By consensus, the 34th International Film Festival Rotterdam(IFFR), which ended at the weekend with a screening of Howl's MovingCastle, was a solid but unspectacularaffair.
Box-office was slightly up on last year and a steady streamof international filmmakers - Alexander Payne, Roger Michell, Lukas Moodyssonand Pawel Pawlikowski among them - passed through town.
Most agreed that Sandra Den Hamer in her first year as solodirector had maintained the festival's reputation as one of the mostfriendly and eclectic on the circuit, but that didn't stop IFFR visitorsgrumbling that the programme yielded fewer than expected titles which reallyexcited or antagonised audiences.
Responses to both the opening film, Raymond Depardon'sThe 10th District Court, and theshowpiece event The Rotterdam Film Parliament debate (overshadowed by the latewithdrawal of Theo Van Gogh's short Submission on security grounds) were subdued. The one film inthe Tiger Competition to polarise opinion and generate heated discussions inthe coffee houses was Ilys Khrzhanovsky's 4, an absurdist, taboo-breaking drama which hasalready faced censorship problems in Russia.
Meanwhile, the event which really caught the imagination ofthe international press had nothing to do with cinema. Mid-way through IFFR, inthe concert hall of the Doelen (the same building where the festival is based)part of an unknown piano concerto by Beethoven was performed for the very firsttime.
Flocks of industry delegates were in town for the annualco-production and networking event, The CineMart, also held in the Doelen,albeit without the music.
A single deal had been officially announced by the end oflast week - Fortissimo took world sales rights to Marion Hansel'sAfrican-set epic, Chamelle - but with many CineMart projects still at arelatively early stage, many sales agents and distributors were holding theirfire.
"There were just a few deals signed on the spot, butthere were sales agents who did very good work and picked up some films. Theyjust don't want to announce them until the contracts are signed,"Den Hamer commented.