Teslas, wind farms, automated airports— it certainly feels like the people of the Netherlands are living in the future. The 2018 International Film Festival Rotterdam kicked off this year's European festival circuit with its most innovative programming to date, including an IFFR Live! program comprised entirely of female directors and Reality Check, a two-day industry symposium examining the future of film distribution, alongside the master classes, CineMart co-production workshop and selection of diverse and promising works from young directors that have come to define the festival's curation.
This year it was difficult to overlook that the festival coincided with both a lackluster Sundance and Davos, where previous years' darlings Facebook and Google were forced to defend their inability to regulate their own technologies. A few hundred kilometers away at Rotterdam's Reality Check conference, tech giants Netflix and Amazon were similarly in trouble as panelists bemoaned their hegemony over the VOD space. This has become par for the course at pretty much every major international festival outside America, mostly because of how the companies have disrupted traditional distribution models— not to mention that just because Netflix and Amazon pay a lot of money for independent films doesn't mean anyone will actually see them. Yet in this context, the criticism was in regards to a revelation that Netflix's Suggestions account for over 80% of content viewed on the platform, intimating that the company's closely-guarded algorithm is designed to reinforce taste and keep people watching rather than foster anything in the way of meaningful culture or discourse. In other words, for all their self-congratulation the ostensibly progressive innovators of Silicon Valley subsist on a capital model by which individuals are turned into mindless consumers, a farcical call for progress during which the elite get rich by making people stupid.
Indeed, at Rotterdam the notion of progressive politics feels like an actionable goal as opposed to a PR campaign. The day after the Reality Check panel, the press corps were summoned for the launch of IFFR Unleashed, a digital platform by which the festival streams films from previous years' selections online— worldwide, with the exception of the United States. With clearly identifiable curation and a dedicated, built-in audience (nearly all the festival's public screenings were sold out), IFFR's creation of a proprietary VOD platform not only places it in the vanguard of festivals but, taken to its logical conclusion, has the potential to disrupt current sales and distribution models. Why would a filmmaker sell the rights to his/her film given the opportunity to broker a license directly with the festival that programmed it? Like Filmatique, IFFR Unleashed operates on a 50/50 revenue-share model in which half of all profits go to the rights holder, the rest re-invested in the platform.
When approached with this theoretical future, festival director Bero Beyer emphasized that the motivation behind IFFR Unleashed was not to disrupt for the sake of being disruptive, but rather to create a reality in which filmmakers can not only make money but trust that their films will be seen. Filmatique believes that given the world and the times in which we live, diverse, independent cinema is more important than ever, and needs all the help it can get.
Below are Filmatique's Top Films of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018:
All You Can Eat Buddha, Ian Lagarde
Ambiguous Places, Ikeda Akira
An Impossibly Small Object, David Verbeek
Anchor and Hope, Carlos Marqués-Marcét
Birds Are Singing in Kigali, Krzysztof Krauze & Joanna Kos-Krauze
Cocote, Nelson Carlo De Los Santos Arias
Djon África, João Miller Guerra & Filipa Reis
I am Not a Witch, Rungano Nyoni
Impermanence, Zeng Zeng
Les garçons sauvages, Bertrand Mandico
Life and Nothing More, Antonio Mendez Esparza
Lorello e Brunello, Jacopo Quadri
Loveling, Gustavo Pizzi
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts, Mouly Surya
Nervous Translation, Shireen Seno
The Nothing Factory, Pedro Pinho
Rabot, Christina Vandekerckhove
Ravens, Jens Assur
Razzia, Nabil Ayouch
The Reports on Sarah and Saleem, Muayad Alayan
The Return, Malene Choi Jensen
Sultry, Marina Meliande
Tesnota, Kantemir Balagov
Tiempo compartido, Sebastián Hofmann
Wajib, Annemarie Jacir
What Will People Say, Iram Haq
Tiempo compartido (Time Share), Sebastián Hofmann (2018)