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New Rotterdam head to stay the course

Fest helmer assures that int'l focus will continue

ROTTERDAM — Rotterdam Intl. Film Festival co-director Simon Field, who is leaving when this year’s shutters come down, has allayed concern about the event’s future at the midpoint of this edition, unspooling Jan. 21-31.

Co-director Sandra den Hamer will hold the reins by herself next year, and both are quick to promise that Rotterdam will not move away from its international focus.

“The Rotterdam spirit will continue,” den Hamer said. “I don’t have particular changes in mind.”

In her view, the event — which comes after Europe’s big three of Cannes, Venice and Berlin in size — has distinguished itself from other festivals by being diverse and innovative, following world filmmaking trends into the land of videos, museum installations and beyond.

She said films will continue to be selected by six programmers, including herself, and organized around “three pillars”: a film festival screening 200 features and almost 400 short films; a section of films co-financed by the Dutch-funded Hubert Bals Fund; and film projects market CineMart.

After his eight-year stint at Rotterdam, Field will remain a member of the Hubert Bals Fund selection committee.

He plans to join producer Keith Griffiths at Illuminations Film in London, where one of his first projects will be to executive produce a series of new films for the mega-festival to be held in Vienna in 2006 for the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth.

“There will be a strong continuity with the spirit of Rotterdam” Field said, in his new job commissioning progressive feature films, shorts and animation for the event.

U.S. director Peter Sellars, who is coordinating the Mozart event, was at Rotterdam to introduce the sidebar Homefront USA. It brought together a wide range of directors and work, from Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” to Jake Mahaffy’s Pennsylvania mood piece “War” and J. Hoberman’s video compilation “George W. Bush: Superstar?”

At its midpoint, CineMart was in full swing. With 800-plus producers, directors and industry personnel in attendance, this granddaddy of project markets remains the largest of its kind.

Five of the 47 film projects being pitched to producers and financiers also will be presented at the new co-production market at next week’s Berlin Film Festival.

“The majority of industry people attend both CineMart and Berlin,” said CineMart chief Ido Abram, who quoted an 85% success rate for projects that get produced.

While Sundance and the earlier Golden Globes and Oscar noms cut into the U.S. presence, Miramax and Fine Line reps were in attendance.

Abram confirmed speculation that the market is likely to become “more visibly integrated” into the festival next year. “I have always felt CineMart is part of the festival. I know Sandra (den Hamer) feels the same way.”

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