Notes on IFFR 2019

Brief notes from Iniyavan Elumalai, who attended the International Film Festival at Rotterdam this year.

3 min read

At a panel discussion on how to make the most of a film festival, in the recently concluded International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR), one film festival veteran remarks, “Film makers are usually lonely. They need film festivals to survive, party. Rotterdam is the perfect pit-stop for that—just around Sundance, and before the madness of Berlin.”

Long standing since 1972, IFFR has positioned itself as a breeding ground for the up-and-coming; preferring innovative titles from young filmmakers over already successful ones. It has recognized Christopher Nolan, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Kelly Reichardt among others, when they were just one, two films old. The festival lineup might be a little too amateur art-house for most people, but its diversity and support for inventive storytelling puts it among the major festival players in the world.

Rotterdam is just a short train ride away for me. Ever since I moved to the Netherlands, going to the film festival has become a yearly ritual—despite it taking place in the height of flu season. This edition, I caught two weekends’ worth of movies, panels, and press conferences. It was not a great year for me in terms of movies: I liked the big winner Present.Perfect. by Zhu Shengze, an odd compilation of live-streaming videos from China that try to stand in for an intriguing if not always effective social commentary. The Jury Prize winner Take Me Somewhere Nice, by Ena Sendijarević, was a heavily overrated derivative piece, methinks.

My highlight of this festival was getting to interview a few filmmakers. Here are two of the interviews I quite enjoyed: my conversation with Gurvinder Singh, and another one with the maverick Eva Ionesco.

Some pictures from the event:

A panel with programmers from the big film festivals, giving tips on how to make the best out of film festivals. Tip 1: Don’t be the drunkest guy in the room!
The young cast of Une jeunesse dorée

Ulaa Salim [right] on his film Sons of Denmark: “This one is about fear and hate, next I want to focus on love and sorrow.”
Gabriel Martins and Maurelio Martins [right]: “We are making the films of people that we want to see, that we are.” Their film No coração do mundo is set in the Brazilian city of Contagem, where they are from.

Ena Sendijarević, director of Take Me Somewhere Nice, says she “wanted to make a playful film, humorous film on migration, sexuality, and all the difficult things.”
Shengze Zhu, director of Present.Perfect.: “I was initially intrigued by the weird and strange. Now I am immune to it. Human relationships get weirder and stranger in this digitally connected world.”

About the author

Iniyavan Elumalai is a double minority snowflake of the nineties. He dabbles in film analysis, electronic circuit design, and Oxford comma snobbery. Born in India, he now lives in the Netherlands. His social media stash can be found on the gram and now-not-so-fun tumblr.

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