In a move which took even her staff by surprise, Sandra Den Hamer today confirmed that she will be leaving her position as director of the Rotterdam International Festival to take over as director of Amsterdam's Filmmuseum.
'For me as well, it was quite sudden,' Den Hamer told ScreenDaily.com of her decision to leave a festival that she has been working for in various capacities since 1986. She said that she was approached by the supervisory board of the Film Museum about a month ago.
'I was actually still very happy in my job (in Rotterdam). I think this is one of the most adventurous places in the world if you have a passion for cinema. When I was invited to come and talk, I was rather reluctant.'
What eventually swayed her, Den Hamer stated, was the 'once in a chance lifetime' to be at the helm of the Filmmuseum when it moves into its spectacular new premises in two years' time. 'They were looking for somebody who wants give life to that building and to start a second life for the FilmMuseum. That is a real challenge.'
The departing Rotterdam director added that she felt festival directors should not spend too long in their jobs. Den Hamer was made deputy director of the festival in 1991, before co-directing it with Simon Field from 2000. She took over as sole director from March 2004.
'I think for institutions with an artistic profile, it is good that once every five or seven years, it is changing and that new people take the lead,' she said. 'For me, it is still a little early but the moment (for departing) was not 10 years away. I felt that for me and also for the festival, it would be good if there was a new leadership.'
Den Hamer leaves at a moment when there is still some uncertainty about the long-term funding for Rotterdam's Hubert Bals Fund. The Fund, which supports filmmaking in developing countries, recently had its application for financing from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs turned down.
However, Den Hamer stated that she was confident that the fund will continue to receive state support.
'The contacts with the Ministry are very good and they are trying to find a solution. The Ministry always they were going to try to solve this problem because they felt that the Fund was a very important instrument in international exchange.'
During her time as director, Den Hamer has attempted to strengthen links between the festival and the industry. She has also striven to 'open up what is a very fine, very good but very cinephile event toward the greater audience - the Dutch public. It (Rotterdam) is now the biggest public event in the Netherlands.'
Den Hamer stated that she was confident that she was leaving the festival in a strong hands. She is due to start at the Filmmuseum at the beginning of September.
It is yet to be decided what ties she will retain with Rotterdam but she has confirmed that 'if they want me to be involved in Hubert Bals Fund selection or CineMart selection, I would be more than happy to be involved.'
The first details of the 2008 Rotterdam programme are expected to be announced in Cannes next month. Next year's festival runs from January 23 until February 3.