When I got accepted as an accredited press for the 50th edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, my plan originally entailed writing a conventional review each for all the films I would be watching in two feature categories. Plans changed when I still haven’t got a groove on what I would write about a week after the festival. So instead, I’m writing this piece.
The excitement in getting to cover an international film festival for the first time was quickly overshadowed by the daunting task of actually writing. I asked myself, “How can someone write in-depth pieces on films with such a pace and schedule, much less enjoy them?” But this attitude results less from the culture of film festivals and more from the quality of this online festival experience.
A personal honest overview of IFFR is that the films (at least those I’ve seen) range from underwhelming to mildly acceptable affairs.
Having to write on a large number of films isn’t the issue – being uninspired to write because of the program is. Every consequent viewing left me drained and hesitant to watch more.
Having watched 8 feature-length films and 2 shorts, I feel I could’ve seen more. Does the shift to online bear heavily on the perceived quality of the films and my enjoyment of them? Would everything be better if the festival were screened in physical theatres instead of smaller screens that fluctuate in resolution and lag due to buffer time?
And there’s the actual films. The selections are not terrible per se – it’s just that they hit the deadly mediocrity mixed with close-endedness of their texts. My reactions are generally along the lines of, “Oh, okay. That’s it? I don’t feel I can add more from that.” Sure, you could argue that this is worse than just being “terrible”.
I feel bad saying these words to a festival that is committed to showcasing experimental (however arbitrary and watered down this term is nowadays; this distinction came from the festival) and budding talent against Hollywood hegemony. I do appreciate how it cultivates individual voices and narratives. But it should be fair to point out that with such ventures, risk of not hitting the mark is greater. “Truths” of these filmmakers are central and magnified in the film. But “truths” naturally converge against one another, and magnifying individual truths should expose them to further scrutiny.
Another reason why I couldn’t begin writing immediately is that I don’t know what to think of the films I’ve seen immediately. I have to reflect more on my subject position. Maybe I am far too off from the films culturally, if not formally. As a critic/reviewer, I also believe writing critiques should also expose the critic to scrutiny. And with the coming pieces, so be it.