The Tigers Are Out

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So I’m a tad bit late to the game announcing the winners of the Rotterdam Film Festival, and most of that has to do with the fact that I’ve been cavorting in Europe, visiting film institutions (Latvian Film Center) and screening rooms (Brussel’s Cinema Nova)  in between IFFR’s closing and the opening of the Berlinale. However, I believe this is the first Seattle based announcement of the Tiger Award Winners.

Drum rolls please….

The three Tiger Awards were granted to feature débuts:

Of these, I saw FINISTERRAE, which is a whacky romp through Catalan by Sergio Caballero, lensed by the fabulous Eduard Grau, who shot Albert Serra’s very wry BIRD SONG and HONOR DE CAVALLERIA. Sergio Caballero also happens to be the director of the SONAR music festival in Spain. The Daily Tiger reported that imagery for FINISTERRAE was originally created for that festival’s advertising campaign. While Serra turns classical narratives like Don Quixote and the Three Kings on their head, Caballero’s film remains unclassifiable. Here’s hoping it arrives in SIFF.

I also caught the beautifully photographed and incredibly measured ETERNITY which views courtship through the eyes of a ghost. Yet another appearance of spirits in Thai cinema, this film was a first feature for Sivaroj Kongsakul, whose previous work has been in production on films with the likes of Apichatpong. Absolutely amazing, this was my favorite film of the festival.

With a striking surge in the quality of American work at the festival this year, I’ll herald the forthcoming talent of Matthew Pettock, whose A LITTLE CLOSER treks into single motherhood with the grace of a veteran. Shot in Virginia, Pettocks boyhood stomping grounds, the film’s lead Sayra Player delivers an outstanding performance as Sheryl, a lonely single mother of two adolescent boys, who themselcves are in the midst of pubescent female preoccupations. Heartaching scenes of Sheryl longing for a dance partner at the community hall gatherings are  pitch perfect. Eric Bakersville’s turn as  the younger son captures early boyhood infatuation as Stephen struggles in his summer school program daydreaming about his African American teacher. His older brother Marc,performed here by  non-actor Parker Lutz, meanwhile is seeking his first sexual encounter. It adds up to three lost souls desperately  swimming in this poor rural swimming fish bowl, delivering an authentic picture of rural America. The film picked up a sales agent at the festival, which bodes well for future screenings. I hope to see more from this talented kid down the line.

Other US stand outs  include AARDVARK (from Cleveland) about a blind gay Jujitsu revenge film (I know!), the zany southern comedy SEPTIEN by Michael Tully, Lee Ann Scmitt’s (CALIFORNIA COMPANY TOWN) experimental buffalo hunting enthonography THE LAST BUFFALO HUNT,  Kevin Jerome Everson’s documentary portrait of an African American dry cleaner QUALITY CONTROL, and BAD POSTURE,  which others are raving about.

Also wotrth noting is Laura Amelia Guzmán’s JEAN GENTIL, a Mexican helmed Domincan shot hybrid doc-fiction feature starring a displaced Hatian professor who wanders into the woods.  The film bowed in Venice and subsequently Cannes and its quotidian obsessions resemble some of Lisandro Alonso’s finest work.

Overall IFFR was better than usual, remaining a wonderful scene to discover new talent. Looking forward to the Berlinale which kicks off tomorrow.

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