The 40th anniversary IFFR opened with Greek drama Wasted Youth [pictured].

The 40th anniversary edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) opened tonight (Wednesday) with the world premiere screening of Wasted Youth, co-directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos and Jan Vogel. The film, set in contemporary Athens during a sweltering day, was likened by one critic to a “European Paranoid Park.”

The film is in the Tiger competition, the festival’s main competitive strand. A 50-strong contingent from Greece was in town for the screening.

Wasted Youth subtly reveals the relationship between citizens and the authorities, between individual freedom and economic reality. Seemingly without effort, the filmmakers mange to hold the audience’s attention in this stylish, gripping drama,” IFFR director Rutger Wolfson declared in a speech preceding the screening.

Both Wolfson and Janneke Staarink, the new business director of the Festival, took the opportunity to address the challenges facing the Festival as a result of what Staarink called “the new political landscape.”

With public funding for the arts falling in The Netherlands, IFFR is now placing added emphasis on private funding. Staarink revealed that the Festival has now teamed up with privately funded foundation The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds to set up the Tiger Film Mecenaat, (Tiger Film Patrons’ Fund). The Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds will conduct the management and administration for the Fund and the IFFR will chose the film projects the fund supports.

IFFR, running through Feb 6, is now the largest cultural public event in the Netherlands. With annual admissions of around 350,000, it is also one of the biggest public film festivals in the world.

Wolfson defended the adventurous and experimental approach that has characterised the festival throughout its 40-year history.

“There is a persistent preconception that large-scale events are by definition superficial,” he noted. “The mass media and politicians seem to believe that ‘you need to dumb down, in order to scale up’. In the quest for more viewers, readers or voters, they are all too ready to bow down to this received wisdom; with even more shallowness as a result.” The Festival boss added that IFFR was “living proof that depth and large scale really can go together.”

During his speech, Wolfson also spoke out against the imprisonment of Iranian filmmakers, Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof (both of whom have close ties with Rotterdam). He called on festivalgoers to do all they can to lobby for the filmmakers’ release. The festival is inviting festivalgoers to have “mug shots” made of themselves. These mug shots will then be published on the festival website as part of the campaign to free the filmmakers.