Over 12 days, the 49th edition of the festival presented 575 films – varying in length from shorts, mid-length to features – as well as 21 video installations and VR projects, 39 talks and masterclasses and 13 performances.
To give context to such a wide-ranging programme, IFFR divides its programme into four distinct sections – Bright Future, Voices, Deep Focus and Perspectives – containing both recurring programmes and one-off specials. In 2020, Deep Focus dedicated special attention to the legacy of Robby Müller, with cinematographer Diego García receiving the inaugural Robby Müller Award for his oeuvre. The section also included two retrospectives devoted to filmmakers Beth B and Marion Hänsel as well as a special presentation of David Cronenberg’s cult classic Crash, with the score performed live by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. Bright Future saw a revamped, curated Bright Future Competition.
Perspectives hosted five theme programmes: The Tyger Burns, contemporary film programme about the gaze of the old filmmaker, showing that the creative urge still burns as brightly as 50 years ago; Ordinary Heroes: Made in Hong Kong, revealing the tensions of the world’s most cinematic city; Sacred Beings, recontextualising non-Western gender fluidity; Wait and See, cultivating the viewer’s patience; and Synergetic, bringing together work by film and art collectives.
Synergetic marked IFFR’s special dedication to collective creation in several film programmes and installations. This included three IFFR-commissioned works by collectives from Kenya, Cape Verde and Angola, as well as the installation G/D THYSELF: Spirit Strategy On Raising Free Black Children by The Ummah Chroma, presented in collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut. In the same vein, IFFR organised the first edition of IFFR Sessions, a series of intimate discussions between curators, artists and writers and more experienced people in the field.
In extension, IFFR’s Art Directions programme further celebrated innovative audio-visual expression. This year’s programme included an immersive installation by the Quay Brothers in TENT, short films by the indigenous Australian media group The Karrabing Film Collective and many more.
Making a film has been a very unique experience for me to be involved in other people's lives, or to be involved in life, in a greater sense.
– Zheng Lu Xinyuan, The Cloud in Her Room
Zheng Lu Xinyuan won the festival’s flagship competition, taking home the Tiger Award for her debut feature film The Cloud in Her Room. Bong Joon Ho’s black-and-white version of Parasite, which had its world premiere at IFFR 2020, won the BankGiro Loterij Audience Award. A Perfectly Normal Family by Malou Reymann won the Big Screen Competition, meaning it will screen in Dutch theatres and be broadcast on Dutch TV. Short films were prominently presented in all four sections, and were accoladed in the Ammodo Tiger Short Competition and the Voices Short Competition.
The films were accompanied by many lively talks with directors present, including Bong Joon Ho, Pedro Costa, Beth B, Marion Hänsel, Jenn Nkiru and Terence Nance. Other masterclasses highlighted specific aspects of filmmaking, such as composing (Howard Shore on Crash), screenwriting (Sarah Gavron and Anu Henriques on Rocks), editing (Eduardo Serrano on Bacurau and other films) and other films and cinematography (Diego García).