Downturn at Rotterdam film festival

Event wraps with lower attendance numbers

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands -- The 38th edition of the International Film Festival of Rotterdam closed Saturday night with fewer admissions, fewer international guests and rumors about changes in the festival staff.

Admissions dropped from 355,000 to 341,000. The number of overseas guests plummeted from 1,878 to 1,418, while media attendance also fell with fewer journalists from the U.S. and France traveling to the Northern Dutch port.

Most critics agreed that this year's Tiger Award competition was stronger than last year's edition, though it was noted that two of the three winners -- "Be Calm and Count to Seven" by Ramtin Lavafipour (Iran) and "Breathless" by Yang Ik-June (South Korea) -- had premiered at other festivals. The third recipient of the Tiger Award, carrying a purse of 10,000 euros, was Turkey's "Wrong Rosary" by Mahmut Fazil.

The Audience Award went to global crowd-pleaser "Slumdog Millionaire."

Local Dutch media complained about the lack of stars at the event, mirroring previous years' grumblings. Even local hero Rutger Hauer, who had attended the past two editions, was unable to attend the world premiere of Cyrus Frisch's "Oogverblindend" (Dazzle), in which Hauer is heard only by telephone.

Movies from Asia, Russia and Turkey proved the biggest draw among film professionals and journalists with Russian filmmakers Alexei Balabanov, Andrey Khrzhanovsky and Alexey German Jr. jetting in to support the event. From Turkey, "Wrong Rosary" won one of the three VPRO Tiger Awards, and the sidebar Young Turkish Cinema proved successful.