Rotterdam: Day 3

Sun, Jan 25, 2009

January 24
by Dave Filipi, Wexner Center Film/Video

Day 3 of the festival was a bit more normal with screenings and get-togethers with colleagues.

Zara, a Kurdish film directed by Ayten Mutlu Saray, is the story of a woman who returns to the Kurdish region of Turkey in an attempt to come to grips with her Kurdish identity. She is accompanied by her striking German girlfriend on the trip. The beginning is a bit disorienting as Saray has her two female leads – both beautiful, perfectly coiffed, made-up, and dressed in very cute outfits – hiking across the rocky, Turkish landscape with one suitcase and a violin case. I really wanted to know the back story. The film is comprised almost entirely of very culturally specific symbolism and metaphor making it hard to evaluate.

My favorite feature of the festival will likely be Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson, a film based on the real life story of Britain's longest serving prisoner Charles Bronson. Tom Hardy is the actor portraying Bronson and he is a bald, hulking, and indescribably charismatic arch criminal prone to explosive violence. In March we will be screening Steve McQueen's prison picture, Hunger, and I only mention it because it is convenient shorthand to describe Bronson as Hunger done as a comedy. The film raises interesting questions about the glorification of criminals in film, the often charismatic personalities of unrepentant criminals, and the dilemma when a perpetually incarcerated prisoner has no intention of reforming or rehabilitating. Bronson eventually embraces art but never full abandons his violent ways.

A Country Teacher is the latest from Czech director Bohdan Slama who also made Wild Bees which we screened a few years ago. The film stars Czech favorite Pavel Liska as a teacher who flees his cushy private school teaching position in Prague for one in the country. The film is filled with the very typical brand of Czech humor and things get interesting when we learn that one of the reasons for the teacher's move is the break-up with his boyfriend. Ultimately, the film is about the myriad of relationships that are possible and available to people in the course of their life as long as one doesn't allow oneself to be completely guided by convention.

Here are a few more festival images. The first is a shot of the Cinerama, a nice urban multiplex.

cinerama

The second is the Lantern Venster, a venue difficult to describe. It is nestled in the middle of a residential city block, has about six screens and a lively café/bar at the center of it all.

lantern venster

There are numerous public sculptures by well-known artists in the festival area. The most provocative is undoubtedly Paul McCarthy's Santa Claus with Plug just across the street from my hotel.

paul mccarthy

Here is Bill Horrigan with artist/teacher and former Wexner curator Jason Simon in the lobby of the Schouberg as Saturday night was winding down. If you don't remember Jason from his time at the Wex you may have seen the Chris Marker travel book poster he designed in our book shop.

bill horrigan and jason simon

Also, evidence of the anticipation for the new American president can be found all over Rotterdam. Here is just one example found in the window of a bar near the festival headquarters.

obama poster

I forgot to include these photos from the opening of Haunted Houses, Hungry Ghosts on Thursday night. The show is a building-wide series of installations by filmmakers inspired primarily by Asian ghost story traditions. It is across the street from the Tent gallery in the building that once housed the International Photography Museum. Without question the most haunting was Opera Jawa director Garin Nugroho's Under the Tree which featured the actress Ariyana as a masked spectral presence moving through the crowd within the multi-media installation of projections from around the room and above.

hungry ghosts

hungry ghosts

Saintseneca

No tickets remain for Columbus-based indie-folk band Saintseneca, who will celebrate their Dark Arc album release at the Wex on Apr 19.

Hateship Loveship

Join us on May 2 as director Liza Johnson introduces a special advance screening of her new film Hateship Loveship (starring Kristen Wiig).