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Pebbles by Vinothraj P.S, from India, won the Tiger Award,
Best Film Award I Comete,
A Corsican Summer by  Pascal Tagnati, from France,
and Looking for Venera by Norika Sefa, from Kosovo, both won the Special Jury Awards.




International Film Festival Rotterdam



Adapting to the changing circumstances,due to the Covid pandemia, the Rotterdam International Film Festival (IFFR) celebrated its 50th edition with a new formula. From 1st to 7th February the festival presented its competition programmes online on From 2nd to 6th June IFFR offered a hybrid festival, with premieres, film programmes and in-depth conversations online, and welcomed the first returning audiences to Rotterdam cinemas, which had been closed for over half a year. IFFR 2021 included the following facts and figures:
• 120 feature films (44 world premieres, 15 international premieres, 9 European premieres)
• 74 short & mid-length films (8 world premieres, 2 international premieres)
• 9 IFFR Talks
• 439 Live Q&As, introductions & pre-recorded interviews (‘Afterthoughts’)
• 16 Tiger Competition titles (14 world premieres, 2 international premieres)
• 14 Big Screen Competition titles (11 world premieres, 2 international premieres, 1 European premiere)
• 22 Ammodo Tiger Short Competition titles (13 world premieres, 8 international premieres, 1 European premiere)

50th International Film Festival Rotterdam: Best Feature Films in Competition
Section Tiger Competition

1) Koozhangal (Pebbles), (India, 2021, w. p., 1° feat. film), 74’, by Vinothraj P.S. A realistic drama, based on a real incident and located in a very poor and dry area of of Tamil Nadu state, in southern India. The inhabitants of the village Arittapatti depend entirely on agriculture, which has suffered terribly due to a long drought. The fields have become deserts and the skinny livestock eat the last leaves. The women catch and roast rats or wait for hours until it is their turn to pull muddy water from the well. The men hang around, play cards and sleep. One of the latter is Ganapathy, a chain-smoking drunk with a permanent frown. His wife has fled the home and his domestic violence, but he is determined to fetch her back from her village. He forces his young son to join him. At his in-laws, Ganapathy causes a terrible scene and in revenge, his son tears up the money for the return bus journey. This is the start of a 13 km walk on one of the hottest days of the year. Poverty and hardship are front and centre, both symbolically and literally, in a very dramatic trek through suffocating heat and a harsh, barren landscape. A journey through the desert to reach the village where father and son live, it becomes a representation of the family, patriarchal power and the division of the sexes. Despite a drunken and violent father, the son follows him. The father-son relationship is deeply disturbed, yet they are inexorably drawn together. It seems next to impossible that the still-innocent boy will go down the same path his father did. Their pointless journey illustrates the disruptive influence of grinding poverty. Casting is perfect and mise en scene is very efficient. Vinothraj P.S. directs his actors making the most of their interpretative skills. There is good handling of the camera with a combination of long shots and close ups. The rich sound design gives a maximum impact to the existential itinerary of the characters. A constant sense of anger and the threat of violence raise the temperature even more in the desolate landscape, filmed as beautiful, yet forbidding.

Tiger Award - Best Film Award

2) I Comete - A Corsican Summer, (France, 2021, w. p., 1°), 128’, by Pascal Tagnati. A nice documentary - style portrait of life in a Corsican village, in the mountain area, where traditions are important and the sense of community is held in high esteem, despite individual differences. It catches the locals throughout one long summer. The inhabitants flirt, swim, party, shoot the breeze and fight. The observational approach to the daily life is centered on friends, football, infidelity, fertility and family traditions. Tagnati pays particular attention to Franje, the sole black resident of the village, as well as to plumber Bastien and Théo, who admits in a monologue that he is afraid of losing his happiness. Retired teacher Lucienne delivers a neat monologue on freedom and sovereignty. Amusing discussions take place about fellatio and surrogate motherhood. Pascal Tagnati is always coherent: the static camera observes the villagers, often in long takes, and presents various scenes. He worked with the residents of the village: they contribute dialogue and perform, although he casts experienced actors for the major roles. Like heavenly bodies, the characters orbit around one another. The dialogues, and microstories they compose, show some clichés. The soundtrack includes traditional songs in Corsican dialect, culminating in the heartrending ‘La mort de Filicone’.

Special Jury Award

3) Looking For Venera, (Kosovo / Macedonia, 2021, w. p., 1°), 111’, by Norika Sefa. A delicate and convincing coming-of-age story about Kosovan teenager Venera, struggling to go her own way in a strongly patriarchal situation. Calm, taciturn teenager Venera lives in a small village in Kosovo. At home, three generations are constantly under one another’s feet in their cramped house, so she has hardly any privacy. Outside too, on the streets and in the café, it’s not much better: the village is small and there’s always a brother, nephew or neighbour keeping a beady eye on her. A girl is expected above all else to protect her good reputation – and that of her family. All of which makes it difficult for Venera to go her own way. Her spirits are lifted when she makes friends with rebellious Dorina, who already has a boyfriend. The two girls go out having fun together, as far as Venera’s father allows. One thing they know for sure: they don’t want to end up like their mothers. But, while Venera’s hunger for freedom only grows, she sees Dorina give in to the demands of her family. Norika Sefa’s feature debut portrays, with a sensitive, subtle and detailed approach, how a modern girl grows up in traditional, strictly hierarchical surroundings. The distinctive soundtrack and delicate, observational camerawork add a documentary feel to this sincere and intimate study of characters.

Special Jury Award

4) The Edge of Daybreak, (Thailand / Switzerland, 2021, w. p., 1° ), 114’, by Taiki Sakpisit. An intriguing drama that explores the troubled contemporary history of Thailand by focusing on an influential Thai family’s existential path. The oppression of the student uprisings in the 1970s and the 2006 military coup are the implicit historic anchors for an equal parts fluid and suffocating family chronicle marred by psychological trauma, violence and guilt complexes. The doom looms over the family chronicle as the past events bring consequences into the future. On the eve of a shift in political power, a woman is taken to a safe house, sharing a final meal with her husband before he is smuggled abroad. About 30 years earlier, Ploy was a young girl in a coma after nearly drowning. Her father, a soldier, has been missing for three years and her mother Pailin is recovering from a nervous breakdown. Together with her lover, her husband’s younger brother, she relives the traumas of their youth. She guides the viewers through this labyrinth of official history intertwined with personal memories. In Taiki Sakpisit’s feature film debut mysterious atmosphere and rich imagery blend together. The characters seem imprisoned in an emotional paralysis where past and present meld into a single, endless nightmare. Impending doom and repression pervade monochrome shots of desolate, dilapidated locations with lanterns creating ghostly shadow theatre. The dark minimalistic soundtrack, sober black and white, essential cinematic action and slow tempo conjure up a hypnotic state.

FIPRESCI’s Jury Award

5) Madalena, (Brazil, 2021, w. p., 1°), 85’, by  Madiano Marcheti. A drama - thriller that traces an interesting view of Brazilian society from its particular stories The death of a trans woman links three lives in Brazil’s agrarian heartland. A broken body in a white dress, lying lifeless in a swaying soya field. Who killed Madalena, how and why, and also how the corpse was discovered, is never revealed. Yet the image of this motionless body lends an extra charge to everything that follows. Three protagonists show up. They don't know one another, but are all in some way connected through Madalena. Luziane, a club hostess, knocks on her door for money. Wealthy Cristiano inspects the vast expanse of soya fields for his demanding father. Trans woman Bianca and her girlfriends divide Madalena's things between them while reminiscing. The spirit of Madalena flies over the characters, who do not seem to have a direct relationship. Madiano Marcheti shot his ingenious debut in the agrarian Mato Grosso state, where he grew up, capturing with great visual flair this largely unfilmed rural part of Brazil. A place where big agricultural machinery crawls monster-like across the landscape and the farthest corners are known only to drones. A few scenes achieves powerful visuals, but the script present some weak and contradictory aspects, giving the impression that the film has a certain cohesion problem. But for sure it is an impressive statement about contemporary Brazil, which has the highest rate of murder of transgender people in the world. A plea for empathy, rather than pity.

6) Destello bravío (Mighty Flash), (Spain, 2021, w. p., 1°), 98’, by Ainhoa Rodríguez. A clever, suggestive, dark and often humorous docu - drama about the suppressed needs of women in a small town in Estremadura, a depopulated rural region in Southern Spain. It is a brilliant ethnographic portrait of a remote community, marked by God fearing and deeply suspicious, and an amusing story of women folk with some magic realist touches. Despite some small contrasts and misunderstandings, the country dwellers are supporting one another and sharing tales of farming exploits, strange happenings in the surrounding countryside and vicious social gossip. Loneliness has no place in the community, despite its lack of potential. The young people all leave. For those who remain, time seems to stand still. Anyway days are fraught with the social round. A group of ladies lunch together and talk of sexual desire and frustrations, personal fulfilment and their dissatisfaction with the menfolk in scenes enlivened by surrealist flourishes. Old María mourns her deceased husband, Paco. Sometimes, someone hears a sound that escapes everyone else. Female lusts flare up, whether stimulated by home-baked sweet treats or not. Isa uses a cassette recorder to record messages to herself, which she later plays back. Cita is not satisfied with her existence: her hopes are fixed on something different. She leaves her husband and roams the small town. The men are content with their daily grind. The women are dissatisfied with in this deadbeat backwater. Nothing happens, but actually everything happens. High hopes are met with unrealized dreams. Everything sounds different at night and in the early hours of the morning. Ainhoa Rodríguez’s original drama often looks like a documentary, ironic and clearly inspired by Victor Erice’s cinema. Using non-professional actors, a very special, disruptive and punchy electronic soundtrack and suggestive camerawork, on the widescreen and in intimate close up, it fizzes with intrigue behind its zipped up facade. But the tone is dry and upbeat, always vital and positive, never bitter.

7) Bebia, à mon seul désir, (Georgia / UK, 2021, w. p., 1° ), 118’, by Juja Dobrachkous A family drama, developed as a special road movie, that revives the Greek myth of Ariadna. But this time the ball of yarn works as a guide for Ariadna herself to get out of that labyrinth of family relationships, mixed feelings and emotional tensions. A young model returns to the Georgian countryside, where a confrontation with her past offers hope for the future. Ariadna (model Anastasia Davidson in her first film role) is called back from London to her small town in the Mingrelia region as her Bebia ("grandmother" in Georgian, played by Guliko Gurgenidze) has died. As soon as she enters the family home, she has an awkward reunion with her her angry, unhappy, chain-smoking mother (Anastasia Chanturaia) and learns that, as the youngest member of the family, she is expected to carry out a special ritual. Reluctantly, she sets out to fulfil this strange assignment. Ariadna’s confusion is caused not only by her clash with her mother, but also the pain from her youth – the feeling of not counting – which still oppresses her. As Bebia died in the hospital, away from her home, her soul must be tethered back to her body. This is done by unspooling a thread from the place where she died to her coffin, and it has to be done on foot. It's a 25 km walk, and it is up to the youngest member of the family to do it, which in this case is Ariadna. She tries resisting, but the elders say it must be done, so she is assigned a travel companion. This is Temo (Alexander Glurjidze), with a nihilistic outlook, a philosophically inclined young man wracked by doubt, with a nihilistic outlook, whose exact ties to the family are unclear until the end of the film. So Ariadna and Temo walk through the beautiful and often rugged landscapes that Georgia is famous for, all the while taking care to ensure the thread does not snap. Imposing ruins and castles from bygone eras serve as a backdrop to their mythological task, until night falls and they find shelter in a remote forest cottage where a poor family welcomes and feeds them, bathed in petroleum lamp light. Juja Dobrachkous’s first feature shows great feeling for physical details and how people treat one another, all of which are closely entwined with flashbacks in which Ariadna thinks back to her childhood. The stylish impressionistic black-and-white photography with a poetic twist is not only reminiscent of classic cinema, but also lends the story a timeless character. Despite problems with character development and some muddled symbolism, there is a fluctuating atmosphere that captives the viewer

8) Mayday, (USA, 2021, i. p., 1°, W. P. at SUNDANCE F. F. 2021), 100’, by Karen Cinorre. An unusual fantasy-action film that configures a wild adventure in a gritty dream world. A mythical parable and a feminist fairy tale. Shy Anastasia or "Ana" (Grace Van Patten) works at a seaside hotel as a housekeeper/waitress. She's good friends with a co-worker named Dimitri (Theodore Pellerin) who wants her to sing while he plays keyboards at a wedding that evening, but she denies. When an approaching storm causes power cuts and Ana's boss is verbally abusive to her, or possibly worse, in a freezer where we can't see what's happening, she freaks out. After trying to throw the master trip switch to turn the power back on, she hears an alluring feminine voice spelling out "mayday" with a phonetic alphabet and follows the sound all the way into a lit gas oven. A short swim through an unexpected body of water and Ana finds herself on a temperate island among a cadre of women warriors, led by the charismatic but ruthless Marsha (Mia Goth). The other soldiers include Bea (Havana Rose Liu) and Gert (Stephanie 'Soko' Sokolinski). Later on we meet older mechanic June (Juliette Lewis). In any case it soon becomes clear that their main adversaries aren't Fascists but any soldiers who come near the island, including sailors they lure to their doom via the mayday signal and false coordinates that lead the ships into deadly storms. Ana grows close to Marsha, especially after displaying unusually good aim, but then she becomes increasingly aware that she doesn't really belong in this world. Karen Cinorre’s feature debut doesn’t portray men as monsters. In their oversized uniforms they look more like little boys. The cast (Grace Van Patten and Mia Goth, with support from Juliette Lewis) is exceptional and the film constantly surprises, feeling both like a war drama and a teen adventure flick. One minute Marsha unhesitatingly slits a boy’s throat, the next Ana performs a dreamy ballet to Liberace’s sweet ‘Love Is Blue’ with his companions. Karen Cinorre is less interested in logic than creating a sense of mystery and fractious group dynamics. The final effect is alternately bewitching and faintly dull. Still, the film looks like an extended video for some avant-garde beat combo, this will be fun enough. Cinematographer Sam Levy, also one of the film's producers, manages to make the women all look like dazzlingly beautiful Amazonian huntresses, backlit by sunlight, as they caper about the Croatian location used. The action scenes, featuring a certain amount of hand-to-hand combat, are nippily staged, but there is a languor throughout that drains the film of energy. It doesn't help that Ana keeps spending time in bed hanging out with her new buddies and then falling asleep, which makes watching the film feel like a slumber party with psychopaths.

9) Black Medusa, (Tunisia, 2021, w. p., 1°), 96’, by Youssef Chebbi. A stylised, dark thriller about a young Tunisian woman leading a double life. A contemporary reinterpretation of the Greek myth of Medusa in present time (the #MeToo era) trough genre films. It is also both the portrait of a young woman in post-Jasmine Revolution and the portrait of Tunis, a fascinating town. 25 years old Nada, is hard of hearing and communicates through a Smartphone app. She leads a lonely life and works as a web video content editor for a start-up. But she is leading a double life. During the daytime she’s quiet and reserved, but during the nights of each weekend, she turns into a femme fatale: she dresses in black dives into the nightlife of Tunis and walks the bars haunting men. First, she lets them tell their stories – as she doesn’t speak, she acts as a kind of confidante – then she drugs them and sexually abuses them and beats the hell out of them. This highly regulated double life begins to be threatened when Noura, 23, joins the video content start-up and immediately falls in love with Nada. But it’s especially a night when everything goes wrong that will definitely change Nada’s life. When Nada finds a mythical knife at the home of one of her victims, events are unleashed over which the protagonist has less and less control. Youssef Chebbi’s first feature sketches a very interesting portrait of Tunis: a city that combines cold, faceless office buildings with exuberant night life. This is surely an innovative view of contemporary Tunisia. Using Nada’s double life of monotony and violence as a metaphor Chebbi explores the more underlying concerns and sorrows of a generation. During the nine nights in this story, he switches genres with ease: from a film noir featuring a mysterious femme fatale to a kind of Italian giallo with a serial killer on the prowl, to even a sprinkling of fantasy.

















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