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Rotterdam addresses cuts on opening night

The 42nd edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) opened last night with the world premiere of Guido van Driel’s Resurrection Of A Bastard (De wederopstanding van een klootzak.)

Van Driel’s gangster fable was the first Dutch film to open the festival in 15 years and was given a generally positive response by the opening night audience. Some saw its English-language title as symbolic at a time when the Dutch film industry as a whole is enjoying a revival.

Lead actor Yorick van Wageningen was not in attendance, reportedly because of creative differences with director van Driel but is expected to attend a screening of the film later in the festival.

In previous editions, Rotterdam programmers have largely shunned Dutch movies but this year’s programme features several new films from local directors, among them Hivos Tiger competition contender Ricky Rijneke’s Silent Ones (which has already been picked for world sales by Wide Management) and Diederik Ebbinge’s tragi-comedy Matterhorn (which Cineart is releasing in Benelux).

Cutbacks

In spite of the recent blossoming in Dutch production, the Netherlands lacks tax incentives and regional film funds.

The film sector is also facing major cuts in public funding. Culture Minister Jet Bussemaker is expected to make a private visit to the sestival to discuss industry concerns this weekend. Meanwhile, it has also been confirmed that a special Government-backed summit will be held in late March, with both the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of Culture in attendance.

Festival director Rutger Wolfson briefly addressed the budget cuts in his opening speech.

“We’d like to take a moment to respond to the fierce debate taking place about the legitimacy of cultural subsidies in the Netherlands,” he said.

“This debate feels kind of old, but I’m afraid it’s only just begun. Quite a few people seem to believe that the cultural sector is nothing more than a subsidy devouring plaything of the elite. The only way to convince them of the value of culture is to redefine this value. This is not an easy task. One way to make a start, however, is to look at what is being done in cultural practice.”

Talent: absent and attending

Celebrated Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei is the most prominent member of this year’s Rotterdam jury – although he hasn’t actually made the trip to Rotterdam. With the Chinese authorities still holding his passport, Ai is set to watch the Tiger contenders in his compound in Beijing and to contribute to jury deliberations by Skype or conference call.

Another absentee is Kira Muratova, the veteran Russian director and actress who is the subject of a tribute at this year’s festival. She cancelled her visit to Rotterdam earlier this week for personal reasons.

Rotterdam has never set much emphasis on red carpet star power. Even so, it continues to attract top directorial talent.

Confirmed visitors this year include Bernardo Bertolucci, Brothers Quay, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Jean-Claude Brisseau, György Pálfi, Park Chan-Wook, Sergei Loznitsa, Kobayashi Masahiro, Cristi Puiu, Marion Hänsel, Cate Shortland, Alexey Balabanov, Matteo Garrone, Hideo Nakata, Ben Wheatley and Mohsen Makhmalbaf

As it seeks to ramp up its online presence, IFFR has also announced a new partnership with digital distributor Under The Milky Way, through which it will launch its own Room available on iTunes in the Benelux: itunes.com/iffr.  Benelux can now rediscover many old festival favourites on the IFFR Room on iTunes.

The festival runs Jan 23 to Feb 3.

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