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European pics tame Tigers in Rotterdam

Two U.S. pix nab crix prizes

ROTTERDAM — Reflecting the resurgence of homegrown films across Europe in the past year, features from the continent topped the audience polls and made a clean sweep of prizes in the Tiger Awards competition for new filmmakers at the 27th Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival, which wrapped Sunday. The three equally ranked Tigers, which carry cash prizes of $10,000 each and are sponsored by Dutch pubcaster VPRO, went to a trio of ambitious, resourcefully made independent productions, which are widely diverse in tone and genre: Stefan Ruzowitzky’s “Die Siebtelbauern,” a folkloric epic from Austria set in a 1930s Alpine farming community; Petr Zelenka’s “Buttoners,” a playful black comedy that recalls the Czech New Wave films of the 1960s; and Italian Giuseppe Gaudino’s “Moonspins Between Land and Sea,” an experimental fusion of past and present, fiction and history that has been substantially recut since it premiered last fall in the Venice fest competition.

“The competition represents young filmmakers who are taking risks and doing new things, which is very much what Rotterdam is about,” said Simon Field, now in his second year as fest director.

The Rotterdam public also clearly favored Europics, with a Dutch production, Karim Traidia’s drama “The Polish Bride,” nabbing the Citroen Audience Award.

Other high scorers with auds were French-based Algerian director Tony Gatlif’s picaresque gypsy tale “Gadjo Dilo”; the French-Bosnian co-production “Perfect Circle,” by Ademir Kenovic; John Duigan’s “Lawn Dogs” (U.K.); and Lars von Trier’s “The Kingdom II,” from Denmark.

U.S. pics nabbed a pair of crix’ prizes. The international critics’ Fipresci Prize was split between debuting U.S. director Jesse Peretz’s steamy, Louisiana-set drama “First Love, Last Rites” and German helmer Fred Kelemen’s “Frost.” The KNF Dutch film critics circle nod went to Harmony Korine’s “Gummo.”

Guests this year numbered 1,832 — up from 1,400 in 1997 — with 1,300 of those coming from outside Holland. Despite having one less screen this year, the number of admissions also rose to 272,000 from 250,000 in ’97, with B.O. receipts climbing 13% to total approximately $700,000. Of the 530 press that attended, 200 were from foreign publications.

Rotterdam’s co-production market, Cinemart, also wound up a successful year with significantly increased attendance. The number of new feature projects profiled rose from 42 in 1997 to 53 this year, with 253 producers, 142 distributors and 29 television companies participating.

Organizers say the Cinemart now has reached its limit, and they are reluctant to further expand the structure for fear of sacrificing the personalized attention that has made it a productive experience for many independent filmmakers and producers.

Rotterdam’s financial support scheme for films from developing countries, the Hubert Bals Fund, celebrated its 10th anniversary during the fest. Deputy fest director Sandra den Hamer will meet in the coming weeks with the Dutch Minister of Development Cooperation to increase HBF’s investment, starting in March, from $600,000 to $1 million per year.

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