Bero Beyer’s fourth edition in charge of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) comes to a close on Sunday February 3, but the artistic director is more excited than ever about what they’ve done this year, and what they’ll do in the future.
He spoke to Screen about his favourite moments from the 2019 festival, the industry strand, and what IFFR means on a global scale.
What are your highlights from IFFR 2019?
I was very happy with the way the opening film [Sacha Polak’s Dirty God) was received - a full house, a standing ovation. It was nice to have the world premiere here and then have them go on to Sundance, that’s the perfect combination. It was also nice that other people that had their premiere at Sundance first have now come to us – Johannes Nyholm (Koko-di Koko-da), May el-Toukhy (Queen Of Hearts).
All of the Tiger competition titles have their own edge, that’s the only red line that goes through it. All of these greats – Claire Denis, Carlos Reygadas – reference the good old days from 20, 30, 40 years ago, and that’s great because it’s the spirit of Rotterdam. I hope we’re able to show through the festival that you make a connection between the new wave of filmmakers that all have their own edge, and these masters that give context to the whole thing.
What has worked well from IFFR Pro this year?
The industry part used to be separate worlds. There was the Hubert Bals Fund (HBF), there was CineMart, there was distribution. None of that was connected. For a couple of years now we said ’lets make that more intertwined’. If projects are there from the HBF that we’ve selected, they have a natural flow within BoostNL to go to the CineMart. Every year we expand a little on it; it may be fewer projects that we’re focussing on, but we’re doing twice or three times as much to make sure these are connected well and create a new wave.
One year in, how is [festival VOD platform] IFFR Unleashed going?
You can’t build a VOD platform - the online extension of what the festival is - in just a day. We’ve been working on that for years. The most important element for us is to continue that it’s our strand, our way of thinking. Collaboration is key. So many development slots are boxed in; you’re a TV series, you don’t talk to the feature film guys, you don’t talk to the short film people, you don’t talk to art or VR. We said lets get rid of those walls, talk to each other and then see what stories should be told. Turns out then they’re more diverse, more appealing, more art-driven and they stand a chance to really get to an audience.
So we’re trying to do the same thing we’re doing with Unleashed, which also means we’ll expand stuff we do throughout the year. It’s not just this bombastic thing we do at the festival taking over the city; we want to have more events throughout the year where the online part becomes a natural part of what we do theatrically.
What changes are you planning ahead of next year?
A journalist asked me: “You’ve introduced the sections, you’ve changed the competition, you’ve included the arts, you’re doing interactive stuff - are you done now?” I’m like - what the fuck?! This is an ongoing process! Since we’re now 48, we’re preparing for what we’ll be doing when we’re 50, to show why what we’re doing is relevant as a stance towards cinema. I have ideas for next year as well. We want to extend the masterclasses and talks programme to be more than just film. You have to see it to believe it, so to create those elements as a contextual programme, that’s where I’m having a lot of fun.
What does International Film Festival Rotterdam represent globally in 2019?
I realise that we’re in a very lucky position. The one thing that makes us special is being able to go against the grain and do what others cannot. Our funders and financiers know that Rotterdam’s always slightly crazy. Some things don’t work; some things will be copied all over the world afterwards.
If you look around in the world today - and we don’t even have to mention Trump - it’s going crazy all over. I mean, what the hell is happening in Britain? How is that ever possible? How is it possible that those choices are made from the gut, and the facts are on the table, and we don’t care about them? To say it’s important is the biggest understatement in the world. Because we do care - we do sculpt our minds and our experiences based on what we’ve seen. If you let mainstream media, money or whatever politician go in that direction, we’ll always lose. But if you appreciate what that image can actually bring, there’s hope.