The second half of the Bright Futures slate at this year’s Rotterdam International Film Festival is dominated by homecomings. Documentary filmmakers go back to their roots to perform their investigations into history both personal and political. Sometimes it’s the dislocation which throws the contradictions of society into sharp relief. With all this brow-furrowing going on, it’s a relief to find some old stand-bys like the British comedy of embarrassment and a coming-of-age-among-the-tulips tale. The IRFF runs between January 27 and February 7. Oxygen tents will be available after the screening of The Sentimental Engine Slayer.
The pitch: In 2000, the Dutch city of Enschede was ripped apart by a deadly fireworks factory explosion. Native filmmaker Astrid Bussink revisits the scene.
There’s still some fallout? It’s a personal journey of sorts. Bussink left the city the day the factory blew up. Since then she’s won awards for short documentaries like The Angelmakers and brought her first feature, The Lost Colony, to Rotterdam in 2008. Living within spitting distance of the memorial, the film filters the question of who’s to blame through her efforts at understanding.
The pitch: Another story of return. Corsica is seen through the eyes of a homecoming expat, which reveal its patriarchal social structure and beautiful landscape.
I’ll book my vacation soon. It’s not all Lonely Planet eye-candy. Artist Ange Leccia has branched out into film to experiment with sound. There’s no dialogue anywhere in the film.
Immersive! The notes, however, do promise Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ne dis rien” on the soundtrack.
That’s funny. In the Bright Futures sidebar, you take your laughs where you can find them.
The pitch: Filmmaker Amsterdam-based Andrea Seligmann Silva returns to Sao Paolo, Brazil …
These filmmakers sure chalk up a lot of air miles. Interestingly, Silva’s entire family left Brazil at one time or another. Looking for answers as to why, Silva zeroes in on her Jewish mother, who escaped the Nazis and suffered a psychotic episode years before.
“She’s got it! Oh baby, she’s got it!” You’re not far off base. Mark de Cloe’s coming-of-age film is set among the Netherland’s tulip fields.
You couldn’t get more Dutch without putting a canal through it. Three friends are rattled when their friend has an accident. What follows is described as “a story about love, loss, guilt, innocence and impotence.”
The pitch: A scruffy pair of exorcists create complications for their soon-to-wed clients.
At last! A comedy! Nick Whitfield’s debut film boasts the low-key semi-documentary style familiar from Britcoms like The Office. Jeremy Isaacs from Harry Potter also makes an appearance.
A Summer Family
The pitch: A Japanese dancer living in Normandy has his rural idyll shake up by the arrival of his wife and daughter. The ambiguous tale is related through a mix of theatre, dance and film.
Seems like Rotterdam 2010 is all about returns and exiles. This is the second feature from Iwana Masaki, a butoh dancer-turned-filmmaker who, like his protagonist, has been living in France for the past 20 years. His Web site warns/promises “This film contains 5 minutes of so-called ‘pornographic’ images.”
The pitch: A Georgia boy assists with his mother’s bootleg vodka business and waits for his father to return.
See what I mean? Along with Street Days’s Sundance slot, Rusudan Pirveli’s festival film is yet another sign that the world is waking up to Georgia filmmaking. The filmmaker also worked on the crew for Renny Harlin’s forthcoming Georgia.
Renny Harlin and a wartorn ex-Soviet Socialist Republic? Sounds explosive in the worst possible way.
Tales from Kars
The pitch: Five short films from Eastern Turkey’s Province of Kars, which borders Armenia. Kars is also the setting for Orhan Pamuk’s Snow.
Lots of picturesque ruins should be on display. Three of the five filmmakers were chosen to contribute to the film after winning a screenplay competition. The notes describe the portmanteau as “a sympathetic collection of small stories.”
The pitch: A young Chinese couple move to the city to look for work.
I foresee rejection. Not the kind you’re anticipating—as well as a job, they’re also looking to have a kid. But daddy might be firing blanks.
Embarrassing. Director Hsu Ronin’s debut is very much in the social realist tradition of contemporary Chinese cinema.
The pitch: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s debut …
Hang on. Isn’t he in that band The Mars Volta? The story could be right out of one of their concept albums. A twenty-something grocery bagger, played by Lopez himself, goes insane while engaged in an incestuous relationship with his sister.
Bring on those crazy time-changes. Beneath the seedy world of prostitutes and drug addicts is a quest for a functioning family unit. The trailer suggests a beautiful but jarring piece of work.
The pitch: An investment bank assistant wins on the exchange but loses in the game of life.
Yeah, whatever. I’m Netflixing Brewster’s Millions. Jaap van Heusden’s film stars the unknown Oscar van Rompay alongside Halina Reijn, who appeared in Squally fave Black Book.
Tags: A Summer Family, Andrea Seligmann Silva, Ange Leccia, Astrid Bussink, At the Drive-In, Black Book, Georgia, Halina Reijn, Hsu Ronin, Iwana Masaki, Jaap van Heusden, Jeremy Isaacs, Mark de Cloe, Mijn Enschede, Nick Whitfield, Nuit Bleue, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Orhan Pamuk, Oscar van Rompay, Renny Harlin, Rotterdam Film Festival, Rusudan Pirveli, Separations, Shocking Blue, Skeletons, Street Days, Susa, Tales from Kars, The Angelmakers, The Annunciation, The Lost Colony, The Mars Volta, The Sentimental Engine Slayer, Win/Win