Rotterdam Film Festival Unveils Lineup

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - Publicity Still 2- H 2019
Lacey Terrell/Sony

João Nuno Pinto’s 'Mosquito' will open the 49th International Film Festival Rotterdam on Jan. 22, with Marielle Heller's Oscar contender 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood' closing it Feb. 2.

Mosquito, a period drama from Portuguese filmmaker João Nuno Pinto (América), will open the 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam, kicking off the inaugural fest under new director Bero Beyer.

Described as a "war film without war," Mosquito follows a 17-year-old Portuguese recruit drafted to fight in World War I who gets lost in the African wilderness. The film will have its world premiere in Rotterdam in the festival's Big Screen Competition section.

In a nod to the mainstream, Rotterdam has picked Marielle Heller's feel-good feature A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as children's TV host Mister Rogers, as its closing film. The drama, one of the leading contenders in the 2020 Oscar race, follows cynical journalist Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), tasked with profiling American television icon Fred Rogers.

For the bulk of its lineup, however, Rotterdam is sticking to its art house roots. The 10 titles in the festival's main Tiger Competition cross national and genre film borders and include Kim Yong-hoon's South Korean crime drama Beasts Clawing at Straws; Arun Karthick's Nasir, a look at life in the Hindu-nationalist province of Tamil Nadu in India; and Jorge Thielen Armand's drama La fortaleza, set in the jungles of Venezuela. All 10 Tiger titles, which compete for Rotterdam's top honor, the Tiger Award, will be world premieres.

The 2020 Tiger jury, composed of Dutch-Palestinian filmmaker Hany Abu-Assad (Paradise Now), Visions du Réel artistic director Emilie Bujès, South Korea-born American filmmaker Kogonada (Columbus), Dutch filmmaker Sacha Polak (Dirty God) and Indonesian artist Hafiz Rancajale, will pick both the Tiger Award winner and a Special Jury prize winner from the 10 titles. The Tiger Award comes with a cash prize of 40,000 euros ($44,500), with 10,000 euros ($11,100) for the Special Jury Award. 

Rotterdam's Big Screen Competition, part of the festival's Voices sidebar, features nine films selected based on their theatrical qualities. In addition to Mosquito, the lineup includes the world premieres of A Perfectly Normal Family from Danish actress-turned-director Malou Reymann, Marco Berger's El cazador and Eden from Hungarian filmmaker Ágnes Kocsis (Pál Adrienn). A jury of five Rotterdam audience members will pick the winner from the Big Screen lineup, to receive a guaranteed theatrical release for their film in the Netherlands, a broadcast slot on Dutch TV and 30,000 euros ($33,400) in prize money, half of which goes to the distributor who buys the film.

Rotterdam's Bright Future Competition, comprising a selection of 15 feature-length debuts, includes first-time dramas from the U.S. (Gillian Wallace Horvat's I Blame Society), Russia (Babai by Artem Aisagaliev) and Bolivia (Diego Mondaca's Chaco), among others.

The Bright Future jury — Beatriz Navas, director of ICAA in Spain, Komplizen Film development head Zsuzsanna Kiraly and Mexican filmmaker Michel Lipkes (Strange but True) — will choose the winner of the Bright Future Award, worth 10,000 euros ($11,100).

The 49th International Film Festival Rotterdam runs Jan. 22-Feb. 2.