Fest Traveler: Rotterdam Film Festival 2012

This is the year that Rotterdam takes a small but decisive step toward 3D cinema. For the first time there is a 3D feature in its Tiger competition, “A Fish,” from South Korean helmer Park Hong-min. Described as a tragic-absurdist tale, it concerns a professor driven to pursue his wife, who has run off to become a shaman.

There’s also a 3D film project seeking coin in the CineMart. Alexei Popogrebsky’s “Lost Rooms” concerns a young woman who has glimpsed a parallel world behind flat walls, a space into which she finds she is able to escape when threatened. The Russian helmer plans to shoot in English with an international cast.

But most of Rotterdam has been seduced by Martin Scorsese’s 3D spectacular, “Hugo,” and its loving tribute to Georges Melies and the early days of cinema. The film will be screened alongside a recently restored color version of Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” and Serge Bromberg’s documentary about the restoration process, “Le Voyage Extraordinaire.”

Early-film specialist Bromberg will also be on hand to perform “Retour de flamme,” a combination of lecture and screening that, in this incarnation, will illustrate how the 3D effect has stimulated animators’ imaginations for decades.

This tribute to Melies is tucked away in the festival’s Regained program. Previously devoted to arcane aspects of film history, it has been given a wider brief in order to accommodate exhibitions, installations and film strands that might have been given their own programs before the festival decided to slim down.

Other elements include a retrospective of work by Austrian filmmaker and theoretician Peter Kubelka, who will be a guest of the festival, and an obituary tribute to Raul Ruiz that includes his first film, the short “La Maleta,” and one of his last, 2011′s “Ballet acquatique.”

A strong presence at the festival, but probably absent, will be dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. The Hidden Histories program will feature six of his longer works, which the artist refers to as social documentaries, and four documentary art videos. While the art videos tend to be highly conceptual, the social documentaries are campaigning films in which Ai acts as a journalist on both sides of the camera.

The festival opens Jan. 25 with the world premiere of Lucas Belvaux’s crime drama “38 temoins” (38 Witnesses). It closes Feb. 4 with “The Hunter,” an Australian psychological drama by Daniel Nettheim that stars Willem Dafoe.

FEST TRAVELER: ROTTERDAM
No political tone left unturned | 3D stands out in fest programs | CineMart opens screen doors to artist influence | Real film inspiration is everywhere

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