Science Films at IFFR 2024

The 53rd edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) begins January 25, screening over 400 films across Rotterdam through February 4. We have rounded up the science and technology-themed features to look out for, with descriptions excerpted from the festival’s programmers.

Highlights include festival favorite Alice Rohrwacher’s LA CHIMERA, making its Dutch premiere. Isabella Rossellini co-stars in the 1980’s-set drama, which follows a lovelorn archaeologist (Josh O’Connor) caught up in the theft of historical artifacts to be sold on the black market.

Our selection also includes several world premieres, including Lev Kalman and Whitney Horn’s DREAM TEAM. Produced by Smudge Films (WE’RE ALL GOING TO WORLD’S FAIR), the mystery comedy follows a pair of Interpol agents investigating the death of a coral smuggler in Mexico circa 1997. IFFR programmer Michelle Carey compares the work to “an episode of BAYWATCH NIGHTS were it directed by Maya Deren.”

13 BOMBS. Dir. Angga Dwimas Sasongko. International Premiere. “Forcefully picked up by the Indonesian bureau of counter-terrorism to help trace a militant anti-bank outfit, Oscar and William, the nerdy co-founders of the country’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, find themselves caught up in an intricate cat-and-mouse game with a tech-savvy enemy.”

AIRE: JUST BREATHE. Dir. Leticia Tonos Paniagua. World Premiere. “In this visually dazzling and rare example of Caribbean sci-fi, a scientist’s attempts to preserve humanity’s future are threatened by the arrival of a stranger and a constantly developing artificial intelligence system exhibiting the pernicious traits of envy.”

Still from AIRE: JUST BREATHE. Courtesy of IFFR.

ANIMALIA PARADOXA. Dir. Niles Atallah. World Premiere. “Chilean multimedia artist Niles Atallah conjures a bleak, post-apocalyptic world in which a strange, human-amphibian creature struggles to survive. ANIMALIA PARADOXA poses the body as a site of experimentation: a meeting point for the avant-garde, animation and performance art.”

COSMIC MINIATURES. Dir. Alexander Kluge. World Premiere. “At 91 years of age, Alexander Kluge is solidly regarded as a trailblazing figure in New German Cinema and the avant-garde. He remains active and curious about media, so it’s no wonder that he recently began experimenting with artificial intelligence. He has been exploring a particular programme developed in Munich for medical research, which he systematically strains in order to find his images at the farthest ends of the system's creative faculties...”

DREAM TEAM. Dir. Lev Kalman, Whitney Horn. World Premiere. “It’s 1997 and two Interpol agents, No and Chase (Esther Garrel and Alex Zhang Hungtai), are assigned to investigate the mysterious death of a coral smuggler in Mexico. As their investigation takes them into weirder and more tropical realms, they become caught up in a probable international conspiracy involving an inappropriately sexy coral scientist, two wellness-loving interns, lectures on neuropsychology and platonic absolutes...”

ECO VILLAGE. Dir. Phoebe Nir. World Premiere. “A young songwriter flees the city to join a farming commune, falling in love and falling in with a cult-like eco-group, with disastrous consequences...”

Still from ECO VILLAGE. Courtesy of IFFR.

ETERNAL. Dir. Ulaa Salim. World Premiere. “An earthquake causes a huge fissure at the bottom of the ocean, potentially destabilising the Earth’s already precarious environment, but also forcing a young scientist to decide whether to pursue his career or continue a relationship. Over time, he ruminates on the decision he made.”

LA CHIMERA. Dir. Alice Rohrwacher. Dutch Premiere. “Arthur, masterfully interpreted by Josh O’Connor, is a young Englishman in love with the ancient civilisations. He and his friends earn their living looting Etrurian tombs, selling the artefacts on the black market to rich collectors. In LA CHIMERA, Arthur, haunted by a lost love, will go on a private and impossible quest to save himself and a forever lost past...”

MARS EXPRESS. Dir. Jérémie Périn. Dutch Premiere. “In 2200, private detective Aline and her cyborg partner track down a hacker – an investigation that spans Earth and Mars, firefights and heists, dodgy deals and anti-robot conspiracies. Drawing from sci-fi classics, this sleek hard-boiled anime is still full of surprises, twists and unforgettable quirks.”

SR. Dir. Lea Hartlaub. World Premiere. “Employing a dazzling panorama of stories and facts as it spans the globe, this mosaic-like portrait of the giraffe is just as much a history of humankind, in myth and reality, as a journey from the museum to the vast African plains.”

THE BEAST. Dir. Bertrand Bonello. Dutch Premiere. “This science fiction melodrama jumps between past lives, each haunted by love. In 1910, 2014 and 2044, three versions of Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) live very different lives, with the same recurring ghosts... 2044's Gabrielle relives these recollections to purge her 'affects' – a standard medical procedure in this bleak future of AI dominance and emotional sterility.”

THE NIGHT VISITORS. Dir. Michael Gitlin. Dutch Premiere. “In large and small fragments, through a critical lens that is by turns social and personal, THE NIGHT VISITORS closely examines moths as aesthetic beings and as carriers of meaning.”

Still from THE NIGHT VISITORS. Courtesy of IFFR.

VOYAGE. Dir. Scud. Dutch Premiere. “VOYAGE is a cinematic excursion into the depths of the human mind, offering up different perspectives on depression, as a young psychiatrist embarks on a sailing trip and his reflections on former patients take the form of short stories.”]

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