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IFFR 2019

Bero Beyer • Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam

"It's important to realise how relevant the emotions are, and how powerful images and narratives convey feelings"

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- We talked to IFFR director Bero Beyer on the eve of the 48th edition of the Dutch festival in order to further explore what it means to “feel IFFR”

Bero Beyer  • Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam

International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) director Bero Beyer has already proffered a walkthrough of this year’s festival (see the news). Just before the opening of the 48th IFFR (23 January-3 February), we talked to him in order to further explore what it means to “feel IFFR”.

Cineuropa: Are you “abandoning” Planet IFFR by asking your audience to #FeelIFFR?
Bero Beyer:
 We are going even further with the concept of Planet IFFR that was launched two years ago, and by following through with our exploration of the fascinating and quirky humans that inhabit it [last year’s campaign], we discovered that they are alive! The proof of this is that they feel. So you could actually read the theme as “feel like the humans of Planet IFFR”, but that is just too cumbersome for a hashtag.

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What is important for us, however, is to realise how relevant the emotions are, and how powerful images and narratives convey feelings. We pretend to lean on facts and truth, whatever they may be, to form our view of the world, but the opposite is there for all to see. We rely on our emotional response to what we encounter and distil meaning from that. When we dumb down our feelings or suppress them, and lock them deep in the basement of our consciousness, only resentment, fear, hatred and xenophobia survive.

So, across the programme of over 500 cinematic works this year, and especially in terms of how we approach our thematic programmes in Perspectives, we explore what that means. Why do we spy on each other and how does the way we spy through a lens shape our worldview [“The Spying Thing”]? What is the power of silence [“Say No More”]? We delve into how the changing context of a work actually creates an altogether new work. How does restored, reedited and reinterpreted cinema change our point of view [“Laboratory of Unseen Beauty”]? How does the online world of memes enable cultural ideas to spread [“The Rabbit Hole”]? And we will be looking at how a wave of black filmmakers is giving voice to their identity in Brazil [“The Soul in the Eye”].

So, the question posed by IFFR this year is how to explore our emotional responses – through the beautiful emotional medium of cinema – and perhaps ultimately find a way to combine both reason and feeling.

As every year, the IFFR has a strong line-up of parallel events. Are there any highlights for this edition, and what should we expect from Art Directions? 
Art Directions encompasses the entire line-up of visual arts spanning the whole festival. The bulk of these can be found in Deep Focus because there, we have our Frameworks programme, but we treat art (just like, for instance, episodic works or VR) the same way as we treat any other cinematic work – meaning it fits in with the curatorial line of one of the four sections. So if there are installations or performances that fit, say, The Rabbit Hole programme on memes, you will find it in Perspectives.

Just delving into the exhibition on slide projectors will be amazing. The short, dark moment between two slides also symbolises our fragmented view on history and its relevance to our own identity. I am personally very much looking forward to the Black Utopia LP performance by Cauleen Smith, for instance. And since we believe the context of a work is so relevant, there will be a string of master classes and talks. The speakers include filmmakers like Claire Denis (High Life [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Claire Denis
film profile
]
), Carlos Reygadas (Our Time [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Carlos Reygadas
film profile
]
), Jia Zhangke (Ash Is Purest White [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
) and Sergei Loznitsa (Donbass [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Sergei Loznitsa
film profile
]
), but also composer Cliff Martinez and choreographer Nina McNeely (who worked on Gaspar Noé’s Climax [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
). In addition, there will be a Freedom Lecture by Agnieszka Holland about solidarity for filmmakers at risk.

Since October, you have been running IFFR together with managing director Marjan van der Haar. How did this transition go?
Marjan brings tremendous experience and an understanding of film, so it was an incredibly smooth transition. She had worked at the festival in the early 1990s and was part of the genesis of international sales company Fortissimo, which she ran as managing director for 15 years. So she is very much part of the spirit of IFFR in terms of bringing unique and daring films to the forefront, to an audience and to the world.

Can you reveal any of the plans that you have for the future? 
Actually, there is quite a lot to be said about the preparations for our upcoming 50th edition in 2021. That will be a milestone and a sign of how this bold and uncompromising stance of IFFR, embracing art and cinema, can be both festive and reflective – and how it connects to a huge audience of film lovers, humans of Planet IFFR who are not afraid to open their hearts and minds to new emotions that rattle and surprise us with each new film.

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