of Paul Verhoeven’s racy 1973 feature, Turkish Delight, with Hauer again starring. “If you know that film, there’s a lot of naked stuff in there. It was an insane idea. The actors are quite a bit older.” A few weeks later, Frisch realized he had a role that

Olaf de Fleur Johannesson has an unusual way to keep his cast and crew happy – nightly hot tub parties. While shooting the dark gangster comedy The Higher Force in his native Iceland, de Fleur made sure shooting days wrapped by 5 pm so his team could bond over a swim or soak at Reykjavik’s popular public pools. “It loosens you up, we would come up with new ideas sitting in the hot tubs,” the director/ co-writer says. De Fleur was shooting The Higher Force while editing his last film, documentary/fiction hybrid The Amazing Truth About Queen Raquela, the story of a Filipino transsexual. That project won the Teddy award at the 2008 Berlinale. The Higher Force, an international premiere in Spectrum, was obviously a very different kind of project. “This was a much more orthodox film,” he says. The film also has a sharp funny streak. As producer, co-writer and actor Stefan Schaefer notes: “There is something inherently funny about a mobster film set in Iceland; a place where there really isn’t any crime.” The plot follows a poet/loan shark who thinks his landlord could be a Mafiosi kingpin. The filmmakers even recruited Sopranos star Michael Imperioli (whose directorial debut The Hungry Ghosts received its world premiere at IFFR) to play a Mafia boss. Schaefer had worked on another film with Sopranos casting director Sheila Jaffe, and she sent the script to Imperioli. He was so enthusiastic about the project he also came on board as executive producer. “Before he came, we were worried: ‘Do we get him a trailer?’, de Fleur remembers. The trailer fell through, but that wasn’t a problem for the down-toearth actor. “He is a very genuine guy. It’s great for me personally to work with someone like him,” the director says. The film (budget approx. € 770,000) was backed

Hauer could play for real. The actor immediately agreed to the director’s proposal. Georgina Verbaan and Hauer didn’t work directly together. Instead, Hauer was sent a sound recording of the actress’s performance. “We had a strange way of working and communicating, but it was very practical and worked very well.” Like Noud Heerkens’ Last Conversation (another Dutch world premiere at IFFR), Dazzle hinges on a single phone call. The director contends that Verbaan – a former soap opera star – ranks alongside Carice Van Houten as one of the best Dutch actresses of her generation. She threw herself into her role as the troubled young woman. Frisch, often called the ‘enfant terrible’ of Dutch cinema, first conceived Dazzle 15 years ago. It has been billed as the story of a passionate love between “a man and a woman who long for a more beautiful world to live in,” but Frisch suggests the themes are more profound than that. “All my films are in essence trying to solve the question of how we should cope with the suffering of other people… or with the stream of information about the suffering of others,” the director muses. “This film is very explicitly about this theme.” Many of Frisch’s previous films have screened in Rotterdam. The director has a close relationship with the festival. “I know Rotterdam very well. I have the feeling that I owe Rotterdam something and they owe me something,” he says. “I am very loyal to Rotterdam.” Dazzle / Oogverblindend Cyrus Frisch

Cyrus Frisch

photo: Felix Kalkman

Cinerama 7 Sun 25 Jan 14:45 Pathé 2 Fri 30 Jan 19.30

38TH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com

The Higher Force

by the Icelandic Film Centre, and New York-based Visit Films has now come on board for sales. The prolific de Fleur now has several scripts in development though his own Poppoli Pictures production company, including an Icelandic romantic comedy and an international spy thriller. He’s also ready to expand his horizons, pitching a dark comedy pilot to American TV and hoping to work more in Europe, the US or Asia. “I’m actively looking to be a gun for hire; I’d love to work with other people,” he says. THE Higher Force Olaf de Fleur Cinerama 2 Sun 25 Jan 22:30 * Pathé 6 Wed 28 Jan 10:45 Pathé 4 Fri 30 Jan 21:30 * Press & Industry screening

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The Farm Hand

Life Through a Lens In his documentary debut, Igor Mayboroda pays due credit to Tarkovsky’s cinematographer, Georgi Rerberg. By Edward Lawrenson

Tiger competitor Agrarian Utopia portrays a time of change in his rural Thailand, Uruphong Raksasad tells Wendy Mitchell

As a farmer’s son, Uruphong Raksasad returns to his roots – literally – with his second feature, Agrarian Utopia. The project follows two rice-farming families in Chiang Rai, northern Thailand, the director’s hometown. “It’s what I was born into and grew up with, and I saw its beauty. Growing food from the soil for direct consumption is such a straightforward and sincere beauty. It’s what traditional agriculture is about and I feel it’s an art of living. And also a way for mankind to survive,” the director says. The film raises issues about the struggle of farmers today, including the industrialisation of agriculture and the right to land, as well as examining the ageold farming methods of the past. “Traditional farming is starting to disappear, as it doesn’t correspond to the modern way of living,” Raksasad laments. “Some farmers now resort to farming vegetables in two plots: one for their own consumption with no or very little chemicals used, and another for sale in which they’ll put in anything just in order

to make profits. This is what our world is evolving into now.” The film, a world premiere in Bright Future, is produced by Thai production and sales company Extra Virgin, which also produced one of IFFR 2008’s Tiger winners, Wonderful Town. The director is very thankful for the support of Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund, which allowed him to make the film. “It’s not just filmmaking or agriculture, but both that are very enriching for me,” he says. “It’s an artful way to live, for making art. And that’s the best thing the festival has given me. During the whole year I was living there, at one point I truly believed that our world is really a paradise.” Agrarian Utopia Uruphong Raksasad Pathé 2 Sun 25 Jan 16:15 Zaal De Unie Mon 26 Jan 11:30 Cinerama 2 Thur 29 Jan 09.45 * Venster 2 Fri 30 Jan 14:30 Cinerama 2 Sat 31 Jan 10:00 * Press and Industry screening

Receiving its world premiere at IFFR, Igor Mayboroda’s debut feature documentary, Rerberg and Tarkovsky. The Reverse Side of ‘Stalker’, is an affectionate study of Georgi Rerberg, the director of photography best known for shooting Tarkovsky’s Mirror and Stalker. The focus on Rerberg, who died in 1999, is intended partly to examine the contribution of crew members whose artistry was overshadowed by Tarkovsky’s reputation. “It’s the unknown aspect of Tarkovsky’s work,” explains Mayboroda. “It’s not just about Tarkovsky, but also about his whole crew – because cinema is a collective work. “When Tarkovsky was working in the Soviet Union, his diaries were published in the West,” continues Mayboroda, “In them, the director was negative about the crew he worked with. That’s why it was important for this film [which comprises mainly archive footage] to tell his crew’s side of the story, not just Tarkovsky’s.” Mayboroda collaborated with Rerberg himself on a film co-produced by Aki Kaurismäki. Partly about Lenin, much of the movie was shot in Kaurismäki’s native Finland, but it ground to a halt when Mayboroda failed to finance the Russian leg of the production. “In Russia now, no one gives money to films about the proletarian ideology,” he drolly remarks. But the encounter with Rerberg inspires his latest work. “One time, we talked all night long, and Rerberg was recollecting his childhood and the images of his childhood. It sounded so fantastic that I suggested Rerberg should make a film of his memories. After a while he asked me if I wanted to co-direct it.”

38TH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ROTTERDAM www.filmfestivalrotterdam.com

Igor Mayboroda

photo: Bram Belloni

“It’s a pity,” he continues of this abortive project. “I wished I’d known that Rerberg was about to die six months later; I would have talked more to him then. I almost felt obliged to make this documentary, because the dreams of making the earlier film weren’t fulfilled.” Rerberg and Tarkovsky. The Reverse Side of ‘Stalker’ Igor Mayboroda Cinerama 4 Sun 25 Jan 19:45 Cinerama 3 Mon 26 Jan 19:30 * Venster 1 Tue 27 Jan 12:15 * Press and Industry screening

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