Guiding extravagant directors

Talita Berz volunteer IFFR – Elliot Zepeda
Talita receives directors and other guests at the festival. Image credit: Elliot Zepeda

The night before her first day at IFFR, Talita Berz (21, International Bachelor of Communication and Media) didn’t recieve any information about her schedule yet. The panic had just disappeared when she received a phone call: “Be at De Doelen at 5:45 the next morning where a taxi will pick you up.” Destination of the taxi? Unknown.

She woke up really early and cycled to the festival, dodging ‘shady’ midnight men offering rides and cigarette-starved frat boys asking for lighters.

Once inside the official IFFR cab, the driver only spoke Dutch. With her two-month introductory Dutch course, Talita figured out that her destination was Schiphol Airport, where she would pick up a punk latino directing duo from San Francisco.

After a ‘crazy experimental and abstract’ conversation on cinema art at 7 AM, Talita and the delicate rolls of film that accompanied the crew members made it safely to Rotterdam.

Stories like this have become an ordinary occurrence for Talita, who has been welcoming and guiding extravagant directors to screenings and talks around the city. She has also experienced less cinematic encounters, mostly with ‘class-A’ directors whose egos are ‘a mix of Quentin Tarantino and David Lynch’.

Talita’s Film recommendation: Lu Over the Wall by Yuasa Masaaki (on screen Saturday morning)

“It was like the Romeo and Juliet story but with amazing 90s style animation with a touch of Studio Ghibli.”

Explaining virtual reality

Wiktoria Filip volunteer IFFR – Elliot Zepeda
Wiktoria has to explain virtual reality to visitors. Image credit: Elliot Zepeda

Wiktoria Filip (19, also IBCoM), volunteers at one of the six art installations of IFFR. Her station at the UBIK Theatre hosts five virtual reality (VR) units.

The 360-degree projects expand on the notion of cinema, transporting viewers to the living room of knitting grandmothers in South Africa, sunbathing tourist by the coast of Japan, or to swing in a playground in post-apocalyptic Chernobyl.

For most people, the VR experience at UBIK is their first. “VR is a very foreign concept, not only for me, but for everybody that is here”, she confesses. Explaining the technology to older visitors has been particularly hard for Wiktoria. “They are completely deprived from the outside world once the headset is put on, this confuses older people a bit.”

Wiktoria’s recommendation: A los libros y a las mujeres canto from Spanish director María Elorza (not screening anymore)

“This was the first movie I watched at IFFR and it surprised me in a good way because of its unconventional format. It’s a documentary but with lots of well thought out cinematography.”

Waiting for tasks

Julia Rozentsvit volunteer IFFR – Elliot Zepeda
Julia is mainly waiting for things to do. Image credit: Elliot Zepeda

“The whole volunteering thing is a bit chaotic”, Julia Rozentsvit (IBCoM) summarises her experience as a ‘flying tiger’. For this past week, a normal day for Julia starts at De Doelen. There she waits for tasks whenever help is needed at one of the theatres.

For one of the ‘chaotic instances’ she had to run around De Doelen to direct people to the correct movie theatre. “Stopping random people to ask them ‘where are you going?’ is super weird, especially because no one was going to that movie”, she laughs.

Such agitation was an exception. Julia confesses that she is mostly waiting for tasks. “To be honest, I think that IFFR hires a lot more volunteers than needed. A big part of it is social, to create a community. They want people to mingle, to talk, to be involved in the festival. So, it’s not per se about doing things, but participating in whatever is happening around.”

Julia’s film recommendation: Las Demás by Chilean director Alexandra Hyland

“I like movies about female friendships. They are also throwing a little party after the screening on Thursday with a DJ and a Q&A!”

You can get tickets for this event happening on 2 February at KINO (organised by EUR students).

Golden opportunity

Mayra Nassef volunteer IFFR – Elliot Zepeda
Mayra has been writing film critiques all week. Image credit: Elliot Zepeda

“It feels surreal”, Mayra Nassef (20, IBCoM), says. “I got to interview one of the biggest directors in the Middle East, which was a huge learning experience for me.” As a member of the ‘Media Outreach and Inclusion Scheme’ – a new programme from IFFR that invited journalists from diverse backgrounds to report on the festival – Mayra was able to schedule an interview with Marwan Hamed, who is screening his latest film Kyra & El Gin.

The press accreditation also allows her to attend industry conferences, press rounds and Q&A sessions.

“I never really knew how to put my foot in the door because I don’t speak Dutch and I also don’t have any connections in the media industry. For me, this was like a golden opportunity. I wouldn’t have access for a press accreditation if I would have applied as just a blogger.”

Mayra has been running her personal blog ‘Mayra talks about film and other stuff’ since October. For this festival, she has mainly focused on film critiques, which she publishes daily.

A week of reporting on film made Mayra’s passion for film journalism stronger. But more importantly, she has found a new appreciation for Rotterdam: “Rotterdam is a city where people really have a passion for art, rather than spectacle. That’s why IFFR has such a nice vibe. It’s not Cannes or Berlinale which are known to be a bit snobby.”

Mayra’s film recommendation: Thiiird by Karim Kassem (screenings on Thursday and Saturday night)

“The film follows the aftermath of the explosion in the port of Beirut. It has a postapocalyptic and posttraumatic atmosphere and blurs the line between reality and fiction. You don’t really know what’s the imagination of the characters and real life. Feeling hopeless and stuck is shown very well and in a subtle manner.”