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Rotterdam fest a tale of two Rutgers

While the future of the Rotterdam International Film Festival's part-time director Rutger Wolfson dominates conversations, the event maintains its role as a place for discovering new talent.

Wolfson has hinted that he may stay longer, depending on how his first experience goes as the director of one of Europe's firmly established film shindigs. But the local Dutch press has raised numerous questions about his perceived lack of knowledge of worldwide cinema — denting his ambitions.

Wolfson has done nothing to hide his background as the director of a museum for contemporary art in another part of Holland, a position he combines with his Rotterdam gig.

The 37th edition of this European festival can hardly be regarded as a serious test for Wolfson, who was only appointed last September — after several international candidates declined the job — for one edition and had to depend on his large staff of selectors to help.

During the opening of the Exploding Cinema section, in which experimental work is shown, Wolfson stated that it's "his favorite part of the festival." Shame, then, that the section hardly drew an audience.

Much more enthusiasm greeted the opening film, the Tiger Award contender "Cordero de Dios" (Lamb of God) by first-time director Lucia Cedron. The movie, about the kidnapping of a 77-year-old grandfather during the economic crisis in Argentina in 2002, received excellent reviews. Other candidates for the Tiger Award did not get as warm a reception from press and public alike.

Under Wolfson's eye, this year's IFFR is showcasing more Dutch features than ever.

Oscar-nominated director Paula van der Oest ("Zus & Zo") unspooled her new film "Tiramisu," a drama about a declining Dutch actress. Van der Oest also announced her new project, "Smoke and Ochre," about the life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker, which will include two of Holland's big-name stars: Carice van Houten and Rutger Hauer.

Hauer celebrated his 64th birthday during his second year with the Rutger Hauer Film Academy, a parallel event to the festival that offers master classes for young filmmakers. Director and photographer Anton Corbijn, whose "Control" continues to garner plaudits, surprised Hauer by giving a special lecture to his students.

Rotterdam remains an important platform for young directors. U.S. director Jeff Pickett brought "The Skyjacker" — about the hijacking of a plane in the 1970s by the man who became known as D.B. Cooper — to the Sturm und Drang section. Cooper infamously jumped from the plane with a parachute and was never seen again.

"Rotterdam is an excellent place for meeting an international audience and, possibly, interested distributors," Pickett said. "In the States, it is much more difficult to get this kind of attention for low-budget, independently produced titles."