The line-up of the 44th Rotterdam festival was as eclectic as ever, with an emphasis, as usual, on independent filmmakers from all over the globe. This year was dominated by European and American productions, and there was a plethora of Canadian – in contradistinction to ‘American’ – films of various lengths on offer.
One coup of the festival was to lure the Russian ‘punk’ band Pussy Riot to the festival, for an onstage Q&A, a late night stage appearance, and a viewing of Pussy Riot Versus Putin with teaser clips from the follow-up documentary about the band.
Readers of this magazine will all, undoubtedly, have their own view on examples of ‘mind fuck’ films, but this year I encountered what can only be described as an ‘eye fuck’ film. Not since the time travel/star gate sequence in Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey have I encountered such a visual explosion of near-psychedelic proportions as achieved by the Peruvian Juan Daniel F. Molero in the world premiere of his ‘digital trip’ down the byways and sewers of ‘the interwebz’ film, Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes).
The Cyprus/Greece/Slovenia co-production of Impressions of a Drowned Man, directed by Kyros Papavassiliou, was a very evocative existential – and poetic – meditation about memory and identity while the Vietnamese magic-realist fantasy film The Inseminator, by Bui Kim Quy, took as its subject traditional village values in an unchanging world. Joanna Lombardi’s Solos was a Peruvian road movie about a quartet of romantic individuals who take a film (which we never get to see) on the road to remote villages, showing it in market squares on a portable inflatable screen (how I wanted one of those!), exploring ‘what it’s like to see a film disappear from cinemas seven days after working on it for years’.
Alongside the vast selection of films, the Jang Jin retrospective was a rewarding addition and the commitment of Rotterdam to short and medium length films from a variety of filmmakers is always to be admired and championed. Now heading towards its 45th incarnation in 2016, Rotterdam continues to be a significant player in the film festival circuit – quite an achievement in a world where there is said to be around 3,000 film festivals annually.
James B. Evans