The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) kicked off its 43rd edition in grand style on Wednesday night with a gala screening of Anup Singh’s Qissa.

Rotterdam's opening night 2014

Rotterdam’s opening night 2014

Singh attended the luanch, alongside actresses Tillotama Shome, Tisca Chopra and Rasika Dugal.

It was something of a homecoming for Indian filmmaker Singh, because Qissa was backed at script stage 10 years ago by Rotterdam’s Hubert Bals Fund. HBF celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and Qissa is part of the special programme Signals: Mysterious Objects - 25 Years of Hubert Bals Fund. The Fund has supported a total of 1,026 projects so far.

With the festival’s director Rutger Wolfson recovering from an illness, festival interim artistic director Mart Dominicus and managing Janneke Staarink welcomed the sold-out crowd on opening night.

“I don’t know whether you have noticed, but there is something in the air about this city. We knew this already, but all of a sudden, according to some of the media, Rotterdam is hot,” she declared. “The great vibe the volunteers, staff, guests and loyal audiences have been bringing to the festival for years, the vibe of creating an unique atmosphere, that’s what want to expand. We see a greater role for the festival to play in this city. Not only as a platform for local brands, but especially as a pillar of marketing potential. Cultural icons are crucial for the future attractiveness of the city and essential in terms of its artistic, social and economic development.

“There is a large body of evidence for this vital positive influence. But in the past years, thanks to the credit crunch, we, the cultural institutes, have been forced to scale down instead of up. We are convinced that scaling down is not the right way to go about it! And we hereby solemnly declare to come up with a plan whereby the cultural and business icons of this city join forces to turn things around.”

Staarink praised Dominicus for stepping into the helm temporarily: “Jumping on a train that is already running at full speed takes great courage and wisdom. We salute Mart Dominicus!,” she said.