Attending the International Film Festival Rotterdam

Heather Tucker, dinsdag 5 maart 2013
This year the 42nd edition of the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) was held from January 23rd until February 3rd 2013. I started attending the festival in 2010, back when I saw a poster by the side of the road and had no idea what it was all about. Every year I am surprised by how much I enjoy myself and every year I try to see a few more films than the year before (easy when you started out only seeing one!). This year was no exception.

But why attend a film festival anyway? All in all I’ve been lucky. This year only a couple of the films had me wondering how many minutes were left and there have been a good handful of films that had me enthusiastically clapping at the end. One even made me jump – twice – but I tried to pretend I was just pulling up my coat to keep warm. The biggest surprise for me, however, came in the form of a German documentary.

When I sat down to watch a film about Alzheimer’s, I expected to spend the full 88-minutes being grateful that none of my immediate family, nor I, had the disease. But that wasn’t what happened. Vergiss mein nicht (Forget Me Not), a personal documentary by David Sieveking, followed his mother’s Alzheimer’s on a daily basis, while taking time to also look back on her past and many roles – mother, wife, ex-feminist and activist. And rather than sitting in the cinema surrounded by tissues and tears, I watched as a family, in a way similar to how you must make a bigger mess before you can properly organise something, came to terms with and accepted the new Gretel that Alzheimer’s had left behind.

This is why you should go to a film festival, in my opinion. To find these gems of a film that might otherwise go unseen. To hear and watch the stories that might otherwise go untold. It also doesn’t hurt that overall it is a fun experience and that the atmosphere around town buzzes.

If you are thinking about attending the next International Film Festival Rotterdam, you might find the information below – frequently asked questions and tips – useful for your planning.

Question: I don’t speak Dutch or any other foreign language. Will I still understand the films?

Answer: The films shown at the festival are all spoken or subtitled in English, except for the films that are marked d.s. (Dutch subtitles), f.s. (French subtitles) or n.d. (no dialogue). If in doubt you can always ask at one of the information desks or check the list on the website.

Question: Which venues in the city are used?

Answer:  This year, there were 15 different locations for the events and screenings. However, the majority of things take place at de Doelen, Pathé Schouwburgplein, Rotterdamse Schouwberg, Cinerama, Oude Luxor and LantarenVenster. There are maps located at the different venues and also online.

Question: How do I plan what I want to see?

Answer: The film festival is very popular and some of the films can sell out quickly, so it pays to be prepared. The first thing to do would be to make an account on the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s website, so that when the time comes for buying tickets, you’ll be all set. Then keep your eye out for the schedule.

The full program for the festival is published as an insert in the Volkskrant newspaper around one week before the start of the festival. Online ticket sales start shortly thereafter with Tiger Friends and Unlimited Pass holders getting one day prior access. So as soon as the program is published, start deciding what you want to see and when. Don’t forget to make a note of the ticket sales date so you can get your first choice(s).

Question: How much does a ticket cost?

Answer: In 2013, a film ticket was €8-11 depending on the length of the film. There are multiple discount cards (e.g. Tiger Discount Card) available and also some packages (e.g. UPC Cinema Day) that you can take advantage of.

Extra Tips:

  • Shorter films are often packaged together in compilation programmes. So keep this in mind when making your selections/bookings. You can see if this is the case with your film when looking at the website entry.
  • For some films the director and/or other representatives will be at the screening to answer questions after the film has been shown.
  • Make sure to take into account how long a film is, where the next one is and when it starts before booking your tickets. If you have to get from Pathé to LantarenVenster with only five minutes between films, you are going to have a problem.
  • There are no assigned seats for the films.
  • Doors typically open about 15 minutes before the screening.
  • Tickets that are still available one hour before a film are sold at 50% off at the Last Minute Ticket Shop.