Deconstructing Fiction, Reinventing Reality

in 45th International Film Festival Rotterdam

by Dragan Jurak

Between January 27th and February 7th two major storms hit Rotterdam: first Gertrude and then Henry. It was windy, rainy and cold in Rotterdam, and it was a perfect time to be inside a cinema. The 45th edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam had films from 50 countries, 106 world premieres, 252 feature films, 299 filmmakers, 33,745 minutes of movies.

The Bright Future section, on which the FIPRESCI jury focused, offered 11 world premieres in total, co-productions from Europe, Asia and Latin America – all first and second feature films. Among them, Alba by Ana Cristina Barragan told a heartbreaking but somewhat conventional story about girl whose mother is dying. Out of love by Paloma Aguilera Valdebenito explored the tempestuous relationship of a mismatched couple. That Feeling (Esa sensacion) by Juan Cavestany, Pablo Hernando and Julian Genisson, glanced at objectophilia and other mysteries of human sexuality and emotions. The Japanese The Shell Collector by Tsubota Yoshifumi also looked at sexuality and emotions but also at that cosmic thing called life. And then there was the Mexican We Have the Flesh (Tenemos la carne) by Emiliano Rocha Minter – a film about sexuality, necrophilia, cannibalism, and other horrors.

There were also a couple of documentaries in the selection. Of Shadows by Yi Cui focused on the Chinese art of the shadow play which can be seen as the childhood of cinema. And The Sprawl (Propaganda about Propaganda) by Metahaven is a stylized film essay about media simulacrum. The inclusion of documentary films in the competition was a little bit unusual but made sense, as the most outstanding films of the selection were hybrid films – part documentary part fiction; films that are deconstructing fiction and re-inventing reality.

The most interesting piece was Bodkin Ras, a Netherlands/Belgium co-production. Director Kaweh Modiri placed actor Sohrab Bayat in the Scottish town of Forres. Bayat is playing a young, mysterious immigrant, and the residents play themselves. Not very well balanced, with some heavy handled dramatization in the second part, Bodkin Ras, winner of the FIPRESCI award, is still an original and touching film.

The Slovenian/Italian co-production Mother (Mama) by Vlado Škafar also included some documentary footage in a story about mother and drug addict daughter, and the same concept, but with much better results, was demonstrated in the Mexican film Pacific (Pacifico). Fernanda Romandia started her film as a documentary about the construction of a house designed by the famous Japanese architect Ando Tadao, but slowly turned it into fiction with non-professional actors playing themselves. Both films, Bodkin Ras and Pacific, offer interesting glimpses into the future of cinema. Fiction needs an injection of reality to be convincing, and reality needs a virus of fiction to come alive. With Pacific that future is already here.

Procedures of narrative deconstruction are not new. As we were able to see in The Plague at the Karatas Village (Chuma v auleKaratas) from Kazakhstan by AdilkhanYezhanov, some theatrical influences have a great tradition. But what we are seeing nowadays is that, for young filmmakers, pure forms of fiction and documentary don’t fit the scripture anymore.

Edited by Yael Shuv