MONSIEUR LAZHAR wins UPC Audience Award in Rotterdam

MONSIEUR LAZHAR wins UPC Audience Award in Rotterdam

The UPC Audience Award of the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2012 goes to Philippe Falardeau’s MONSIEUR LAZHAR (Canada, 2011). The award comes with prize money of 10,000 Euro.

The Dioraphte Award (also 10,000 Euro) for the highest-scoring film in the audience poll among the seventeen festival films made with support from the Hubert Bals Fund was won by GOODBYE by Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof.

IFFR 2012 counted 274,000 visits to films, exhibitions, performances and events. The first Curaçao IFFR will take place from 29 March through 1 April 2012 in Willemstad; the 42nd International Film Festival Rotterdam from 23 January through 3 February 2013.

The winner of the UPC Audience Award, MONSIEUR LAZHAR, is a film in the spirit of ÊTRE ET AVOIR, in which the Algerian immigrant Lazhar helps a primary school class come to terms with a tragic loss, while benefitting himself from the innocence of the schoolchildren. MONSIEUR LAZHAR, which also took the award for Best Canadian feature film at the Toronto film festival and is in the running for an Oscar for best foreign film, will be given a Dutch theatrical release on 22 March 2012 by Imagine Nederland.

In the Dioraphte Award winner GOODBYE, a young female lawyer tries to leave Iran. This personal, gripping film by Rasoulof, who himself has been the subject of legal persecution in Iran for his films, was made thanks to a contribution from the Hubert Bals Fund.

Other films scoring highly in the audience award poll included Martin Scorsese’s HUGO, DIE UNSICHTBARE by Christian Schwochow (Germany) and the topical documentary BACK TO THE SQUARE by Petr Lom (Norway).

Looking back over the past festival, director Rutger Wolfson said: “IFFR 2012 had a characteristic, albeit slightly smaller programme of strong, distinctive films in the Tiger Awards Competition, as well as the Bright Future and Spectrum sections.

The Chinese documentaries by Ai Weiwei and others in the Hidden Histories programme; the Syrian and Egyptian works shown in the Power Cut programme and the exuberant Mouth of Garbage films led to much discussion among visitors to the festival. Discussions via social media and reporting on this spread far beyond the borders of the Netherlands.

The smaller number of festival films was good for the profile of individual works, giving new discoveries and world premières an opportunity to build up a reputation among both the general public and professionals. The fact that the likes of Miike Takashi, Michel Gondry, Wang Xiaoshuai, Andrea Arnold, Steve McQueen, Aki Kaurismäki, Peter Kubelka and Peter von Bagh, among many other filmmakers, were in Rotterdam was heart-warming. Films such as VALLEY OF SAINTS (Musa Syeed, India), ROOM 514 (Israel, Sharon Bar-Ziv) and the Hivos Tiger Award winners are already receiving a great deal of international attention.”

Business director Janneke Staarink: “Thanks to the further digitization of the box office and a more transparent pricing system, we have been able to make the festival more user-friendly. The responses to this have been mainly very positive. Visitor numbers, even allowing for a correction for last year’s large-scale anniversary programme, were however down 14%. Part of the explanation for this lies in the deliberate choice for a more compact programme, which has allowed us to improve quality for our filmmakers and visitors. In addition, it is clear that the recession has also had an impact on us as a festival. The economic situation is forcing the festival to be pro-active in its search for new revenue models and to experiment with private forms of financial support. Both in the run up to and during the festival, it has transpired that our audience recognises the urgent need to support the festival – and in doing so support independent cinema – and is doing so. At the same time, the figures show that we have squeezed our prices as far as we can. I hope that the powers that be will acknowledge this signal that, while there may be many opportunities for entrepreneurial parties, the bill for the cuts in government spending cannot be laid only at the door of those who enjoy culture.”

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