This year too I took part in the celebrations of the diverse, vibrant cinematic landscape the Festival offers and this year, for a change, my main focus was to watch as many otherwise inaccessible films as possible.
Navigating the festival’s programme is a bit of an art – each film has only so many screenings and each day has only so many hours and sometimes you need to choose a title over another only based on a few lines on a catalogue, or only because it fits your daily schedule better than another. Also, in the first days of the festival there is less audience feedback about which are the titles causing a stir (those are the ones you want to see!), but as the days go by and it becomes clearer which ones are the favourites, it becomes harder to find a spot in the next screening.
The festival is over and this year’s official winners are known already, but before we move on toward the next film event, or toward the next thing we need to do to make our new project happen, I thought I’d share with you my personal picks as to which films made my IFFR this year – which were the works that inspired me the most, intrigued, or even shocked me into wanting to go deeper and stronger in my own work.
So here as follows are the results of how I scored as a PROfessional Audience Member and Screening Surfer, and which titles made my IFFR this year.
Altogether, I saw 13 feature-length films, all of them fiction – 9 of the titles I saw were directed by women, and 4 by men. Out of the 13, 11 of them fell in the “good” and above category, of the remaining two one was “Tedious” and only one was a proper “WTF?”.
Of the “good” 11, 5 were “A Very Good Attempt At Something Daring”, 3 were “Wonderful & Intense”, and 3 made it all the way to “Fucking Brilliant”.
Unsurprisingly, all 3 of those were directed by women, and here are the titles:
3. PREVENGE by Alice Lowe
I saw Prevenge during one of the IFFR Live screenings on my first night at the Festival and it blew my mind. Daring, surprising, laugh-out-loud funny while at the same time also rather gruesome, this is the story of a quite pregnant woman who has a very special relationship with her unborn child. Yes, the foetus in her womb talks to her in its sweet little voice, it controls her, it takes over her brain pushing her to violently kill all who were involved in a fatal accident that took the baby’s father’s life. British humour dark comedy at its finest, I absolutely loved how Prevenge turned the ‘blessed state’ halo surrounding the idea of pregnancy on its head, presenting a sharp, absurd, eerie portrait of what it can feel like to have your body be taken over by a different creature with a different agenda. Unmissable for anyone who ever carried a foetus in their gut, or wanted to kill someone. Or both.
2. AMERICAN HONEY by Andrea Arnold
I had to wait until the very last day of the Festival to see American Honey, as almost every screening was immediately sold out. Not strange, given what a subtle, heart-warming cinematic work this film is. An almost-three-hours-long, sunbathed, brilliantly shot and performed road movie which tells a story of warmth, sweetness, and human connection in a place where all there seems to be is neglect. Once again, with her confident and compassionate storytelling, Andrea Arnold shows us the beauty and authenticity of what the majority of us would consider “trash”, the dreams and hunger for life of people who are marginalised and forgotten – all of this without resorting to unnecessary pathos or making a cautionary tale out of this dreamy tale of summer, youth, and falling in love.
1. RAW by Julia Ducournau
The intensity, originality, and wildly skilful filmmaking oozing from every frame of this stunning work by first-time French director Julia Ducournau is something you will not forget. EVER. Yes, it is a horror, yes it’s bloody and visceral and completely uncompromising and yes, I had to cover my eyes in disgust more than once while watching it, but Raw is so much more than just gorey shock value. Behind the apparently simple premise (Justine, who comes from an all-vegetarian family, begins her veterinary studies, where she’s subject to a particularly gruesome baptism of fire. After she is forced to swallow a piece of raw meat, a terrifying metamorphosis sets in her body, awakening a hunger for human flesh which ultimately she will not be able to hold back) a surprisingly deep analysis of human nature unravels, touching on themes such as the toxicity of sibling rivalry, personal freedom vs. the need of social conformity, the sinister power of a sexual awakening, and the impossibility to ever fully tame the animal in each one of us. Truly Unforgettable.
And what about you? Have you been at the Rotterdam Film Festival this year? Have you seen any of these titles? What were your favourites? – Let’s start a conversation! Talk to us on Facebook or Twitter, or send us a message if you’d like to keep it private.