COLOGNE, Germany – Celebrated Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei will join the competition jury of the upcoming International Film Festival Rotterdam – from his home in Beijing.
Weiwei, the subject of Alison Klayman's award-winning documentary and Oscar contender Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, is banned from leaving China by government authorities there who accuse him of various crimes, including tax evasion. The artist and his numerous supporters worldwide view the accusations as an attempt to silence his anti-government activism.
Unable to travel to Rotterdam to judge this year's contenders for the Hivos Tiger Awards, Ai Weiwei will instead stream the films online from his home in Beijing, from where he will deliberate with the other members of the Rotterdam jury. This year's competition jury includes Russian director Segei Loznitsa (My Joy), Dutch filmmaker Kees Hin (Shadowland), Jose Luis Cienfuegos - artistic director of the Seville European Film Festival – and Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamedarya, whose own political activism led to authorities in Tehran banning her from acting for the past two years.
The Tiger Award contenders – all first and second feature films – include such world premieres as Dummy Jim from director Matt Hulse, a documentary about the deaf Scotsman James Duthie, who cycled to the Arctic circle; the Thai sex-worker drama Karaoke Girl from director Visra Vichit Vadakan; Longing for the Rain from Hong Kong-based Yang Lina; Argentine feature Night from Leonardo Brzezicki and Penumbra, the second feature film from Mexican helmer Eduardo Villanueva.
Another Mexican feature, Sebastian Hofmann's Halley, is a new take on the zombie genre. The feature focuses on a Beto, a zombie whose best days are behind him and who struggles to cover up his physical decay with make-up and perfume. In a more experimental vein is 36 from Thai director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, the story of a location scout who has lost a year's worth of photos, told in 36 separate shots.
Dutch features in this year's competition selection include Ricky Rijneke's Silent Ones and The Resurrection of a Bastard from Guido van Driel, both of which got their start at Rotterdam's CineMart project lab.
Other titles in the official line-up are Mira Fornay's My Dog Killer, the Austrian drama Soldier Jane from Daniel Hoesl, the modern-day fable They'll Come Back from Brazilian director Marcelo Lordello, Turkish feature Watchtower from Pelin Esmer, American coming-of-age feature It Felt Like Love by debut director Eliza Hittmann, Fat Shaker from Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Shirvani and The King, a new take on the life of Jesus Christ from Italian director Giovanni Columbu.
The 42nd International Film Festival Rotterdam runs Jan.23-Feb. 3.
- Arts & Entertainment