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Bero Beyer • Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam

“We are exporting a festival experience, rather than it being film by film”


- Cineuropa caught up with the director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Bero Beyer, ahead of the gathering’s 45th edition (27 January-7 February)

Bero Beyer  • Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam

Independent Dutch producer Bero Beyer was appointed as Rutger Wolfson’s successor as general and artistic director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) in May 2015, before formally joining the IFFR from 1 August. Beyer has produced Atlantic. [+see also:
film review
interview: Jan-Willem van Ewijk
film profile
by Jan-Willem van Ewijk, the Oscar-nominated Palestinian drama Paradise Now [+see also:
film profile
and Rana’s Wedding, among other movies. He talked to Cineuropa about recent changes and what can be expected from the first edition of the event under his auspices.

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Cineuropa: The 45th edition of the festival has undergone several changes. What have you got lined up for the upcoming edition?
Bero Beyer
: What I am psyched and enthusiastic about, what I believe will be a great improvement to the way we present the festival, has to do with the fact that we have categorised the whole programme into four distinct sections. Rather than organising films on a debut or sophomore basis, or adding new sections as we go, we figured it would be a great help for the audience, the industry, and even for myself, to organise everything we have – almost 250 feature-length and 200 short films – into four sections that have their own tone of voice, their own character, their own feel, and enable people to choose by themselves to what degree they want to be taken off the beaten track and to be surprised.

What will those four sections be?
In our Bright Future section, a name taken from the festival’s past, we have grouped together all of the innovative and emerging filmmakers who are trying to create and nurture a cinematic landscape with their work. It is the logical place to have a lot of debuting filmmakers or sophomore films, but also our Hivos Tiger Awards Competition, which will have eight films competing, rather than 15. In the second section, called Voices, we are maximising the platform for Dutch distribution by programming those films that we believe should be seen by a large audience. What I am happy about is the fact that we managed to create a separate competition in the VPRO Big Screen Award, and it will be an audience jury choosing the winner from among eight films that do not have a distributor in the Netherlands; the victor will be picked up for distribution and seen on television. Another section is Deep Focus, in which we have gathered together all of our retrospectives and master classes; it will provide a context for filmmakers we hold dear and who have been coming to the festival for years – we will show their entire body of work. This year, we will have a retrospective of the School of Barcelona. The last section is called Perspectives, and here we have allowed filmmaking to be viewed from different angles – according to different disciplines, genres or people – and we will investigate filmmakers’ artistic freedom when working in certain genres.

What will you achieve by giving the films from the Hivos Tiger Awards Competition more of a focus?
We figured it would be a smart idea to introduce eight films in the main competition, to be able to dedicate a whole day to each film. Let them shine through that one day and let them be seen as exemplary pieces of art, which is what the IFFR stands for in the Tiger competition. Every nominated film will get its own set of press meetings and posters, but we will also try to find the best way of providing a context, which could be in the form of a discussion or an art exhibition. And every evening, we will have a public talk that we will record based on that particular film, also revealing why the movie was programmed.

The main theme is “ID Check”, which is topical, even though we, in Europe, have been preoccupied with immigration during the year
We are trying to move beyond the anecdotal and obvious, and we should be thinking a bit further down the road. Just the fact of the influx of new people into Europe created tension in various ways. We know this now, and it is obvious on our streets. We should think about what this actually means for us as individuals and for us as communities because it is here to stay. Every section has its own specific programme – like gender, for instance. It is clear we have to deal with our identity first and foremost before approaching others. In our focus section, we are investigating the idea of what it takes and how long it takes to become a new community; it often takes time and extreme events to bind us together, and we are searching for the role that cameras and cinema play in bringing communities together.

Will there be any developments in the IFFR Live! initiative (read the news)?
It is now in its second year, and we have retuned it and adjusted it to become an even stronger sign of a new kind of distribution, in which festivals play a key role. Last year, we initiated the project involving streaming films and subsequently holding interactive Q&As in 40 cinemas across Europe. We are expanding this concept this year and really making it like a mini-festival and a huge after-screening show in which people can interactively participate from wherever they are. I am really psyched about this because it underscores the importance of film festivals in the distribution landscape in Europe, as they are launching platforms or sometimes even an alternative to traditional distribution. We are exporting a festival experience, rather than it being film by film. The feel should be almost as good as being in Rotterdam, so we wanted to expand the level of interactivity, and we want to have a two-way form of communication going on. We will collaborate closely with like-minded festivals to stress the fact that we are celebrating films in a festival setting.

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