History's Future: road movie for people that are afraid

Eight young filmmakers will be competing for the Hivos Tiger Award at International Film Festival Rotterdam. And there is a lot at stake: besides the honour, there is a prize to the amount of €40,000. This year, there is also a special Jury Prize of €10,000 for a remarkable artistic achievement. The nominees are just as international as IFFR itself; they originate from Iran, Thailand, Australia, Belgium, Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, and the USA. We get acquainted using chat, e-mail, and video call. On Thursday 28 January: Fiona Tan with History's Future.

By Sophie van Leeuwen and Pieterbas van Wiechen

After losing his memory, a man is wandering through Europe. He is looking for his new identity. Australian filmmaker Fiona Tan (1966) calls History's Future an 'existential roadmovie' in an email. She does not want to talk. Not on the phone, nor in a public place in her city of residence Amsterdam. So we are exchanging e-mails, and the identity of the filmmaker remains shrouded in mystery, just like that of her leading character.

Why an existential roadmovie?

"The idea took shape slowly, ever since 2008, in fact. I was triggered by the financial crisis and all of its consequences. I am wondering: What kind of times are these? Is it the end of an era? And if so, what should we preserve?"

Production was crazy, a mission impossible

Your main character MP also has a lot of questions. About fear, about the lives we want to lead. Do you struggle with these issues?

"MP suffers from amnesia. He has lost his identity. I thought that was a critical point. He does not even have a name. At the start of the movie you see some scenes from his former life. This tells you: he is just like you and me. I think we all struggle with these questions. My film is trying to analyse the situation in the West. There is a widespread sense of insecurity. Because I am living in the Netherlands, a country with quite a strong right-wing sentiment, I am very aware of that."

You have filmed in Amsterdam, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona, Athens, Detroit, and on other locations. How did you manage that financially?

"Production was indeed crazy, a mission impossible. We had a very small budget. The outcome is a small miracle. We had 23 days for shooting, there was no margin for error. And it was my first film."

And do you want more?

"Definitely: I am in the midst of editing my next movie and I am very busy."

History's Future

While Europe rushes towards an uncertain future amidst loud protests, a man loses his memory after a robbery. Confused and with nothing to hang on to, he breaks out of his helpless state by taking a drastic decision. He leaves home and sets off on a curious odyssey. Guided by confrontational, tragicomic and hopeful meetings, he struggles to get to grips with himself and the future.
This first feature by Fiona Tan, who wrote the script with film critic Jonathan Romney, unfolds as an epic film poem, with a strong European cast. The fiction, captured in powerful set pieces, is interspersed with raw news footage of riots in European cities and short interviews about hope and desire. This not only reveals Tan’s background in the visual arts but also her experience as a director of documentaries. The meanderings of a man with no memory form the common thread in an associative, complex whole in which reality and imagination, symbolism and dreamt possibilities come seamlessly together. A form of disorientation that invites us to philosophise on opportunities and choices, on identity, history and our place in the world. "The future is a tale told by an idiot", as our wandering hero unexpectedly recalls at one point.

Will he end up in rags, or a sharp suit? Can he start afresh? Leaving an airport, he steps into a waiting taxi that takes him to a deserted lot. "What now?" he asks. The driver says nothing. Also see the installation News from the Near Future.

More info and tickets

Hivos & IFFR

Hivos supports a free and open cinema climate, not only as head sponsor of IFFR and partner of the Hubert Bals Fund, but also by working with filmmakers in countries like Syria, Cuba and Zimbabwe. In places where freedom of expression is hard won, these people produce movies and documentaries that tell a genuine story and need a platform. Hivos supports these filmmakers and gives them a voice. For wherever there is room for dissent and new voices, there is space for people with all their differences.