After a bumper 40th anniversary edition of IFFR Pro last year, there’s a sense that Rotterdam’s industry strand has fined tuned things rather than introduced major changes for 2024.
IFFR Pro centres around key initiatives including co-production market CineMart, talent development programme Rotterdam Lab, works in progress section Dark Room and financial support for filmmakers through the festival’s Hubert Bals Fund.
Head of IFFR Pro a.i. Alessia Acone, who is overseeing the industry strand while IFFR Pro head Inke Van Loocke is on maternity leave, says one of the main differences about CineMart this year is that its selection is slightly smaller than the 40th anniversary edition, returning to its usual size. There are 16 film projects selected for CineMart 41st edition (running from January 28-31) and another four immersive projects.
They have been whittled down from an average of 350-400 applications that CineMart receives every year.
As ever, CineMart’s selection is truly global with projects hailing from China to Tunisia, Singapore to Ireland, Angola to the Netherlands. The projects are diverse in scale, form and subject matter too.
For example, there’s a high budget €5m biopic, Lucia, by Irish filmmaker Aisling Walsh, which focuses on writer James Joyce’s talented but troubled daughter. Then there is La Nuit, a UK-France co-production that marks the feature debut of two-time Tiger Short Competition-winner Beatrice Gibson which centres on a woman who wanders the streets after an abortion. (For a full list of the selected CineMart projects, see Screen’s story here).
The CineMart selection reflects the overall editorial line of the festival: projects from independent directors and producers that are mostly arthouse works. Acone says that CineMart picks projects based on the relevance of their themes and topics, and is mindful of diversity in terms of subject matter, teams, production structure and geographic spread.
CineMart’s track record speaks for itself. Recent projects to have passed through the co-production market include Nele Wohlatz’s Sleep With Your Eyes Open, which world premieres in Berlinale’s Encounters section next month; Cannes Directors Fortnight films Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry by Elene Naveriani and Légua by Filipa Reis & João Miller Guerra; Cannes Un Certain Regard film Los Delincuentes by Rodrigo Moreno; and Stepne by Maryna Vroda which world premiered in international competition at Locarno.
Among the potential co-production, sales and distribution partners attending the by-invitation CineMart this year are returning companies Mubi, Heretic, Rediance, Reel Suspects, m-appeal, Pluto, Modern Films, Asian Shadows, Coproduction Office, Bankside Films, Film Constellation, Films Boutique, Gaumont, Kino Produzioni, LevelK, Memento Films and Latifo Films. Companies attending for the first time include Kindred Spirits, Utopia Distribution and Filmin.
CineMart is also welcoming back its Spotlight presentation this year which returns after a brief hiatus due to industry demand, according to Acone. Taking place in the main Doelen screening room on the morning of January 29, it sees project teams introduce their work together with a moderator, diving deeper into their stories, strategies and ideas.
2024 will also see the return of IFFR Pro’s works in progress section, Darkroom, which launched last year for the 40th anniversary. Darkroom is a good example of how IFFR Pro ‘closes the circle’ with projects that it backs, says Acone. It is showcasing six former CineMart and HBF-supported projects to a panel of international sales agents, festival programmers and buyers.
The Darkroom selection this year includes four feature projects – Janus Victoria’s Diamonds In The Sand, Wei Liang’s Mongrel, Aaron Rookus’s The Idyll and Olivier Meys’s La Vie Devant Nous – as well as two immersive projects.
Meanwhile, the Rotterdam Lab, now in its 24th edition, has also changed its entry criteria. The talent workshop – a five-day round of panel sessions, roundtables and networking events – hosts 71 producers at the start of their career. For the first time this includes five participants chosen via an open call.
Traditionally all of the participants have been nominated by IFFR Pro’s international partners such as national film institutes, commissions or festivals. But the open call was introduced to “bring a much broader perspective within the cohort,” says Acone. She says it has been a great success, resulting in the selection of three producers from low production capacity European countries and two from diverse backgrounds.
Returning to IFFR for the Lab are the team behind Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry who will share the journey of their co-production. Both Hubert Bals Fund supported and a CineMart project in 2022, the film was also co-produced by former Rotterdam Lab producer, Thomas Reichlin.
Among other IFFR Pro talent initiatives this year is the Creative Producer Indaba focused on African film projects, and Dutch and international co-development programme Boost NL.