Babai directed by Artem Aisagaliev
Babai directed by Artem Aisagaliev

International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) revealed the first confirmed films of the 2020 edition, including the world premiere of Artem Aisagaliev’s Babai, the international premiere of Oda Kaori’s Cenote, and the European premiere of Nigina Sayfullaeva’s Fidelity.

The Netherlands Society of Cinematographers (NSC) and Andrea Müller-Schirmer, the late cinematographer Robby Müller’s wife launched the Robby Müller Award. The award honors an ‘image maker’ (cinematographer, filmmaker or visual artist) who, in the spirit of Robby Müller, has created an authentic, credible and emotionally striking visual language throughout her/his oeuvre. The first award goes to Diego García and will be presented at IFFR 2020.

The first-ever recipient of the award, Mexican cinematographer Diego García, has had a remarkable and distinctive career so far, working with filmmakers like Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Cemetery of Splendour), Gabriel Mascaro (Neon Bull) and Carlos Reygadas (Nuestro tiempo). Accompanying the ceremony at IFFR, García will give a masterclass.

The Tiger Competition is the festival’s flagship for exciting new filmmakers who stir up the rules of cinema. In 2020, the jury will consist of Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad, artistic director of Vision du Réel Emilie Bujès, Indonesian filmmaker Hafiz Rancajale, South Korean-born American filmmaker Kogonada and Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak.

IFFR 2020 – First titles

Lawrence Lek

Former superstar Diva hopes to rekindle her career by engaging an ambitious artificial intelligence in this sequel to Geomancer from 2017. Diva is our avatar in the futuristic gaming world of 2065 where mankind will battle the machines in an epic eSports final.

Artem Aisagaliev

Russian brothers Mark and Gesha struggle with their strict father, while their tough youth illustrates how fear and sadness are unavoidable elements of aging. Using claustrophobic close-ups, Russian filmmaker Artem Aisagaliev provides a universal impression of a human existence characterized by trauma.

Babai Trailer

Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles

When a remote village in the north-east of Brazil suddenly disappears from all maps in this furious genre mash-up, it turns out to presage an invasion by trigger-happy gringos. Using elements from the Western, horror and sci-fi genres, Brazil’s pitiless reality is projected several years into the future. Winner Jury Prize in Cannes.

Blanco en blanco
Théo Court

Mainly shot in the depths of winter in inhospitable Tierra del Fuego, Théo Court’s second film is a hypnotic trip to the historic hell of Western expansionism. Around 1900, photographer Pedro (an amazing Alfredo Castro once again) travels to the southernmost part of South America, to photograph a wealthy landowner’s wedding.

Oda Kaori

Entrancing footage of cenotes, or holy springs, in Yucatan, Mexico. Long-lost memories echo in a hallucinatory game of light and dark. Swimming in these, director Oda encounters mysterious shapes. The past and present of the people living around the cenotes coalesce in this place where nothing is forgotten.

Children of the Sun
Prasanna Vithanage

1814, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The Tamil king has been deposed by Sinhalese Buddhists aided by the British army. Amid the tumult, a man and woman from very different castes are condemned to marry each other. The differences seem irreconcilable in this epic love story, but ultimately they realise that character is more important.

I diari di Angela – Noi due cineasti. Capitolo secondo
Yervant Gianikian

Sublime sequel to the film Gianikian made last year after the death of his life- and film-partner Ricci Lucchi. Diary and film excerpts provide insight into their lives and oeuvre as well as the artistic mission and methods of two of the most important filmmakers of the past 50 years.

Drag Kids
Megan Wennberg

Can you be a drag queen at a young age? Of course you can: Stephan (9), Nemis (9), Jason (11) and Bracken (11) provide living proof. Only when they dress campily with fabulous make-up can they be themselves. Highlight: their performance at Montreal Pride.

L’extraordinaire voyage de Marona
Anca Damian

Boundlessly imaginative animation about the dying dog Marona’s melancholy reminiscences about its various owners. Zooming around a cardboard Paris, dancing with planets, living in Mondrianesque surroundings: everything is possible, as if the drawings have a mind of their own.

The Fever
Maya Da-Rin

Middle-aged native widower Justino’s life is disrupted when his daughter tells him she wants to go study in Brasilia. This hypnotic fiction feature by Brazilian director Maya Da-Rin won the international film critics’ award in Locarno, where lead actor Regis Myrupu also won Best Actor.

Nigina Sayfullaeva

Jealousy drives married, yet sexually neglected Lena to take a series of lovers. Complex, explicitly shot psychological drama from a female perspective. Director Nigina Sayfullaeva studies the role of sex, power and vulnerability in relationships, revealing that what remains undiscussed soon begins to fester.

Fire Will Come
Oliver Laxe

Convicted arsonist Amador returns to his remote village in the mountainous Spanish region of Galicia. His mother is glad he’s back, but the other villagers don’t trust him. A raging fire breaks out – but did he start it? Or are the property developers destroying this impoverished rural community?

First Love
Miike Takashi

Just after the talented yet sombre boxer Leo is told he has a brain tumour, he encounters the trapped, troubled call girl Monica. With nothing left to lose, the two become embroiled in a

The Halt
Lav Diaz

In this political fantasy of a future highly reminiscent of today, volcanic eruptions have thrown the Philippines into darkness, while a crazed leader threatens rebellious neighborhoods with poison gas. Resistance is not an easy option. After a stirring rock intermezzo, grand master Diaz calmly heads for the unexpected denouement.

Maxim Tomash

Russian self-made rapper Anton makes upbeat, personal hip-hop, with increasing success. Touring Eastern Europe as Antoha MC, he needs little more than his trumpet, hamster and a good mood. This affectionate travel documentary shows how millennials all over Eastern Europe party to his equally playful and critical music. K

Krabi, 2562
Ben Rivers, Anocha Suwichakornpong

Krabi is a paradise irrevocably falling victim to mass tourism. But before it’s too late, a mysterious visitor takes in the sights, local history and stories of the inhabitants. Documentary, interview and fiction merge as seamlessly as prehistory, the recent past and present: the year 2562 in the Buddhist calendar.

Albert Serra

In an 18th-century woodland, a group of banished French libertines indulge in a night of De Sadean sexual excess. This much-discussed provocation from Catalan film auteur Serra is the sort of film that should come with a trigger warning. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Les misérables
Ladj Ly

The day after the 2018 World Cup Final, won by France, tensions rise in Parisian banlieue Montfermeil. During cop Stéphane’s first day on the beat, some gypsies demand their stolen lion cub back and young Issa causes problems again. Impressive, explosive debut, partly inspired by the riots of 2005.

Patrice Toye

Intense adaptation of Inge Schilperoord’s controversial novel about 23-year-old Jonathan, fresh out of prison. With his mother, he tries to rebuild his life and control his paedophilic tendencies. Unfortunately, the 10-year-old girl next door is determined to become friends with him.

No.7 Cherry Lane

We had a 10-year wait for this film by legendary Hong Kong director Yonfan, and it was also his first animation. In the politically restless Hong Kong of the 1960s, a love triangle develops between student Ziming, 18-year-old Meiling and her mother. An ode to the city and cinema in nostalgic tones.

Justine Triet

Sibyl is a psychotherapist with a troubled past. She is intrigued by her patient Margot, an up-and-coming actress, and secretly records their conversations. Margot’s stormy life story gives Sibyl plenty of inspiration for the novel she is having trouble writing.

Suzanne Daveau
Luísa Homem

Rich documentary portrait of a passionate geographer way ahead of her time. Suzanne Daveau (1925, France) undertook field research in the most inhospitable environments: nothing could stop her. Using stunning photo series and footage, she tells the story of her life, in which work and private life became one.

Terminal Sud
Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche

A loyal doctor with a drinking problem tries to keep doing his job in an unnamed North African country. A difficult proposition where lawlessness, violence and fear have a chokehold on things. He should leave, says his girlfriend; but the doctor stays, and that takes its toll.

Tierra adentro
Mauro Colombo

Colombo’s urgent documentary feature debut shows the filmmaker immersing himself in the Darién Gap, a dense and mysterious jungle that divides Panama and Colombia. At the dangerous border between these two countries, guerrillas, immigrants, indigenous people, farmers, drug traffickers, police, and wild animals cross paths.

Ala Eddine Slim

This largely silent diptych brings together two extremes of contemporary Tunisian society. Young army deserter S and rich man’s pregnant wife F are both fleeing oppressive situations. F finally ends up in the woods, where she meets a wild S. Intriguing juxtaposition of raw realism and hypnotic allegory.

The Tree House
Truong Minh Quý

What does a filmmaker’s journey to Mars have to do with the Rục – an isolated ethnic group living in the mountains and caves of Vietnam? This original mix of science fiction and anthropology investigates the meaning of the concept of ‘home’.

The Vasulka Effect
Hrafnhildur Gunnarsdóttir

Documentary about video art’s free-spirited, groundbreaking pioneers Steina and Woody Vasulka. They seemed forgotten, but there is renewed attention for their work. The artists look back on their eventful lives whilst creating their archive.

Vitalina Varela
Pedro Costa

Vitalina travels from her native Cape Verde in the footsteps of her recently deceased partner, ending up in the pitch-black vacuum of life for Portuguese immigrants. This Golden Leopard winner at Locarno is stunningly stylised by Pedro Costa, who isolates his characters in the darkness using a 4:3 ratio and bright spotlights.

The Whistlers
Corneliu Porumboiu

A Romanian policeman, a factory owner hiding drugs in mattresses, a femme fatale, a beautiful Spanish island and a centuries-old secret language. Romanian maestro Porumboiu blends these together to create an elegant, drily comical thriller in which good and evil conspire side by side.

Zombi Child
Bertrand Bonello

Forget the clichés of the zombie genre. Bonello goes back to the origins of the living dead, rooted in Haitian folklore and colonialism. The result: an ambitious, conceptual genre film featuring the intriguing parallel stories of a Haitian teenager at a French boarding school today and a zombie slave on a sugar plantation in 1962.

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