Rotterdam is reinforcing its relationship with the Dutch film industry this year, giving a higher profile onscreen and highlighting domestic projects at its venerable co-production forum, CineMart.
The move recognizes a resurgence in local film production, at a time when the industry is braced for financial hardship.
“Next year there will be a big funding cut, so I’m happy we can support Dutch films strongly this year in order to make the case for financial support,” says fest topper Rutger Wolfson.
While coin from the Netherlands Film Fund and other public sources is due to plummet, the government is mulling the introduction of a tax break for the industry.
“I think that’s very necessary, and I hope we can help,” adds Wolfson, who took charge of programming Dutch films himself and reports no trouble finding titles worth screening. “This year we were lucky enough to have a strong selection of films that were ready and available for the festival.”
The presence of two Dutch contenders in the feature competition suggests quality is up compared to last year, when no local pics made the cut. “We will have two Dutch Tigers this year, which is quite special,” says Wolfson.
One is “The Resurrection of a Bastard” by Guido van Driel, which will also open the fest Jan. 23. A bleak tale of crossed destinies, it concerns an old farmer bent on revenge, a criminal on the run and an illegal immigrant.
The cast includes Yorick van Wageningen (the abusive guardian in David Fincher’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) and national treasure Jeroen Willems, who died in December.
The other contender is “Silent Ones” by Ricky Rijneke. Described as a surreal trip on the fragile edge of life and death, it stars Orsi Toth (“Delta,” “Women Without Men”) as a young Hungarian traveling West to keep a promise to her brother.
Other Dutch selections include “How to Describe a Cloud,” a mother-daughter tale exploring loss and imagination, by fest regular David Verbeek (“Shanghai Trance”); and feature debuts such as “Die Welt” by Alex Pitstra, “Devastated by Love” by Ari Deelder and “Dead Body Welcome” by Kees Brienen.
Genre fare includes comedy “The Deflowering of Eva van End” by Michiel ten Horn and “Frankenstein’s Army” by Richard Raaphorst, a zombie film fully financed in the U.S.
While some of these films are making their world bows at the fest, others already have international credentials. “Die Welt,” which is set in contemporary Tunisia, was selected at Doha, while “The Deflowering of Eva van End” played at Toronto.
“Most of these films can function very well internationally,” Wolfson says.
Meanwhile, the festival faces its own fiscal cliff. The Dutch government has reduced its funding by around 6%, while the city of Rotterdam has clawed back nearly 20% of its coin. “The city is making large cuts everywhere, so it is quite understandable, but from our point of view it’s a serious cut,” Wolfson says.
Yet the festival is well prepared and can ride out the storm, he maintains. “We are lining up a lot of alternatives for this financing and I’m quite confident we can keep the festival’s level of finance more or less the same in the coming years.”
In the longer term, part of that gap will be filled by the audience. Mechanisms are now in place that allow people to donate and get more closely involved with the festival. While complex to establish, Wolfson is pleased with the public response. “It’s quite promising. We are confident that in a few years time it will be an important source of income for the festival.”
Last year he reduced the number of titles selected, not for financial reasons but to give more space to the films and prevent them competing with each other for attention. “That worked really well for us, so the scale of the festival will be about the same as it was last year. The balance is about right now.”
The main change this year is the introduction of the Big Screen Award Competition. This will include 10 recent films in the festival’s Bright Future and Spectrum sections that have no local distribution. One prize will be given by a jury of experienced and passionate audience members, another by three members of the Dutch Circle of Film Critics.
Both prizes come with a guaranteed distribution offer for the Benelux, in collaboration with local distributor Amstelfilm. The aim is to support festival films in a tough distribution climate. “For us, it’s a way to get more films from the festival into cinemas,” Wolfson says.
The response from exhibitors has been good. “The jury is made up of our audience, so to the cinemas it feels like what people really want to see.”
“The Deflowering of Eva van End”
‘The Master’ in 70mm
Alongside the official opening, Rotterdam kicks off with a screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” on 70mm. “Watch it while you still can!” the fest says.
World premieres at the fest include “The Complex,” a return to supernatural horror for Hideo Nakata, originator of the “Ring” series and “Dark Water.”
Fifteen first and second features compete for three Hivos Tiger awards, each worth $20,000. Early lineup includes “It Felt Like Love” by U.S. helmer Eliza Hittman.
Kira Muratova retrospective
Best known for 1990 Berlin runner-up “The Asthenic Syndrome,” this comprehensive survey of Ukrainian director Kira Muratova’s work ranges from her 1964 debut feature “Our Honest Bread” to last year’s “Eternal Homecoming.”
This program explores the auditory side of cinema, from novel sound technologies to live music and venues that enhance the cinematic experience. Invited artists include Tony Cokes, John Akomfrah and Mika Taanila.
New fiction films from directors working inside Iran and in exile (including Majid Barzegar, Mani Haghighi, Mohsen Makhmalbaf) along with discussions, screenings of video art and short films from the Tehran gallery circuit.
Dominik Graf retrospective
Working mainly in TV, Graf has redefined genres and broken new ground in aesthetics and content, the fest says, making him the best kept secret of German-language cinema. An extensive retrospective explores his work chronicling West German society.
New CineMart award
The CineMart co-production market has a third cash prize, worth $6,600. Coin comes from WorldView, a U.K. initiative that promotes film about and from the developing world.
Dutch pics grab the spotlight | Cinemart draws on local talent | Smallscreen fare makes a big splash