Toespraak van minister van Engelshoven bij de opening van het Internationaal Filmfestival Rotterdam (IFFR)

Toespraak van minister Van Engelshoven (OCW)  bij de opening van het Internationaal Filmfestival Rotterdam (IFFR) op 23 januari 2019. De tekst is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Thank you, Bero.

It’s a great honour to be here and to take a few minutes of your time to talk about how much this festival means. [Rest assured: it will only be a few minutes!]

With over 300,000 visits each year and worldwide fame, IFFR is of course a jewel in the crown of our cultural landscape. This is a source of great pride to me, but as I see it, the importance of this great event goes even further.

Because, as Bero just said, film is about emotion, about feelings. About the very things that make us human.

Thanks to film, I can imagine what it feels like to be a man.

Thanks to film, I can imagine what it feels like to be a black man.

Thanks to film, I can imagine what it feels like to be a black, American, homosexual man.

I can imagine these things because I have seen Moonlight by Barry Jenkins, who was a special guest here in Rotterdam 2 years ago. Because I was transported by that film for almost 2 hours. Away from myself. Away from the here and now.

It drew me into the story of Chiron. I lived through his experiences. I felt his sorrow.

Perhaps, in some small way, I even had the chance to be him. A film allows you to enter the minds of its characters. Regardless of gender or skin colour. Regardless of place or time. Regardless of the characters’ ideas or actions.

And if you can step into the world of a character in a film, you are that little bit closer to identifying with other people’s lives in the real world. It helps us develop empathy and to feel a little more connected. Something society definitely needs more of.

At the same time, I understand that creating empathy is not the ultimate goal of a filmmaker. At most, it is a means to an end. A contributing factor that helps reinforce the importance of art in general and the cinematic art in particular.

Ultimately, the aim of a filmmaker is the intrinsic quality of the work up there on the big screen. The artwork itself.

In short: there are reasons enough to cherish cinema. And that’s what IFFR is all about. In the first place by showing films. A great many films.

But also by seeking out exciting new areas, and pushing the boundaries of cinema to give context to what is going on in the world. By stimulating discussion, challenging  prejudices and cultivating understanding.

You are never too young to be part of this process. More images are being consumed than ever before. Visual language is becoming more compelling and more powerful.

While that is a good thing...it also needs a framework, in the form of education.

This is a responsibility IFFR takes seriously. Through its extensive education programme, it reaches tens of thousands of children during the festival alone. And many more through the regular programmes it runs throughout the year, programmes that take in Rotterdam’s weekend schools and vocational colleges.

An incredibly important contribution!

In my role as minister, I try to contribute through policy – in the coming years, I will make a structural investment of almost 3 million euros in film education. Education programmes like those organized by IFFR – close to the source – have a vital part to play.

Dear friends,

Artists want to make work of the highest quality, work that matters. As I already mentioned – this is what drives them.

To do so, they need the space and the time to think through their plans. They must be able to innovate and experiment.

And they must be able to exchange ideas and collaborate with others, both inside and outside the Netherlands. The Hubert Bals Fund – celebrating its anniversary this year – is a good example of this. And my policy reflects the key role it plays.

Hundreds of wonderful, unique films will be screened here in Rotterdam over the next 12 days, films made because brilliant minds were given the chance to pour their creativity into their art, given the opportunity to pursue that intrinsic quality.

And if we want to see such a rich harvest of films here in future, we not only need raw talent, but talent with the room to develop. Talent that has been given the chance to experiment with new forms, and in doing so to attract new audiences.

To boost talent development, I have given over 2 million euros to the Film Fund to invest in talent coaching, to support talent labs and to provide free space for screenwriters.

In this area, the same applies: initiatives that originate close to the source are every bit as important. What organizations such as IFFR do has at least as much impact as government policy.

The opening film we are about to see – ‘Dirty God’ – is a good example: the makers of the film benefited from the BoostNL coaching programme as the project was presented to co-producers through CineMart.

First and foremost, ‘Dirty God’ is of course the work of director Sascha Polak and producer Marleen Slot – but looking at the history of the project, the film can also be called a child of IFFR, to some extent at least. An exceptional child, too!

Not only is it opening the festival here in Rotterdam, but it is also the first Dutch film ever to be selected for the renowned World Cinema Dramatic competition at the Sundance festival!

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait till the lights go down and the curtain opens. Till I can let myself be carried away, away from myself. Away from the here and now. Till I find myself in someone else’s skin. Sharing her experiences, her world, her fate.

But first, let’s take a quick look at what you can look forward to over the next 12 days.

Enjoy!

And thank you!