The 45th edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) will be the first in nine years without current artistic director Rutger Wolfson at the helm. Much has been said of Wolfson's tenure as the head of one of the world's biggest public film festivals, and not much of it—recently at least—has been positive. Having missed 2014's festival period due to illness, he announced in December last year that the 44th edition would be his last.
The problems with IFFR are many, and to suggest that Wolfson is solely to blame for a declining reputation as a hotbed for high-quality leftfield cinema is merely mean-spirited. Still, it's an open secret these days, among press delegates at least, that IFFR has become something of a bloated balloon in the last decade—one whose expanding size each year means that its large team of programmers has to operate increasingly on an "any old film will do" policy. For now, one hopes that Wolfson's successor has the strength in character to realize that size matters, and that when quality control is no guarantee, smaller can indeed be better.
In fairness, most of the guffaws, walkouts, and eye-rolls in Rotterdam are to do with the Tiger Competition, which this year hosted 13 first or second features—11 of which were world premieres. Opting for a juried competition of this kind inevitably places a burden on the selected films: These are the works upon which the trades will place journalistic priority and so, in turn, they come to represent the festival as a whole—not only as an indication of its overall quality, but of the discerning eyes and political tastes of its programming team too. Venturing into the Tigers rarely ends well. Often characterized by a put-on radicalism, they range from the politically toothless to the off-puttingly pretentious. Unnamed, somnambulant archetypes that don't talk much are very much the "in" thing.