“It’s marvellous to see how filmmakers translate their worlds and stories to the big screen.”

The International Film Festival Rotterdam recently celebrated a successful 51st edition, albeit all online. Covid-19 measures notwithstanding, the team maximized every opportunity to showcase new films and talent. Because that’s what this festival is all about: bringing films from around the globe to Rotterdam for local, national and international audiences to enjoy. IFFR’s managing director Marjan van der Haar has been a die-hard cinephile since her student days and went on to make her career in the industry. A few years ago she returned to her IFFR roots, in a job that lets her work closely with talented filmmakers.

The meetings with filmmakers and the experience of showing their work on a big screen is a defining element of the festival, which presents a wide spectrum of films from around the globe. Marjan explains that her team of fifty people do research year-round to develop a programme around the large pool of preselected films. “During the festival, more than a thousand people join the team as staff and volunteers. To ensure visitors from Rotterdam, the rest of the Netherlands and the world get the most out of it, we put together a packed programme every year. During the pandemic, we looked carefully at how to shape that online.” Looking ahead at the next edition of the festival, the IFFR team can’t wait to welcome filmmakers and visitors on location again.

Aside from the organizational aspect, supporting filmmakers is another key component. “In the run-up this year we did a lot of online sessions with all the filmmakers to ensure they’re able to make the most of the opportunity we offer them, and to help them connect with potential producers and directors.” IFFR also works closely with primary schools in Rotterdam to introduce children to stories from all over the world across different topics and genres, including politics, documentaries, drama and romance. According to Marjan, film is vital for reflecting on the breadth of life as well as for briefly escaping ourselves.

This year we have even more to look forward to, with the Tiger Competition, Big Screen Competition and Ammodo Tiger Short Competition still in store. “These are films that have been screened online for professionals already, which constitutes a hugely important moment for many makers as it’s their world première. But we also want to offer these talented artists a chance to show their creations on the big screen, which we’ll be doing this summer.” In addition, the last day of the online film festival saw the launch of 25 Encounters, a project featuring 25 conversations between filmmakers and film fans in which they reflect on the past, present and future of film festivals and IFFR. This series is available on Unleashed through the end of May.

Text: Céline Boute
Photography: Vera Cornel