Indian drama “Pebbles,” by Vinothraj PS, won the main competition Tiger Award at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) on Sunday. Taking the top prize in the Big Screen Competition sidebar was Argentine filmmaker Ana Katz’s “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet.”
Set against a backdrop of grinding poverty and drought-stricken villages in southern India, “Pebbles” follows a troubled father, angry that his wife has left him, and his young son as they embark on a difficult journey through desolate landscapes on one of the hottest days of the year.
“In the midst of many admirable and ambitious works, the jury was blown away by a seemingly simple and humble film we fell in love with instantly,” the Tiger Award jury said. “Creating a maximum impact with a minimum in means, the filmmaker reaches his goal with the same conviction and determination as his main characters. The result is a lesson in pure cinema, captivating us with its beauty and humor, in spite of its grim subject.”
French director Pascal Tagnati’s feature film debut, “I Comete − A Corsican Summer,” about the locals of a Corsican village, and Norika Sefa’s Kosovar drama “Looking for Venera” won Tiger Competition Special Jury Awards.
The jury described “I Comete – A Corsican Summer” as “a true love letter of humanity brought to us through a refreshing look on contemporary cinema,” while praising “Looking for Venera” for its “purposeful restraint and unassuming sincerity” in the way it captures “an intimate slice of life” through its camera work and sound.
The Tiger Award includes a €40,000 ($48,196) prize to be divided between filmmaker and producer, while the Special Jury Awards are each worth €10,000 ($12,049).
Shot in black and white, “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet” follows a young man, devoted to his loyal dog, as he haltingly initiates adulthood, navigating love, loss and fatherhood. The film impressed the jury with “a brilliant opening scene” and the director’s “radical choices regarding narrative, structure and cinematography.”
Sponsored by Dutch pubcaster VPRO, the prize includes a €30,000 ($36,147) award and guarantees theatrical release and TV broadcast in the Netherlands.
Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić nabbed the BankGiro Loterij Audience Award for her Bosnian War drama “Quo vadis, Aida?,” which unspooled in the fest’s Limelight section.
The festival also presented U.S. filmmaker Kelly Reichardt with its second annual Robby Müller Award, named after the late Dutch cinematographer.
“We see in Kelly Reichardt, not just a liberating independence and clarity of aesthetic vision, but also someone who, in a self-evident way, carries on Robby Müller’s legacy,” the jury said.
Reichardt’s latest work, the western drama “First Cow,” unspooled in Limelight.
“In these most challenging of times, we are incredibly proud to have brought an outstanding selection of titles in our reimagined festival format,” said festival director Vanja Kaludjercic.
“The expanded Tiger Competition included 16 films that reflect the plurality of voices and visions of talent that will continue to deliver great cinema for years to come. What we learned from this experience is that as resilient as the industry is, so are our audiences who fully embraced and celebrated the first chapter of this year’s festival.”
Forced online this year due to the pandemic, IFFR organizers split this year’s fest into two parts. The second part will take place June 2-6 and is set to include physical theatrical presentations and a more festive celebration that will comprise the new Harbour showcase as well as the Bright Futures sidebar.
Marking her first year as festival director, Kaludjercic stressed the importance of holding at least the first part of the festival at the start of the year despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
“The Rotterdam Film Festival holds an important place on the international calendar. It’s very relevant for filmmakers to get the exposure, to get this moment of attention from not only the audience but the international industry as well.”
Kaludjercic added: “I’m so grateful for everything that our team first and foremost had to prepare to make this festival happen. We had to adapt in so many different ways. But what is incredible to see is how film lovers – our audience – have adapted as well.”
The full list of winners are below:
Tiger Award: “Pebbles,” by Vinothraj P.S.
Special Jury Award: “I Comete – A Corsican Summer,” by Pascal Tagnati
Special Jury Award: “Looking for Venera,” by Norika Sefa
BIG SCREEN COMPETITION
VPRO Big Screen Award: “The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be Quiet,” by Ana Katz
AMMODO TIGER SHORT COMPETITION
Ammodo Tiger Short Award: “Sunsets, Everyday” by Basir Mahmood
Ammodo Tiger Short Award: “Terranova” by Alejandro Pérez Serrano and Alejandro Alonso Estrella
Ammodo Tiger Short Award: “Maat Means Land,” by Fox Maxy
Robby Müller Award: Kelly Reichardt
BankGiro Loterij Audience Award: “Quo vadis, Aida? by Jasmila Žbanić
FIPRESCI Award: “The Edge of Daybreak,” by Taiki Sakpisit
KNF Award: “Manifesto,” by Ane Hjort Guttu
Youth Jury Award: “La nuit des rois,” by Philippe Lacôte