By Luan Minh Nguyen

The opening night took place on January 24, inside the De Doelen building at the heart of Rotterdam. Festival director Bero Beyer won the hearts of the audience with his inspiring speech about the role of film in the contemporary landscape, enabling us to take a step back and see the bigger picture of the complex reality we made and took for granted, referring to significant social issues of the last few years such as gender equality or the refugee crisis of Syria.

Immediately afterward, the audience were showcased the first film of the festival, Jimmie, directed by Jesper Ganslandt. The story circled around a 4-year old boy on the run with his father to escape a dystopian Sweden that mirrored Syria. The two main lead actors of the film are Ganslandt himself and his son Hunter, who came out to greet the audience right after the movie ended to great applause. According to Ganslandt, the film gives Western European audiences a clearer picture of the refugee crisis through the unique viewpoint of a child.

Held annually near the end of January, Rotterdam has long been in the A list of film festivals according to The International Film Festival Association, alongside Cannes, Venice and Sundance. What distinguishes Rotterdam from other film festivals is its focus on independent film projects, short films, arthouse and experimental cinema. Hence, it does not follow the commonly glamorous red-carpet convention as attending guests are mostly emerging filmmakers or potential new faces in the industry. There, they are encouraged to mingle and interact with audiences, journalists or distributors through interviews, talks or public presentations to promote their ideas and visions of the film industry.

The most anticipated highlight of this year’s festival is ‘Masterclass & Talks’, as it welcomes notable industry experts. Some of the names this year are actress Charlotte Rampling, director Sean Baker, Ethiopian director Haile Gerrima and Paul Schrader. Through this program, they will share insights of their new and upcoming projects along with behind-the-scene stories and their creative process. Another highlight is the ‘Reality Check’ day, opened for press and industry guests which will focus on the changing landscape of film distribution and how to promote independent cinema to the bigger world.

The 47th International Film Festival Rotterdam takes place from January 24 to February 5, with over 500 film titles from around the world, including two Australian films: Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country and Eddie Martin’s Have You Seen The Listers?

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