Rotterdam Kicks Off Summer Edition With New Harbour Section

The closing part of this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) kicks off Wednesday with a vast program of films and events that includes an all-new section and a showcase of works from up-and-coming filmmakers.

The first part of IFFR’s 50th edition, which ran Feb. 1-7, focused on the main Tiger, Big Screen and Ammodo Tiger Short competitions as well as the Limelight sidebar, a preview of upcoming arthouse releases. From February to June, the fest continued to stream films from its rich history as part of the IFFR Unleashed: 50/50 program.

A total 139 features, short and mid-length films are screening in the Harbour, Bright Future, Cinema Regained, Classics and Short and Mid-Length Film sections. Harbour is the festival’s newest and largest program.

“The port is the backbone of the city of Rotterdam and in the same way Harbour is the backbone of the festival itself,” says festival director Vanja Kaludjercic. “In a way you can look at Harbour as IFFR’s main program. With this program, the festival offers a home for contemporary cinema in all its diversity.”

The selected films, Kaludjercic adds, range from highly complex avantgarde animated features like Dalibor Barić’s Croation work “Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus” to Alex Infascelli’s “Mi chiamo Francesco Totti,” a documentary about the Italian soccer player.

Mona Fastvold’s romantic drama “The World to Come” opens the summer edition, while Hirota Yusuke’s animated feature “Poupelle of Chimney Town” closes the event.

Harbour also presents the international premiere of Tiger Award-winning Japanese director Ikeda Akira’s “The Blue Danube,” which examines the absurdity of overbearing bureaucracy and the pointlessness of war.

Likewise screening are Dominik Graf’s “Fabian — Going to the Dogs,” an adaptation of Erich Kästner’s novel about the tragic, hedonistic and dysfunctional era of the Weimar Republic as seen through the eyes of fatalistic writer; “Capitu and the Chapter,” marking a return to IFFR for Brazil’s Júlio Bressane; and Mexican director Ángeles Cruz’s debut feature “Nudo Mixteco,” which follows three people whose lives intersect in a Mixtec community in the highlands of the Mexican state of Oaxaca.

In his documentary “Birds of America,” Jacques Loeuille examines the life of 19th-century naturalist and artist John James Audubon and the present-day destruction of wild habitats and extinction of animal life along the Mississippi.

“The aim with Harbour is to find surprises and to make discoveries,” Kaludjercic says. “By presenting such an extensive program, films naturally enter into dialogue with each other.”

Other titles include “Amor fati,” a documentary on intimacy and relationships from Portuguese director Cláudia Varejão; “The Belly of the Sea” (pictured), Spanish director Agustí Villaronga’s work that mixes theater and film to recount the 1816 La Méduse shipwreck off the coast of northwestern Africa; and “An Unusual Summer,” in which director Kamal Aljafari offers visual fragments of life from a Palestinian neighborhood.

A special edition of Bright Future focuses on the debut works of new filmmakers selected by feature film programmers for the one-off program of 14 features.

U.S. documentaries screening in the section include Kier-La Janisse’s “Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror,” which explores macabre genre films drawn from folklore and superstition; Wang Qiong’s “All About My Sisters,” about the impact of China’s one-child policy on a family; and “Rock Bottom Riser,” Fern Silva’s look at the impact of colonization on Hawaii, from the arrival of early seafarers and Christian preachers to the large telescopes that have been erected on the sacred mountain Mauna Kea, leading to protests from the indigenous population.

Bright Future also presents Émilie Serri’s Canadian doc “Damascus Dreams,” a personal account of the Syrian war’s impact on her family; and Leri Matehha’s German drama “Thomas der Hochspringer,” about a troubled young high-jumper increasingly suffering from his mother’s overbearing control.

Rounding out the fest are the Cinema Regained sidebar, dedicated to film history; the Short & Mid-length selection celebrating artists’ works and experimental film; and a showcase of open-air screenings of IFFR classics.

Industry events include IFFR Talks, in which the festival aims “not only to tackle the craft of filmmaking but also to inspire each other and challenge ourselves with topics that go far beyond cinema,” says Kaludjercic.

The program will offer talks with Fastvold and Graf as well as a discussion about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that occurred during the Bosnian War, the subject of Jasmila Žbanić’s “Quo vadis, Aida?” which screened at the fest’s February edition.

Indian filmmaker Pallavi Paul will discuss freedom and resistance at the fest’s annual Freedom Lecture. Paul explores police violence in Delhi in her film “The Blind Rabbit,” which screens in the Short & Mid-Length section.

The June edition also includes Art Directions, offering live performances, virtual reality, a traveling installation and 50th anniversary specials.

Physical theatrical screenings are expected to take place during the festival and attendees are required to take a coronavirus test via testenvoortoegang.nl within 40 hours prior to visiting the event, even if already vaccinated.

The entire film program will be accessible online via IFFR.com, with each title available for a 72-hour window.

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