Mira Fornay's My Dog Killer
Arriving annually on the heels of the Sundance Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam regularly attracts industry insiders, many of whom head to the Netherlands straight from Utah. The festival wrapped up its program over the weekend, handing out awards as the event came to a close. Three films received Rotterdam's Hivos Tiger Awards, honoring first or second time filmmakers.
Slovakian/Czech feature My Dog Killer (Moj Pes Killer) by Mira Fornay, Austria's Soldier Jane (Soldate Jeannette) by Daniel Hoesl and Iranian film Fat Shaker (Larzanandeye Charbi) by Mohammad Shirvani were honored with juried prizes, chosen from the 16 titles in competition. The 42nd International Film Festival Rotterdam took place January 23 - February 3.
My Dog Killer revolves around a 18 year old loner in a small village whose only friends are his guard dog and local skinheads. His solo existence is interrupted, however, when his dispirited mother and half brother suddenly reappear. Soldier Jane centers on two women who seek out their freedom. Fanni indulges in an affluent lifestyle with conspicuous consumerism only to throw it away. She meets Anna, an attractive young woman who is in dire need of reinvention. Together, they set out on new adventures, defying all conventions. The third Hivos Tiger winner, Fat Shaker, unfolds through a series of images. The story centers around a "fat father" who tries to con money from women using his young and attractive son, who is deaf. The son is picked up by women, but they're stopped by the father who intimidates them into paying up.
Meanwhile, Dutch feature Matterhorn won IFFR's 2013 Audience Award. Directed by Diederik Ebbinge, the story follows widower Fred who leads a lonely life after the death of his wife. But his life takes an unexpected turn when a stranger shows up at his doorstep.
Haifaa Al Mansour's Wadjda
Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour's taboo-breaking Wadjda won the festival's Dioraphte Award for Best Hubert Bals Fund-supported film. The film, which is the first by a female director from the conservative Middle Eastern country, tells the story of a 10 year old Saudi girl who dreams of having a green bicycle. People in her conservative surroundings, however, don't think a girl should be on a bicycle. Even so, she perseveres. IFFR's Hubert Bals Fund is an initiative by the festival that provides grants to projects in various stages of completion.
Though not eligible for Tiger Awards, veteran Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci nevertheless commanded attention at the festival with his latest film, Me And You. The story is an adaptation of a novel by Niccolo Ammaniti about a 14 year old boy who tries to cope with his half sister and her heroin addiction. The plot unfolds in the basement of the boy's home where he hides out, pretending to his mother that he's on a school ski trip. The film is Bertolucci's first feature since The Dreamers (2003). There had been speculation Bertolucci would not direct again after suffering back problems following a fall in Rome that was then followed by a failed surgery, according to The Guardian.
"A few years ago, I couldn't move any more. I couldn't walk. That, maybe, was the moment when I thought I couldn't do any more movies," Bertolucci told The Guardian. "I thought, OK, it is finished. I'll do something else … [but] everything changed the moment I accepted this situation." Spanning five decades, Bertolucci's career began with The Grim Reaper in 1961 when he was 21 years old. His latest film film, which had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last May, will screen at the Belgrade Film Festival later this month.