Our picks of the 2012 Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR)

Our picks of the 2012 Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR)

Jan 24, 2012

I don’t know much about Rotterdam. Wikipedia tells me – now that it’s back in action following that rather terrifying twenty-four hour blackout – that it’s the second largest city in The Netherlands, as well as one of the busiest ports in the world. The Rotterdam tourism board website tells me that it’s “a trendy, dynamic city” that you really need “to experience for yourself”. And a Google search tells me – and this might be the most important information of all – that the average temperature in Rotterdam during the month of January is a chilly 4°C, meaning visitors – especially those used to spending January on the beach – would do well to rug up tight.

But what I do know about Rotterdam is that between January 25th and February 5th, it becomes a hotbed of cinematic activity. Celebrating its 41st birthday this year, the International Film Festival of Rotterdam is one of Europe’s largest and most illustrious film festivals, alongside Cannes, Venice and Berlin. In 2012, the IFFR will screen a whopping 268 feature films and 469 shorts, receive esteemed directors including Michel Gondry (The Green Hornet), Takashi Miike (13 Assassins) and Aki Kaurismäki (Le Havre), and welcome members of the press from all around Europe and the world. Somewhere in that crowd of critics, wrapped in woollen scarf, Richmond F.C. beanie and heavily insulated parker, will be me, ready to cover all the action for Moviedex.

As one of the first major international film festivals of the calendar year, the IFFR offers young and upcoming filmmakers a unique opportunity to showcase their work. Under the “Bright Futures” banner, festival organizers have highlighted sixty-eight films from first and second time directors from nations as disparate as Indonesia, France, India and The Ukraine. Of these films, thirteen will have their world premieres at the IFFR. In addition, fifteen budding filmmakers will compete for the Tiger Awards, the most prestigious prize that the festival bestows

Of course no film festival would be complete without a bit of star power. Undoubtedly some of the most sought after tickets will be to Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, Steve McQueen’s Shame, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method and Alexander Payne’s Oscar forerunner The Descendants, all of which will have their Dutch premiere’s at the festival in 2012.

There are even a couple of Australian films on the schedule, including documentary filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson’s (Bastardly) first narrative feature Hail, as well as the closing night film, Daniel Nettheim’s The Hunter, starring Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe.

But one of the truly unique things about IFFR 2012 is the way it seeks to challenge notions of what cinema can be. From 100 Meters Behind the Future – a live film that is shot, acted, directed, edited and screened in real time – to Michel Gondry’s “Home Movie Factory” – a workshop in which festival attendees are given three hours to shoot a short film of their own – this year’s festival is pushing boundaries into the way we watch, make and appreciate movies.

Regrettably, with over seven hundred films to choose from, as well as numerous panel discussions, director Q&As and experimental installations, it’s simply impossible to get to everything. Choices have to be made, schedules have to be juggled, and many intriguing looking films must unfortunately go unseen. But then again, browsing through the programme is all part of the fun. CPR’s coverage of the IFFR will kick off in earnest once the festival gets under way. In the mean time, here’s a list of ten titles that happened to catch my eye.



Alps is the new film Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, whose previous film Dogtooth shocked and disturbed audiences all the way to an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. His follow up boasts a similarly bizarre conceit, about people who rent themselves out as temporarily stand-ins for families whose loved ones have passed away.


Another Australian picture on the festival programme – and what kind of person would I be if I didn’t try to promote local films? – Black & White & Sex sees eight actresses play the same woman in an experimental mockumentary about a verbal game of cat and mouse between a filmmaker and a prostitute.


I’m on the record as being a big fan of South Korean cinema. Black Dove, from director Roh Gyeong-Tae, utilizes a non-linear timeline to show how four lives intersect following a horrific car accident.


One of the fifteen films competing in the Tiger Awards category, the Serbian drama Clip is described on the IFFR website as a “non-judgmental portrait of teenagers caught in sexual and social turmoil. Sexually explicit and emotionally disturbing, it goes beyond borders and even further.” Colour me intrigued.


I’m generally planning to steer clear of the festivals high profile features, as I know I’ll get the chance to catch up with them later on. But I love director David Cronenberg. His latest effect, about the twisted rivalry between Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, played by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen respectively, looks fascinating.


A Trip to the Moon, George Méliès’ revolutionary fourteen minute silent film from 1902, received its due diligence this year in Martin Scorsese’s 3D fantasy Hugo. Personally though, I’m far more intrigued by this French documentary that charts the movies’ influence and restoration, and will be screened in conjunction with Méliès’ original short.


A British horror film about two contract killers on job that takes a surreal turn, I sorely regret missing Ben Wheatley’s Kill List when it played at MIFF back in July. It’s not a mistake I’ll be making twice.


The IFFR is a Dutch festival, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t include at least one Dutch movie on the list. Nick is a part character study, part road movie about a conceited chef looking for truffles in a Croatian forest. Sounds bizarre, but why not?


A Norwegian drama about a drug addict and suicide survivor on a one day excursion from his rehab facility, Oslo August 31st  received extremely positive critical notice when it played at Cannes. It’s also directed by a distant cousin of Lars von Trier (although that doesn’t necessarily score it many points in my book)


A minimalist family drama from Austria, Stillleben explores themes of guilt and shame after a father is discovered by his son to have begun a disturbing relationship with a prostitute.