There are small but still conspicuous signs at the beginning of a festival which hint at the good things to come: in this case it was the sight of Isabella Rossellini as an electric Joan of Arc on the giant screen by our hotel window, just across the street — in a Guy Maddin film (Send Me to the ‘Lectric Chair) designed to be screened on Rotterdam buildings.
This 38th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam is still the best location in the world for auteurs, independent, uncompromised films lovers to begin the year. And the main competition (The Tiger Awards, for first or second features) is the laboratory in which to find the next Carlos Reygadas or Hong Sang-Soo, both of whom came to worldwide prominence at Rotterdam. Besides the discoveries (for example, a Young Turkish Cinema selection), retrospectives were dedicated to Paolo Benvenuti and Jerzy Skolimowski. The festival still challenges filmgoers with well-thought installations and expositions making cinema and art converge such as "Size Matters" — which underlines that screens (whether they're in multiplexes or on your I-Pod) are a stimulating topic.
The other main event of the festival, the co-production market Cinemart, not surprisingly raised the main discussion of the year: funding issues in these times of crisis. So far, current projects are safe and we're hoping for much from the projects we read submitted by gifted newcomers such as Ruben Ostlund, Celina Murga or Gina Kim.
Our jury was impressed by very different films — and the energy and passion of the six kids from the Trainee Project for Young Film Critics who participated in our discussions. Among the most discussed films were the sizzling mix of melodrama-mobsters-comedy Breathless (Ddongpari) by Yang Ik-June (Korea), the very humble Wrong Rosary (Uzak ihtimal) by Mahmut Fazil Coskun (Turkey) and the subtle Tourists (Turistas) by Alicia Scherson (Chile).
Our prize went to the very challenging Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly (Babi buta yang ingin terbang) by Edwin (Indonesia), with its brave take on personal and political matters and haunting images (and sounds, such as Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called To Say I Love You" used in an infectious way). (Leo Soesanto)
International Film Festival Rotterdam: www.iffr.com