Croatian co-production market expert and acquisitions executive, Vanja Kaludjercic, has been confirmed as the new director of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR).
She will work alongside managing director Marjan van der Haar.
Kaludjercic is presently director of acquisitions at MUBI. She will shadow the outgoing director Bero Beyer in his final festival at the helm from January 22-February 2, 2020 before Beyer leaves to take over as CEO of the Netherlands Film Fund in March.
Kaludjercic will take the reins at IFFR on March 1, 2020, to oversee the 50th anniversary edition of the festival in 2021.
The appointment sees Kaludjercic return to IFFR where she was head of IFFR Talks from 2016-2018. Since studying comparative literature and cultural sociology studies at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, the much travelled Kaludjercic has held acquisitions posts at both Coproduction Office in Paris and at Slovenia-based distribution company Demiurg.
She has also served as the head of Holland Film Meeting, the industry side of the Netherlands Film Festival, from 2016 to 2017, and as a programmer of features and short films at the Sarajevo Film Festival from 2008-2016.
Additionally, Kaludjercic has worked in different capacities with Les Arcs European Film Festival, Cinéma du reel and CPH:DOX.
“Without a shadow of a doubt, Rotterdam has been the most important festival in my professional career,” Kaludjercic told Screen in an exclusive interview. “It is the place that is known for its welcoming of young film professionals from all corners of the world. After my very first visit, more than a decade ago, it has always remained inspirational in terms of its film programming and a key place to build one’s own network.
She called the festival “a launchpad” for her career.
“IFFR has a great legacy as a festival, and the 50th edition should look back at all that has been achieved so far,” she continued. “As much as it will celebrate its past, it will also look into the future and set the tone and agenda for years to come.”
She pinpointed what she felt to be IFFR’s greatest strengths, among them its reputation for “championing young talent and offering amazing co-production opportunities through CineMart, the Hubert Bals Fund, and Boost!.”
On the industry side, she promised that the focus at IFFR will remain “on being relevant for international co-production, which requires a deeper understanding of what the key stakeholders today need to successfully develop, (co)produce and distribute their films.”
Kaludjercic also talked about IFFR tapping into “new audiences and younger audiences to keep growing as a festival. Think, for example, of the increasing amount of ex-pats coming to the Netherlands. There is a great opportunity to bring these new communities to the festival.”
Asked about her programming tastes, Kaludjercic referred to the work she has done at events such as Sarajevo Film Festival, CPH:DOX and Cinema du Reel, dealing with everything from “very niche and obscure and unconventional cinema to much broader, mainstream arthouse titles, all of which have allowed me to experience cinema in its broadest spectrum.”
Meanwhile, she suggested her experiences in all-rights distribution had taught her “about the realities of the market”.
Thanks to her earlier experience at IFFR and her time at the Holland Film Meeting, Kaludjercic is a well-known and popular figure in the Dutch industry. She started her career working at Motovun Film Festival in Croatia and the at Slovenian Cinematheque. However, she is not yet a fluent Dutch speaker.
“This might be the greatest challenge of all!” she admitted. “But I will most definitely learn and practice.”
Kaludjercic is already fluent in English, Italian, French and Slovenian as well as her native Croatian.
Screen talks to Vanja Kaludjercic
You’re going to be in charge for the 50th IFFR. Any thoughts at this stage on how the festival might mark its half century?
IFFR has a great legacy as a festival, and the 50th edition should look back at all that has been achieved so far. As much as it will celebrate its past, it will also look into the future and set the tone and agenda for years to come. Hopefully, 50 more to come!
What did you learn about the Dutch industry from your time at the Holland Film Meeting in Utrecht?
My time at HFM was indeed very insightful and an excellent introduction to the Dutch film landscape. The Dutch industry is one that has its own characteristics and dynamics. It is one that is both open to working with content that is relevant to the local audience as well as collaborates on international coproductions. Particularly valuable, was working with those producers and filmmakers within the arthouse landscape who were keen on working on an international scale. I had a pleasure to work alongside some incredibly talented directors and producers and am keen to continue doing that during my tenure at IFFR.
What do you think are IFFR’s greatest strengths?
IFFR occupies a unique position in the festival landscape, as one of the largest audience festivals celebrating audacious arthouse cinematic works from all corners of the world. Simultaneously its industry initiatives are of equal importance. IFFR is particularly dedicated to championing young talent and offering amazing co-production opportunities through CineMart, HBF, and Boost!. Rotterdam is thus the place that celebrates unconventional cinema and audiovisual art, champions filmmakers, and brings audiences from both worlds together. Both the general public and industry get together in a very informal way, creating a unique atmosphere. With the 50th-anniversary edition coming up, it is safe to say IFFR has a legacy and a track record that very few festivals have on a global scale. IFFR also has a fantastic team with excellent institutional knowledge, which is instrumental in future-proofing the festival.
What are the biggest challenges facing the festival?
The biggest challenges are the ones most likely faced by all players in this field; in short, it’s navigating the rapidly changing industry landscape and staying relevant. It’s about how do we remain in the forefront and keep being agenda setting. On the industry side, the focus will very much be, first of all, on being relevant for international co-production, which requires a deeper understanding of what the key stakeholders today need to successfully develop, (co)produce and distribute their films. Second of all, with the footprint IFFR has, it’s also very much about being that platform that can support and nurture them throughout in helping them reach audiences for their films.In terms of audience, the challenge will be in tapping into new audiences and younger audiences to keep growing as a festival. Think, for example, of the increasing amount of ex-pats coming to the Netherlands. There is a great opportunity to bring these new communities to the festival. How do we connect to these audiences, what partners and collaborations do we need to get onto the radar of these audiences.
Given your industry background, how involved will you be in the Cinemart?
I look very much forward to working with the IFFR Pro team again, who are very self-aware and proactive in figuring out what the role of a platform such as CineMart within a film festival needs to be today. The CineMart model was so innovative at the time it was launched so many years ago, and since then, it has been replicated a lot. While it’s still one of the leading platforms for independent coproductions, it has to think of formats and models that are catering to today’s industry needs and set new trends. The first steps have been made recently through Reality Check, as a launchpad for new ideas.Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to have gained experiences in various roles within the film industry, all of which I hope will be a helpful contribution to IFFR Pro, including CineMart, in figuring out and planning the next steps.
What are your tastes as a programmer?
In my previous roles, be it as a programmer or otherwise, I’ve been very lucky to be part of a variety of film festivals which all have their own particular editorial lines. From very niche and obscure and unconventional cinema to much broader, mainstream arthouse titles, all of which have allowed me to experience cinema in its broadest spectrum. Furthermore, as someone who has worked in all rights acquisitions, I had to think about titles that I can advocate for as a programmer, and that would attract audiences to cinemas, which is an exciting as well as a very challenging exercise. All of this has allowed me to acquire an incredibly rich understanding of world cinema, while distribution taught me about the realities of the market. At the end of the day, what matters most is championing great cinema and its filmmakers in whatever shape or form.
You have has strong involvement in documentary. Do you envisage showing non- fiction films at IFFR or will you leave that to IDFA?
Nothing will change on this front. Non-fiction films have always been part of the various sections of the festival, and we will continue to do so.
How important do you feel the Hubert Bals Fund is to IFFR’s identity?
HBF is a part of the industry side that makes the festival stand out. And that’s not only because it’s named after IFFR’s founder Hubert Bals. Throughout the years, it has helped filmmakers develop their projects from script to premiering at renowned festivals. The logical next steps would be to not only support filmmakers in the development and/or postproduction of their projects but to provide mentorship to filmmakers in the long run, throughout the year. It’s all about establishing and nurturing relationships with filmmakers that will hopefully feedback into the festival as a whole. HBF has a strong legacy. It should have a prominent place again within the next five years.