Rotterdam Film Festival Roars With Expanded Tiger Competition

The Intl. Film Festival Rotterdam had to forego a physical event for its 50th anniversary edition, but it’s aiming to reach a wider audience with expanded competition sections and showcases that include promising new voices and established filmmakers alike.

Under new festival director Vanja Kaludjercic, IFFR has reduced the overall number of films from the more than 270 feature films that unspooled last year while beefing up the main Tiger Competition, which celebrates innovative works from up-and-coming filmmakers, from 10 to 16 titles. Also expanded was the Big Screen Competition, which bridges the gap between popular, classic and arthouse cinema.

The revised competitions “encapsulate IFFR’s spirit as a platform for the discovery of visions that pique our curiosity and capture our imagination,” Kaludjercic says.

Female self-realization is one subject that is explored in a number of films vying for this year’s Tiger Award, namely Karen Cinorre’s U.S. title “Mayday”; Norika Sefa’s Kosovar drama “Looking for Venera”; and Marta Popivoda’s Serbian documentary “Landscapes of Resistance,” about a socialist partisan in Serbia who was captured by the Nazis but managed to escape from Auschwitz.

Several titles challenge narrative formats while examining themes of lust, aggression and sexual alienation, among them “Moss Agate,” by Lebanese director Selim Mourad; Ismaël and Youssef Chebbi’s Tunisian femme fatal thriller “Black Medusa”; and Tim Leyendekker’s Dutch work “Feast.” Unspooling in Big Screen are such international works as Paz Fábrega’s Costa Rican drama “Aurora,” about a girl struggling with an unwanted pregnancy, and “The North Wind,” a Russian drama by Renata Litvinova described as a “romantic, baroque and decadent Gothic fairytale” about a matriarchal clan.

Rotterdam’s Limelight showcase presents cinematic highlights coming soon to Dutch cinemas, such as Anders Thomas Jensen’s opening film, “Riders of Justice.” The comedy-thriller, which stars Mads Mikkelsen, felt very clearly like a festival opener the moment she saw it, says Kaludjercic.

“It has a great cast. It’s a returning filmmaker to Rotterdam as well. Anders Thomas Jensen really has the rare ability to make films that at the same time encompass complex topics that are very relevant to society and that really embrace broader audiences as well.” Mikkelsen will be among the guests taking part in the fest’s Big Talk series, which will also feature Kelly Reichardt (“First Cow”), the recipient of this year’s Robby Müller Award; Benoît Jacquot and Charlotte Gainsbourg, the director and star of French drama “Suzanna Andler”; and Dea Kulumbegashvili and Nicolás Jaar, the director and composer of “Beginning,” Georgia’s entry in the international film race at the Academy Awards.

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