Twelve stepping stones of IFFR

As the 47th edition of IFFR is nearing its conclusion, visitors and filmmakers are bracing themselves for the climax: the Awards Ceremony. We examine the different categories –  and the importance of winning an IFFR Award.

What do Christopher Nolan and Bary Jenkins have in common? Besides being excellent, well-respected directors, both of them managed to win an IFFR Award at an early stage in their career. In 1999, Nolan received the Hivos Tiger Award for his feature-length debut Following, long before he started directing massive Hollywood productions. Jenkins won the IFFR Audience Award for Moonlight last year, a few months before that memorable Oscar night.

IFFR’s history is filled with stories of similar promising young cineastes, who managed to make a name for themselves in Rotterdam. “A lot of them are starting directors”, programmer Peter van Hoof explains, “who leave the festival with either an Award or a nomination. They tend to return a few years later with a plan for their feature-length debut, or even a finished film. It shows that our Awards are a powerful tool in a filmmaker’s negotiations with film funds in their native country.”

The Hivos Tiger Award
The upcoming ceremony will be divided into twelve different categories. The Hivos Tiger Award is the most famous and prestigious one of the lot, with €40.000 of prize money for the winner. A very useful cash injection – but perhaps more important is the amount of publicity the Award will generate. “These films haven’t received much attention yet”, says festival director Bero Beyer, “so we’re putting them on the biggest platform we can give them.”

That platform is for filmmakers who not only succeed in entertaining their audience, but also make them think. “The eight films that have received a nomination this year all have something in common: they challenge the way we view the world”, Beyer continues. “They help you take a step back to get a fresh perspective. And who knows, they might change something.”

Looking at the list of nominees, it becomes clear that these fresh perspectives originate from all over the world. The jury is able to choose among films from South-Korea (I Have a Date with Spring), the Philippines (Nervous Translation), Brazil (Sultry) or – closer to the festival’s home – the Dutch-Croatian production Possessed.

This diversity is one of the reasons the Dutch NGO Hivos and IFFR decided to collaborate. “On the list of nominees, there are multiple films that have been produced in countries where we do our development work”, executive director Edwin Huizing explains. “Besides that, the films here tackle important subjects, like migration, or the recent #MeToo-debate. Some of these themes are better discussed through film than in a straightforward conversation. A filmmaker can go further than I can when I’m speaking to a politician. It shows how important film is, and culture in general, for bringing about change in society.’

Winning an IFFR Award is a true stepping stone in a filmmaker’s career.” – Programmer Peter van Hoof

The other IFFR Awards
“Winning an IFFR Award is a true stepping stone in a filmmaker’s career”, says programmer Peter van Hoof. Besides the prestigious Hivos Tiger Award, eleven other filmmakers will be receiving an Award in other categories. Like the Big Screen Competition, which is very useful to gain a foothold in the Dutch market. The winning film will receive a theatrical release in the Netherlands, and will be broadcast on Dutch television.

Then there is The Bright Future Award, which goes to the best feature-length debut of the festival. Short films have their unique categories as well, like the Amodo Tiger Short Competition, which has been running since the 2006 edition of IFFR. It’s joined for the first time by the Voices Short Audience Award, which goes to the narrative short film that has received the most acclaim from the festival’s visitors. In contrast, the Amodo Tiger Short Competition is a jury prize, which tends to be awarded to a more experimental production.

Another newcomer to the Award Ceremony will be the Found Footage Award, which will go to the filmmaker who has used existing footage in the most innovative way. “Found footage film is starting to become an entirely new genre”, according to Van Hoof. The list of nominations is quite diverse, containing documentaries, feature-length and short films.

Some categories focus exclusively on films made in a certain region. The NETPAC Award, for example, is a prize for the best Asian film of the festival. The KNF Award is given to films that have been (at least partly) produced in The Netherlands.

In the end, both young and veteran directors will be receiving prizes in theatre De Doelen. From the Hivos Tiger Award to the brand new Found Footage Award: the impact of the 47th edition of IFFR will be felt all throughout the world of film.

Photo in header: Tekst: Joey Huisman