Rotterdam 2021, Phase One

Jonathan Ogilvie’s Lone Wolf (2021)

Like the Berlinale, the International Film Festival Rotterdam is rolling out its 2021 edition in two stages. And like Sundance, the IFFR has a new director, Vanja Kaludjercic, who faces the extraordinary challenge of navigating the event through a global pandemic. As if to up the ante, the IFFR is also celebrating a big anniversary with its fiftieth edition.

While the festival hopes to be able to stage a series of live, in-person events in early June, screenings over the next seven days will be strictly virtual—and accessible only to audiences in the Netherlands (though accredited guests can be anywhere in the world). For the rest of us, the IFFR has put together quite a treat. For each and every one of the titles in the Tiger and Big Screen competitions, the festival has invited a critic or programmer to write a brief reflection, and all thirty of these pieces are collected on a single page: Appreciations.

Giona A. Nazzaro, artistic director of the Locarno Film Festival, writes about Selim Mourad’s Agate mousse, a “razor-sharp reflection on the state of things in the Middle East,” and further appreciations include filmmaker Jaime Rosales on Nino Martínez Sosa’s “extraordinary” debut feature, Liborio; Adrian Martin on James Vaughan’s “delightful and surprising” Friends and Strangers, which reminds him of the work of Hong Sangsoo; Kiva Reardon on Marta Popivoda’s Landscapes of Resistance, a portrait of a Serbian anti-fascist fighter; Kristen Yoonsoo Kim on Yoshida Kota’s “perversely comedic triptych,” Sexual Drive; and Olaf Möller on Jonathan Ogilvie’s Lone Wolf, “an entertainment of the daring and unruly kind, which mixes the popular and the experimental in the most delightfully surprising fashion.”

IFFR Pro, the festival’s industry section, is naturally going virtual as well, and Marit van den Elshout, who heads it up, tells Variety’s Ed Meza that “this has accelerated some of these issues in the industry that we needed to tackle anyway. I mean, we were a traveling circus, meeting each other all over the world or flying wherever in the world to participate in one panel. I don’t think that we will go back to that anymore to be honest.” Rotterdam will also present a short film competition and Limelight, a program of art-house favorites from the past year. Rounding off the lineup is a series of live talks. Georgian director Dea Kulumbegashvili and Chilean composer Nicolás Jaar will discuss their collaboration on Beginning, and Benoît Jacquot and Charlotte Gainsbourg will talk about working together on Suzanna Andler.

Also lined up are conversations with Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese (This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection); Mads Mikkelsen, the star of the festival’s opening night film, Anders Thomas Jensen’s Riders of Justice; and Kelly Reichardt, winner of the second annual Robby Müller Award, named after the late cinematographer best known for his work with Wim Wenders. Reichardt, in the meantime, is preparing her next feature, her fourth collaboration with Michelle Williams after Wendy and Lucy (2008), Meek’s Cutoff (2010), and Certain Women (2016). In Showing Up, Williams will play an artist who takes inspiration from the sheer chaos of her life as she prepares for a crucial exhibition.

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