Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

International Film Festival of Rotterdam

Part II

This is the fourth installment of an ongoing series written for the blog by Peter Rorvik. Peter is the Director of the Centre for Creative Arts at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as Director of the Durban International Film Festival.

Why does Christophe Van Rompaey‘s Rotterdam-set film, Lena, work? It’s brilliantly shot, well-paced, with a plausible and universally relevant story arc, but it is the riveting portrayal by debut actress Emma Levie that makes this film so compelling. Casual sex and line-dancing are Lena’s way of dealing with insecurities about her looks, her difficult mother, and the lack of a meaningful relationship. Things take a turn for the better when the handsome Daan starts courting her. She moves in with him and his eccentric jazz-loving dad, and we see her growing in confidence. Things become complex however, as Daan, and his dad, turn out to have issues of their own. Choices have to be made and Lena has to confront herself, and her integrity, anew. Darker than your Hollywood formula coming-of-age stories, this upbeat film is full of twists and nicely spiked with hilarious moments - it would be a shame if it gets buried in DVD obscurity. Do see it if it comes your way.

Other IFFR films worth noting include Wuthering Heights, Andrea Arnold’s very powerful and edgy reading of Emily Bronte’s classic novel. The David Cronenburg film A Dangerous Method offers a representation of the relationship between Jung and Freud which may not stand up to the critical analyses of the psychology fraternity but is a well-made piece of fun, drama and intrigue nevertheless.

Another film that should not be overlooked is Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre. Kaurismäki’s offhand genius brings masterful understatement and human warmth to the otherwise testy matter of immigration. Le Havre was the Finnish nomination in the foreign language category at the recent Academy Awards. Another Academy Award foreign film nominee, Monsieur Lazhar, edged out Martin Scorsese’s Hugo for Rotterdam’s Audience Award this year. Monsieur Lazhar is the heart-warming story of an Algerian immigrant school teacher standing in at a primary school class in Canada.

The excellent Goodbye, about a young female lawyer who tries to leave Iran, won the Dioraphte Award for films supported by the Hubert Bals Fund. Director Mohammad Rasoulof has himself has been the subject of legal persecution in Iran for his films.

Prolific Japanese filmmaker Miike Takashi has a strong following in Rotterdam and he was on hand to present his latest, Ace Attorney. A film adaptation of the popular Nintendo game of the same name, this is a racy crossover between court-room drama, live-action, game and manga.

One of the best in the fest for me was The Rest of the World. Here, French director Damien Odoul uses mainly non-professional actors for a story in which a family considers issues of identity and relationships - I thought it came together brilliantly.

The Pathe complex houses seven festival screens. The six screens in Cinerama are 10 minutes walk away, with additional venues dotted around the city. Eateries are all over the place, many offering festival discounts. Rotterdam is a great port city – it was European capital city of culture in 2001 – but with so much on the go during the festival, and with temperatures hovering between 6 degrees and zero, one has to be selective about outdoor activities. If you love cinema, Rotterdam in late January/ early February is a place to indulge.