“Variety is essential to our festival’s ethos, fostering a cross-pollination of audiences and art forms”

– Cineuropa sat down with IFFR’s head to discuss the 2024 edition, the festival’s vision, blending pop and avant-garde content, and how best to celebrate Dutch cinema

Vanja Kaludjercic • Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam

(© Mark Kohn)

Just prior to the 53rd International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR, 25 January-4 February – see the news on its line-up), Cineuropa met up with festival director Vanja Kaludjercic, who was appointed in 2020. We discussed her vision for the festival, the programme, which merges avant-garde and popular cinema, the integration of immersive experiences, and how the gathering celebrates Dutch cinema and engages local Rotterdam film communities.

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Cineuropa: IFFR has been undergoing a restructuring process. Has this been completed, or are there ongoing changes to align the festival more closely with your vision?
Vanja Kaludjercic:
The challenges faced by IFFR transcend vision, as we are grappling instead with the aftermath of global crises that affected not only cultural institutions, but the entire world. The daunting task of recovery, in the wake of decreased income and the strains of the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with rising costs and inflation, required us to take measures to stabilise things in 2022. Although we’re making progress, financial recovery is an ongoing journey. The 2023 edition was a pivotal moment, as it was the first where our comprehensive programme plans materialised. My aim is to create a cohesive festival experience, giving equal prominence to different competitions and ensuring they stand out in our extensive line-up. A significant aspect of our evolution involves diversifying genres and themes, moving beyond traditional festival offerings to include a wider range of cinema, including comedies, melodramas and animations.

One of the significant changes under your leadership is the introduction of the Harbour section, labelled as “the backbone of the programme”, which features 75 titles this year. What inspired the creation of this particular section?
Harbour represents the diverse array of cinematic experiences we offer, ranging from avant-garde to familiar names in the industry. Inspired by Rotterdam’s status as a cultural hub, Harbour encapsulates the essence of the city and its rich, diverse influences, becoming a melting pot for various cinematic expressions. This diverse programming approach underscores our mission to create an inclusive and varied festival experience, catering to a wide spectrum of genres and styles for an international audience.

The festival has embraced a variety of audiovisual formats, from episodic storytelling to multimedia experiences. Has this inclusion marked a shift in the festival’s focus, and what is your perspective on maintaining this tradition?
At this year’s edition, we are indeed showcasing a range of asymmetric forms and multimedia works. The Art Directions programme specifically caters to different facets of cinematic language, extending beyond the traditional festival screen. One of the highlights is Floris van Laethem’s Realmbreak Hotel, a VR experience that combines virtual storytelling with live actor interactions, showcasing our commitment to immersive experiences. Additionally, the VR interactive work 8 miljard ikken by Tibor de Jong, featuring popular Dutch musician Spinvis, merges music and virtual reality in a compelling way. We’re also thrilled to include works by South African artist Phumulani Ntuli, and Scottish filmmaker and visual artist Rachel Maclean. Maclean, widely recognised in the art world, has yet to receive a retrospective of her film work, which we are proudly presenting. Alongside her short films, we’ll feature her AI and VR installations, exemplifying the festival’s fluidity in blending various art forms. This variety is essential to our festival’s ethos, fostering a cross-pollination of audiences and art forms. By offering such a diverse array of experiences, we enable audiences to discover new works and expand their cultural horizons, which is at the heart of what we aim to achieve at the festival.

The 2024 line-up is rich in Dutch productions, with 51 titles scattered across different sections.
IFFR reflects the Netherlands’ commitment to co-productions and cinematic diversity. Harbour is a testament to this, featuring premieres like Stefanie Kolk‘s Milk [+see also:
film review
interview: Stefanie Kolk
film profile
and the new film by Vincent Boy Kars, Future Me. These selections showcase our dedication to nurturing filmmakers at various stages of their careers. The Bright Future section further highlights this diversity, with films like the darkly comical Bijt by Guido Coppis and Astrid van Nimwegen‘s pastoral A Few Mornings, an Evening. A significant feature of this year’s festival is the European premiere of Krazy House by Steffen Haars and Flip van der Kuil. Beyond showcasing international films, we emphasise Dutch cinema, aligning with our festival’s national identity. Notably, RTM Day spotlights Rotterdam’s local film scene. Hosted at the LantarenVenster venue, this event, curated by local talents, focuses on films, discussions and community engagement, underlining our commitment to fostering a vibrant local film community and offering a unique experience for international film professionals.

How do you balance avant-garde with pop cinema when programming?
Striking a balance between avant-garde and popular cinema is both a thrilling and an achievable endeavour. Our aim is to blend a variety of cinematic styles, from the boundary-pushing films in our Tiger Competition to the timeless narratives in the Big Screen programme, which includes everything from intimate dramas to movies with popular appeal like Seven Seas Seven Hills by Ram. This eclectic mix not only creates a unique festival atmosphere, but also ensures that different forms of cinematic expression are given equal prominence. Our programming is crafted to reflect the festival’s extensive range, with a focus on diversity and the inclusion of genres that have historically been underrepresented. This approach is about creating equilibrium, rather than favouring one style over another. We strive to represent the diverse interests of both our audience and the city of Rotterdam, continually pushing the boundaries of cinema while also broadening our appeal. By featuring a mix of radical documentaries and popular films like 13 Bombs by Angga Dwimas Sasongko, our festival becomes a hub for cinematic discovery and a welcoming space for audiences exploring the festival for the first time.

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