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Kobayashi Masahiro from Japan in Focus at Rotterdam

Kobayashi Masahiro from Japan is Film Maker in Focus at the 37th International Film Festival Rotterdam. In the short-film programme, there is special attention for Jani Ruscica, Rania Stephan and Takashi Makino. New in this edition are the exhibitions ‘3Radicals’ and ‘New Dragon Inns’ as well as theme sections with films from China and India. From the Netherlands there are new films by Mirjam van Veelen, Froukje Tan, BarBara Hanlo and Rolf van Eijk. The main sponsor of the festival, Dutch public broadcaster VPRO, is raising the total prize money for the Tiger Awards to €45,000.

To make the VPRO Tiger Awards Competition more attractive, the IFFR has asked the main sponsor VPRO to raise the prize money. Only first or second films can be selected for the Competition, started in 1995. Since then, many international film festivals have followed the example of the IFFR and focussed on screening work by young film talent. It is important for the IFFR to strengthen its position by offering more money. The international competition jury chooses the winners of the three equal Tiger Awards. Each winner gets €15,000.

IFFR 2008 includes new work by Dutch film makers. In Japan, Mirjam van Veelen shot MEGUMI, about a Japanese girl who was kidnapped to North Korea. BarBara Hanlo is presenting the world premiere of her new film HET MOERAS (THE MARSH). The festival programme also includes Froukje Tan’s feature debut LINKS (winner of Long Rotterdam in 2006, an initiative by the Rotterdam Fund for Film and Audiovisual Media making it possible for film makers and producers to make their first full-length feature) and the short fiction film HEMEL OVER HOLLAND (SKY OVER HOLLAND) by Rolf van Eijk about the murder of Theo van Gogh.

The IFFR is paying homage to Kobayashi Masahiro. As Film Maker in Focus, his 10 films will be screened, including his THE REBIRTH (Golden Leopard in Locarno) in which he played one of the two leading roles himself. Kobayashi Masahiro (Tokyo, 1954) started his career as a folk singer and later went on to write film scripts. He made his debut in 1996 as a film maker with CLOSING TIME. The three films he went on to make were all successful in Cannes: BOOTLEG FILM (1999) and MAN WALKING ON SNOW (2001) in Un Certain Regard and KOROSHI (2000) in the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs. His film BASHING (2005), which was controversial in Japan but very well received internationally, was selected for the competition at Cannes.
Alongside Kobayashi Masahiro, Robert Breer (USA) and Svetlana Proskurina (Russia) will also be Film Makers in Focus at the 37th festival edition; Cameron Jamie (USA) is Artist in Focus.

Short: As Long As It Takes, the programme with short films running from 24 to 28 January in Theater Lantaren/Venster, in the Short Profiles section is focusing special attention on the oeuvre of Jani Ruscica (Finland), Rania Stephan (France) and Makino Takashi (Japan).
The Finnish artist Jani Ruscica provides images for the invisible and language-less aspect of music; for instance he links the sonar of bats with the sounds of human beat boxes.
Rania Stephan worked as camera and sound woman, editor and producer for film makers including Simone Bitton and Elia Suleiman. In the meantime she has also worked on documentary projects homing in on the contemporary history of Lebanon. Her most important work years LEBANON/WAR.
With NO IS E, the experimental film maker Makino Takashi this year won the Shuji Terayama Award at the Image Forum Festival (Japan). This work was realised in close cooperation with Jim O’Rourke. In the meantime, this cooperation has led to a new work: ELEMENTS OF NOTHING. Alongside both these recent films, there is also attention for the early work of Makino.

The Exploding Cinema programme includes the following exhibitions:

 TENT. Visual Arts Centre presents from 24 January to 2 March 2008 the show ‘3RADICALS’ put together by festival programmer Edwin Carels. Paul Sharits, Robert Breer and Cameron Jamie illustrate in three linked solo presentations in TENT. how idiosyncratic pioneers of experimental film have again become relevant for the youngest generation of audiovisual iconoclasts. Three wayward and energetic artists from different generations demonstrate the importance of radically pursued originality. The films and installations of Paul Sharits have an enormous physical and even aggressive impact. Film Maker in Focus Robert Breer makes short, diary-like collage and animation films. His cheerful anarchistic work also comprises visual work that includes objects that can be manipulated or slowly move around on the gallery floor. The drawings and the graphic work by Artist in Focus Cameron Jamie can be regarded as visual scores for his dark, macabre evocations of America’s morbid psyche.

 The former building occupied by the Photography Museum on Witte de Withstraat, Rotterdam houses the exhibition New Dragon Inns, compiled by festival programmer Gertjan Zuilhof. This title refers to the film GOODBYE DRAGON INN by Tsai Ming-liang about the demise of a once-grand cinema that bore the name Dragon Inn. The exhibition shows new ways of screening films. It creates new ‘Dragon Inns’. The exhibition focuses on film makers and artists from three Asian countries: China, Taiwan and Thailand. Countries where at present a lot is happening in the field of trampling the boundaries between the arts and film. Three film makers from Asian countries form the heart of the exhibition: Wang Bing (China), Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand). In addition, new names from the same countries will be introduced. With a contribution from the Hubert Bals Fund, Wang Bing is making THE JOURNAL OF CRUDE OIL, a 70-hour documentary about drilling for oil in China, a film being screened as a video installation. Tsai Ming-liang is showing his installation ‘Is it a dream?’ that was also in the Taiwanese pavilion at the recent Biennial in Venice. The other works will be made specially for this exhibition.

In the Cinema Regained section, the festival is showing the theme programme Rediscovering the Fourth Generation, compiled by Shelly Kraicer (programmer of the Vancouver Film Festival and expert in the field of Chinese cinema) in collaboration with Rotterdam festival programmer Gerwin Tamsma. The film makers of the Fourth Generation left film academy in the 1960s but saw their careers thwarted by the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), in which film production came to a virtual halt. Then the reins were loosened and film makers such as Xie Fei, Wenji Teng and Zhang Nuanxin - all in their 20s in the 1960s - were given an opportunity to develop. No heirs to the Third Generation (1949-1966) that had given Chinese cinema a socialist face, they were completely eclipsed by the Fifth Generation which acquired international fame with features by directors such as Chen Kaige and Zhang Yimou. Virtually all the Fourth Generation films from the period 1978-1989 are an implicit commentary on the moral and cultural void of the Cultural Revolution in which the Chinese were subjected to the laws of the permanent socialists revolution. These films of the Fourth Generation are unique in their combination of artistic experimentation and their focus on human values.

Within the Time & Tide section, the festival presents a series of recent ‘Hinglish’-films from India. Alongside the commercial Bollywood film production and the independent ‘Parallel’-cinema focusing on social issues, a new generation of filmmakers has come forth. Situated within modern-day urban settings among the ambitious, young and well educated professionals, their films break with traditions and address controversial themes.
The series is expected to include, among others, films by Dev Benegal, Ram Madhavani and Parto Sen Gupta.

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