Magazine article Screen International

IFFR Reflects on State of Europe

Magazine article Screen International

IFFR Reflects on State of Europe

Article excerpt

The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) has used film to reflect on European culture, politics and identity.

The State Of Europe programme at this year's IFFR was the brainchild of artistic director Rutger Wolfson.

In advance of the European elections, he wanted the festival to reflect on European culture, politics and identity.

As he wrote: 'The historical project of the European unification has lost much of its lustre. Peace and prosperity, the two main forces that have driven Europe, are still relevant today but feel worn out.

"Politicians seem unable to convey a convincing alternative future perspective and many citizens are angry, disillusioned or have lost interest completely."

Rising debt, the spectre of nationalism, the colonial legacy and the tension between EU Member states are all factors in the modern Europe.

For his programmers, this huge subject initially seemed daunting - a project for historians and politicians from the EU's 28 member states, perhaps, but not necessarily one for film curators.

"It took the programmers two or three months before we saw opportunities," says programmer Gertjan Zuilhof.

"Now, I am quite happy because it (The State Of Europe) gives an opportunity to show there is important, very vital cinema still going on in Europe. At the beginning of the idea, it was mainly political and there was no connection with cinema."

Gradually, the programmers saw ways of interweaving the cinematic and political elements. They were also reassured that The State Of Europe wouldn't be off putting to the festival's non-European guests. Outsiders, they discovered, are intensely curious about the European culture and politics.

"For me as a programmer, to a certain extent I ignored political questions," says Gerwin Tamsma, who has overseen the Grand Tour sidebar, which is intended to take festivalgoers on a journey through contemporary European cinema.

In programming Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant, Tamsma wasn't trying to make a political point, although he acknowledges the film has a strong political dimension.

He says: "The film speaks for itself. It is not only a political statement. Firstly, it is cinema. Even if it is 'Loachian', it doesn't mean Clio Barnard has the same political views as Ken Loach. …

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