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Rotterdam opens 41st edition with with Belvaux's 38 Witnesses

38 Witnesses actress Nicole Garcia talks about her own directorial projects.

The 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) opened last night with the world premiere of Lucas Belvaux’s 38 Witnesses.

Prior to the screening, Festival director Rutger Wolfson made a speech highlighting the richness of the festival programme. “We look forward to bringing you a lot of crazy, profound, meditative, worrying and wonderful films. With the program, we set out to identify and interpret new artistic and social developments. To give meaning to the world around us, through cinema. To stimulate, to provoke, to inspire, to surprise,” Wolfson said.

To the surprise of some, Wolfson did not address the challenge that cuts in public funding will present to the Dutch arts sector in the coming years. However, the anger against those cuts was underlined when Culture Minister Halbe Zjilstra (in attendance) was booed by some members of the audience.

38 Witnesses (sold by Films Distribution) is loosely inspired by the true story of Kitty Genovese, a Queens, New York woman who was murdered with 38 witnesses reportedly failing to intervene. Belvaux’s film, given a mixed reception by festival attendees, is set in Le Havre. A young student is murdered in the middle of the night outside an apartment complex. The mystery is why none of the 38 inhabitants of the complex came to her aid.

Guests already in Rotterdam or expected over the next 10 days include Takashi Miike (for the world premiere of his new movie Ace Attorney), Aki Kaurismaki, Michel Gondry, Andrea Arnold and Finnish filmmaker and curator Peter Von Bagh (subject of a retrospective).

Talking points as the festival kicked off included the absence of Dutch movies in the festival’s main Tiger competition, the presence of a very young actress in Serbian director Maja Milos’s sexually explicit Tiger contender Clip (Klip); and the shock at the deaths of Bingham Ray and Theo Angelopulos (both of whom had Rotterdam connections).

In an interview in Rotterdam today, Nicole Garcia (who plays a journalist in 38 Witnesses) revealed details of her own forthcoming directorial projects. These include an as-yet-unnamed film about a young teacher, expected to shoot this summer on which she will work for the first time with young actor Pierre Rochefort (her son from her marriage to actor Jean Rochefort.) The film is set to be produced by Alain Attal. Garcia will also be working with Attal on a bigger project, an adaptation of Milena Agus’s Sardinian-set novel Mal De Pierres.

IFFR runs through Feb 5.

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