Japanese and Iranian Films Take Top Honors at International Film Festival Rotterdam

Rotterdam, Netherlands – Japanese actor and director Toshihiko Tanaka’s film “Rei” and Iranian filmmaker Oktay Baraheni’s “The Old Bachelor” emerged as the top winners at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Tanaka’s “Rei” took home the prestigious €40,000 ($43,000) Tiger Award in the main competition, while Baraheni’s “The Old Bachelor” won the €30,000 ($32,000) VPRO Big Screen Award 2024.

“Rei” tells the story of a woman in Tokyo struggling to find meaning in her life until she encounters a deaf landscape photographer living in the mountains of Hokkaido. The jury, consisting of Marco Müller, Ena Sendijarević, Nadia Turincev, Billy Woodberry, and Herman Yau, hailed it as a work that developed its debut film in a loose and unbounded environment.

Meanwhile, the Special Jury Awards worth €10,000 ($10,800) each were given to Indian director Midhun Murali’s “Kiss Wagon” and Australian filmmaker Jaydon Martin’s “Flathead.” “Kiss Wagon” is a political drama shot using shadow play technique, while “Flathead” explores blue collar life in Australia.

Baraheni’s “The Old Bachelor” took home the VPRO Big Screen Award, which was shared equally between the filmmaker and the producer. The film was part of the Big Screen competition, which highlighted 12 titles bridging popular, classic, and arthouse cinema. The jury, composed of Samina Khan, Sylvie de Leeuwe, Lisa van der Loos, Marcos Silva, and Ella de Bruijn, praised the film’s exploration of powerful themes such as patriarchy, misogyny, love, violence, and tragedy.

In addition, Murali’s “Kiss Wagon” also won the FIPRESCI Award for its fresh approach to addressing issues of lack of liberties and sexual and gender repression. The FIPRESCI jury, consisting of Ela Bittencourt, Dārta Ceriņa, Panagiotis Kotzathanasis, Antonios Lagarias, and Ronald Rovers, commended the film’s combination of humor, spectacle, and intrigue.

Furthermore, the NETPAC Award for the best Asian feature film was given to Ishan Shukla’s “Schirkoa: In Lies We Trust.” The film, a dystopian animated feature from India, was praised by the jury from the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema for its universal approach, spectacular style, clear vision, astonishing ideas, and great sense of humor. The jury members were Elena Larionova Haug, Donsaron Kovitvanitcha, and Andreas Ungerböck.

The International Film Festival Rotterdam showcased a diverse range of films, highlighting emerging talents and unique perspectives from around the world. The winners of the various awards demonstrate the creativity, storytelling prowess, and thematic depth present in contemporary cinema.