The 37th IFFR (International Film Festival Rotterdam) opened last night with the world premiere of Argentinian director Lucia Cedron's Lamb Of God. At a packed screening in concert hall, the Doelen, the festival's new director Rutger Wolfson spoke of his vision for the festival.
'Perhaps the most important quality of this festival is that it has followed filmmakers who have waywardly followed their own course,' Wolfson said.
In an interview today with ScreenDaily.com, he elaborated on why Rotterdam continues to support maverick talent.
'That is one of the truly great things about this festival. We have never thought: let's please the audience. We have always made the festival we believed in ourselves. The truly great thing is that there is such a large audience for it,' Wolfson said.
IFFR attracts more than 350,000 admissions every year to its films and events, but does so, Wolfson insists, without 'compromising at all in terms of the programme.' He also believes that Rotterdam has managed to grow without losing 'the sense of intimacy' that characterised the event in its early years under founder, Hubert Bals.
'This festival is very secure. It has a very strong base,' he said. 'Our profile and identity are very clear, based on our longstanding reputation.'
Wolfson described his own role as akin to that of an 'editor in chief.' He works closely with a team of programmers and suggests that the old-style vision of an artistic director who chooses every film on his or her own is now outdated. 'Everybody recognises that a festival of this scale involves a lot of people to make a programme. We have seen thousands of films,' he said. 'The traditional model of the festival director as a figurehead, the person whose choice colours the festival, has already changed.'
Discussions can be ferocious but Wolfson stands his ground. 'They (programmers) have strong tastes but very different tastes,' he said. 'I am not a total cinephile but I don't come out of an egg, as they say in Holland.'
This year's Rotterdam has been notably successful in attracting visits from international auteurs who often by-pass other events on the festival calendar. Among the guests expected this week are Alexander Sokurov, Bela Tarr, Tsai Ming-Liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien.
Speculation is continuing as to whether Wolfson - who was appointed in September on a one-year contract - will stay at the helm of the festival next year. He remains a candidate. The Festival's Board is understood to be mulling over whether to appoint a 'film specialist' or a 'generalist.' If it opts for the latter option, Wolfson (a contemporary art specialist) is in a strong position to retain his job.
'I don't even know yet if I would want to continue. It (working at IFFR) is a wonderful experience,' Wolfson said.
Since previous director Sandra Den Hamer left IFFR in the autumn, various names have been aired as possible replacements, among them Wieland Speck (of Berlin's Panorama) and David Sin (former Director of Cinema at London's Institute of Contemporary Art.) However, some suggest that the festival will opt for a local name.
Predictably, early in the festival, festival organisers were keen to dampen the gossip and to encourage attendees to concentrate on the current programme instead.
IFFR runs through February 3.