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Rotterdam | © Mlefter/WikiCommons
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Films to Look Out for at International Film Festival Rotterdam

Picture of Tom Coggins
Updated: 26 January 2017
Rotterdam’s annual international film festival kicks off on Thursday, January 26 and will continue screening this year’s top art house movies until Thursday, February 2. The festival pays close attention to up-and-coming talent while acknowledging the work of established filmmakers. Here are the Culture Trip’s favorite picks from this year’s program.

American Honey by Andrea Arnold

After her breakthrough film Fish Tank, director Andrea Arnold was promptly touted as the next great British realist filmmaker, and has since gone on to direct a visually stunning adaption of Wuthering Heights, as well as several episodes of Amazon’s groundbreaking drama series Transparent. Her latest feature follows a defiant teenage girl, named Star, as she journeys across the American Midwest alongside her equally wayward friends in search of money, parties and meaning.

Sexy Durga by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan

According to its director, Sexy Durga was completely unscripted, meaning that its cast relied almost exclusively on improvisation. The film tells the story of two lovers as they travel across the Indian province of Kerala during a regional festival that honors the wrathful goddess Kali. Along the way they encounter several dubious characters and eventually descend into a waking nightmare.

Prevenge by Alice Lowe

British screenwriter and actress Alice Lowe refuses to pull her punches with her intense directional debut, and employs pitch-black comedy to challenge the romantic notions that surround pregnancy. Lowe stars as a less-than-enthusiastic mother-to-be, named Ruth, whose unborn child demands human sacrifices. This menace in utero communicates silently with Ruth and forces her to commit bloody murders in exchange for her own life.

Jackie by Pablo Larraín

Indie favorite Natalie Portman stars in the title role of this in-depth historical study of one of America’s most revered and enigmatic first ladies. After the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, Jackie Kennedy must uphold her public image and act as a matriarch for her country and family while enduring profound grief. Apart from its stellar cast and accomplished director, the films is also notable for its outstanding score, which was composed by British avant-garde producer Mica Levi – who was also responsible for the music behind Under the Skin.

HEIS (Chroniques) by Anaïs Volpé

Despite her family’s misgivings, 25-year-old Pia is determined to make it as an artist and dreams of breaking away from her mother’s overbearing sensibilities. After voicing her aspirations to her brother, Pia is confronted with guilt and finds it impossible to find solace in her family members. The film coincides with several other cross-media projects, including a web-series and art installation that were created by its director and leading actress, Anaïs Volpé.

The Girl With All the Gifts by Colm McCarthy

Like all good post-apocalyptic movies, The Girl With all the Gifts starts with a simple, world-destroying premise and a handful of characters hellbent on survival. Instead of focusing on action though, director Colm McCarthy centers his tale around a seemingly innocent young girl who is desperate for adult care and protection. As the film’s leading characters venture through England‘s ravaged heartlands, they begin to warm to their young ward, while slowly realizing there might be something much more sinister lurking in the wastelands.

Paterson by Jim Jarmusch

Offbeat raconteur Jim Jarmusch has returned this year with two full-length features, both of which will be screened at International Film Festival Rotterdam. While his other picture, Gimme Danger, documents the life and times of the legendary proto-punk band the Stooges, with Paterson Jarmusch turns once again to slow, reticent character studies. Leading man Adam Driver stars as a kind-hearted bus driver with a secret passion for poetry, who draws inspiration from his daily interactions with his wife, friends and fares.

Quality Time by Daan Bakker

In his directional debut, Dutch filmmaker Daan Bakker employs an extremely sharp wit and innovative style to fiendishly satirize modern masculinity, while depicting the disparate yet analogous struggles of five young men. These youthful figures are united by their deep insecurities and are desperate to prove themselves in an overwhelming, confusing world. Bakker presents their absurd, often disastrous actions with a steady dose of humor, ensuring that Quality Time is at once evocative and entertaining.

Moonlight by Barry Jenkins

Esteemed director Barry Jenkins’ latest feature Moonlight has already won a Golden Globe for its harrowing, poetic portrayal of black male identity in America, and will be screened at this year’s International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film chronicles the life of a young black man growing up in Miami as he deals with his mother’s drug addiction, discovers his own sexual identity and struggles with his neighborhood’s enduring poverty.

By the Time it Gets Dark by Anocha Suwichakornpong

In 2010, Thai director Anocha Suwichakornpong took home the International Film Festival Rotterdam’s esteemed Tiger award for her powerful, directional debut Mundane History. Her second feature, By the Time it Gets Dark, examines Thailand‘s troubling past by weaving together several storylines united around a brutal, state-sanctioned massacre that occurred at Thammasat University in 1976.