Last week, filmmaker Chantal Akerman passed away in Paris. Born in Brussels in 1950, Akerman was a Rotterdam regular, especially in the early years under festival founder Huub Bals. Her first films have been very influential - in artistic as well as in feminist perspective. Filmmaker Claire Denis remembers her and her films in those early Rotterdam years in this article in Franch newspaper Libération : 'It was impossible to see her as a role model, because she was so unique.'
At the age of 25 Chantal Akerman made her first feature-length film: Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975, still featured above this blog), which was shown in Rotterdam. In its programme guide, the festival wrote: It is imposible to remain untouched by Jeanne Dielman. The film uses a language that throws traditional film structure upside down. For three hours, the viewer sits opposite a number of steady shots of a woman's daily dometic chores.'
It was impossible to see her as a role model, because she was so unique.
Akerman was a feisty and small, grand lady. A playful person with a deep smokey voice. She also appeared on the big banners the festival used, featuring portraits by festival photographer Pieter van der Meer. She was one of the few women there, between men like Godard and Tarkovsky.
She made the first step from cinema to art with her installation D'Est (1993). After that, she succesfully made more installations. Akerman passed away at a high point in het career, with a new film (No Home Movie, 2015), various retrospectives and as an internationally renowned artist.
The last Akerman film IFFR screened was her first. In a theme programme on first films by famous directors (IFFR 2009), her Saute ma ville (1968) was shown. Her very first short film (made when she was 18 years old) was playful with a dark twist. Akerman herself plays a young woman with a drastic solution to tedious housekeeping chores.