Visit to IFFR Rotterdam/KinoClimates with Star and Shadow
film festivals are a great excuse to travel, meet people, & see amazing films all at the same time. there's something about a sense of shared purpose that's created when you leave home together, not quite knowing what's gonna happen in the next few days, but with a shared certainty that you'll return feeling different about things – maybe enlightened, or inspired, or travel-sick, but certainly different.
we got the ferry to holland, partly because it's good for Mother Nature, mainly because the ferry is Awesome. we left newcastle just as it was getting dark, watching the tyne recede into the distance, surrounded by a constellation of street lights, orange windows & lighthouse beams. the crossing is overnight, which increased shared anticipation of all the amazing things on offer at kino climates & the IFFR (international film festival rotterdam) in general. ferry tickets are dirt cheap, but Word to the Wise: ferries themselves are expensive. imagine you're holding hundreds of people hostage on the open sea, for about 20 hours. what's the most any one of them would pay for a beer? that's how much a beer costs on a ferry. but forewarned is forearmed, & we feasted on contraband snacks in the on-board pirate-themed kids' play area, hidden from the glare of crewmembers. on deck, fellow passengers held on to cigarettes like they were keeping the ship afloat, whilst we sat on the floor & tried to work out if we'd arranged enough beds in rotterdam for us all to actually sleep in.
we headed to the bar (most parts of ferries are in fact bars – all with imaginative seafaring themes). smuggled whiskey & cuban rum kept us afloat through an abba tribute show, then we rinsed the film quiz to walk away with a bottle of fizzy vinegar 'wine'. nonetheless, drunk on our victory alone (and the whiskey), we watched in horror – nay, joy & admiration! – as a south-east asian woman & her mother belted out dance classics to an excited audience. before we knew it we were dancing, whilst simultaneously maintaining the dignity & opprobrium expected of delegates to another nation's premier film festival. Rad Moves were showcased (mainly by Mat), shapes were thrown (by all), as the dancefloor slid from side to side with the force of waves outside. at an unholy hour we slid downstairs into fold-out bunks, to catch enough shut-eye to prepare us for what lay ahead.
rising the next morning, we made ourselves ship-shape & Bristol-Fashion before boarding a coach bound for amsterdam. it felt like a movie already, a road trip, gazing out of the window as wind turbines sailed past & the big, glass-plated city drew closer. scenery sailed by like a film's back projection, as we made plans for the festival ahead.
arriving at the IFFR was amazing. so much of rotterdam is new – huge glass & bright colours that make you think of op-art & high-minded social purpose. arts organisations are in buildings as grand as banks are back home. the main festival building sits atop rotterdam's central square, surrounded by cinemas, theatres, sculpture & plate glass. but it's all so open – you feel like you own it. a fancy shop front – the sort of place that would be an estate agency if it was on newcastle's grey street – was selling zines & putting on shows for the duration of the festival. i saw Harmony Korine's new film, Trash Humpers, in the pathé cinema – sort of like the Gate cinema back home showing Bad Taste. it felt like every two blocks there was a cool arts cinema or fringe theatre – I'm sure it was the effect of seeing it all for the first time, but i kept thinking about what it would take to instil the same feeling in the centre of newcastle.
travel is supposed to broaden the mind, but the real broadening happens when you're back home, seeing your everyday through the foreign lens you've brought back in hand luggage, cushioned with flyers for cool movies & photos of where you've been. i think we all felt energised – how can we make sure everyone else has a chance to see the films we saw? how can we create more cultural space to share with everyone? but it also brought a small moment of realisation (for me, anyway) that newcastle is amazing too – something i feel most when returning from any long period away. we have cool places like the Side, the Tyneside, the Star & Shadow, the Live Theatre, small galleries & venues, studio space & public space. visitors must wonder how they can take the magic of an evening at the star & shadow back home with them, or why their own city doesn't have a radical filmmaking collective. at kino climates we met scores of people from across europe who were just as fascinated by what's going on in newcastle as we were with what they were up to. in rotterdam, the people in charge are On Message, & so some of the best things on offer are in huge buildings in the city centre. but all over europe there are little centres where people are creating their own culture & sharing it with each other, experimenting, finding new ways of living together & new languages through which to say the things that need to be said. it felt really great to rediscover that newcastle is one of those centres. it's easy to fixate on the differences between 'us' & 'them', but the best realisation is that when we do cool stuff in newcastle we're part of something much bigger. whether we know it or not, we have an army of friends, accomplices, soulmates & collaborators, just a ferry-ride away.