Meet & Frite

GFI Founder and Board Chair Susan Weeks Coulter recounts the sights, sounds (and tastes) of the 41st International Film Festival Rotterdam

Susan with the famous GFI bag--and frites!--in hand at IFFR 2012

The 9-hours-ahead time change left me with the very worst jet-lag—I found myself laying wide awake in my hotel room at 3am, humming “We Shall Overcome” in hopes that perhaps by the third verse, I might doze off.

But the quiet time did allow for a period of reflection about Holland, the Rotterdam International Film Festival, Hubert Bals Fund, and of course, the Dutch people. For those of you new to The Global Film Initiative, it was actually the Hubert Bals people who jump-started our organization back in 2003.

Noah Cowan and I had been wrestling with not only the idea of what we wanted to do in showcasing film from emerging countries/film industries, but we were perplexed at how to structure such an organization. Noah met up with Simon Field who was, at the time, heading up the Hubert Bals efforts, and explained what we wanted to do in the U.S. With Simon’s encouragement, open-mindedness, and welcome, the Global Film Initiative had found an organization “structure” that we felt would meet our needs. (Now, in the interest of full disclosure, interjecting Simon into this ramble I must mention that Simon is not a Hollander, but a good guy, nonetheless!)

Noah and I came to Rotterdam that first year, knowing few people, and feeling quite inarticulate about who we were and how we’d managed to “get in the business” as it were. Miramax was still buying up films in great quantity and there was no way we could compete with their financial strength in making an offer, but what we could offer was our passion about the films we selected and a strong commitment to the filmmakers who presented us with their visions and voices.

So…what about the Dutch?? And Holland? Right. Imagine if you will: overcast sky, rain showers, a stiff breeze off the North Sea in late January and ankle-biting cold for those of us who did not yet understand dressing for Rotterdam didn’t necessarily mean dressing—it just meant bundling up.

Frite filling in action

Martijn, owner of the frites truck, with his potato slicer

Having lived in the Netherlands as a teenager, I knew right away that the one symbol that typifies the Dutch (for me) is warm, hearty, and somewhat humorous—neither the windmill nor the tulip but rather patat frites. I knew they would offer Noah a good immersion into this festival and off we went in search of the “frites wagon.” Potatoes, sliced fresh daily, served piping hot, slathered with mayo, ketchup, pinda saus(peanut sauce), or a combination of the three, and presented in a waxed paper-cone and a tiny fork for easy eating. Despite record cold—in fact because of record cold—people huddle around these temporary food service trailers, to fill up with something affordable that helps one manage the cold. Nine years later, that same truck, the same frites maker, in exactly the same location is still doing a great business in Rotterdam.

To follow is a short photo essay. This year’s festival brought together an assembly of good-natured (even at breakfast), talented and inspiring film professionals from around the world. Certainly, I met with only a fraction of the attendees by concentrating on countries under-represented in the international marketplace. Some were new faces, some old friends, filmmakers or grantees from past years. Now I’d like to share some of their faces and a little bit about them with you.

Zeynel Doğan and Orhan Eskiköy (second and fourth from right) during the Q&A for VOICE OF MY FATHER (GFI grantee), which premiered at IFFR

Raja Chhinal from the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC) at the CineMart breakfast

Susan with Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof (THE WHITE MEADOWS, Global Lens 2011), in Rotterdam to promote his newest film, GOODBYE

New York film critic Howard Feinstein (far right) interviews Mohammad Rasoulof (center) during the IFFR's Critics Talk

From left: Dominic Allen and Kivu Ruhorahoza (GREY MATTER, Global Lens 2012), participating in CineMart with their film JOMO

Shameless advertising at breakfast with Rotterdam Lab participant Manjeet Singh (MUMBAI CHA RAJA)

Filmmakers Laura Amelia Guzmán and Israel Cárdenas make CineMart a family affair while promoting their film SAND DOLLAR

Aktan Arym Kubat (THE LIGHT THIEF, Global Lens 2011) between CineMart meetings for his new project, CENTAUR

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