This is how rating works: upon entering the venue, audience members are given cards with the numbers one (bad) to five (very good) on them. When leaving the venue, all you need to do is pull a small tear in the card at the rating you want to give. These cards are collected at the exit, counted, and the average ratings appear in the festival's website.
I heard people complain about a "bad selection this year", but frankly the numbers do not show much of a decline. Out of the 250 feature films, 130 got rated 3.5 or higher. Any film ending up with a rating of 4 (out of 5) can be safely seen as a general crowdpleaser, and there were 62 of those. For the same reason, getting an average of 4.5 or higher is pretty amazing, and 12 films managed to get this. Check out which, so click on the edge of the picture to start browsing the list!
15: Our Time (4.38 out of 5)
Director Carlos Reygadas is neither a stranger to the Rotterdam Festival nor averse of controversy. His newest film is a three-hour-long sexually explicit view on an open marriage, with Reygadas himself and his wife playing the experimenting couple.
14: Tel Aviv on Fire (4.41 out of 5)
A daring comedy about the conflicts on Israël's borders, Sameh Zoabi revolves around a television soap. When a guard discovers that a crew member of the soap needs to cross the border on a daily basis, he starts to bother the man to change the series in ways which benefit the Israeli characters.
13: The Best of Dorien B. (4.48 out of 5)
Another comedy about an unusual subject: Anke Blondé's new film is about Dorien, a veterinarian who seems to have a successful private- and business-life. But Dorien's world collapses when she discovers her parents are divorcing, her husband has an affair, and she herself is diagnosed with cancer.
12: Queen of Hearts (4.49 out of 5)
Here we see another happy family crash down, this time because the mother decides to start an affair with her estranged foster-son. This is Danish director May el-Toukhy's second film, and what I've heard at the festival is that she managed to get phenomenal performances from her actors.
11: La Flor (Part 2) (4.52 out of 5)
For ten years, Argentinian director Mariano Llinás worked on a 14-hour film project which tells of the magic of stories and storytelling. Cut in three pieces and telling six stories, the middle part is La Flor (Part 2), and tells a spy story which lasts a whopping 6 hours. To get an average audience rating of 4.52 with THAT length is pretty damn amazing...
10: Miel - Emile (4.53 out of 5)
In 2015, documentary director Peter van Houten won the fourth place in the audience award with his three-hours-long look at an old French priest in The Life of Jean-Marie (as you can see in this article). Now he has made another such documentary, this time about the priest's younger brother Emile. And again it gets rave ratings...
9: They Shall Not Grow Old (4.53 out of 5)
Peter Jackson took a selection of old World War One footage, had it restored, and then colored and post-effected to be played in 3D. The end result is strange but remarkable, an impressionist view at a terrible war.
8: Another Day of Life (4.55 out of 5)
Todd mentioned this film in 2012 already, then as an upcoming animation project by Damian Nenow, co-directed with Raúl de la Fuente. In 2018 it was finally released: an animated retelling of war correspondent Ryszard Kapuscinski's stories of his time in Angola.
7: A Private War (4.55 out of 5)
Speaking of real-life war correspondents: as coincidence would have it, Matthew Heineman's film covers the late Marie Colvin, another celebrity in that profession. Matthew Heineman is normally a documentary director, but for this film he chose to make a dramatization, starring Rosamund Pike.
In his review, community contributor Frank Ochieng says the film is an "impressive, candidly reflective feature debut".
6: Barbara Rubin & the Exploding NY Underground (4.55 out of 5)
Here is another documentary, this time about Barbara Rubin, an experimental filmmaker from the early sixties. She was at the centre of a radical art movement, then had a change of heart and tried to become the first female Orthodox Jewish Rabbi. Using interviews and loads of stock footage (including several clips from totally bizarre shorts), director Chuck Smith gives a pretty straightforward account of what happened.
5: Sons of Denmark (4.62 out of 5)
Director Ulaa Salim has made a dramatic thriller about extremism which pulls no punches, covering the stories of someone who gets enlisted for a murder and the police who try to stop him.
In his review, Martin Kudlac says the director "wants to open a discussion on what kind of world people want to live in, while avoiding open moralizing or sending warning messages".
4: An Impossible Love (4.66 out of 5)
In Catherine Corsini new film, love conquers all... common sense. It shows a woman who falls for the wrong man, willingly becomes his mistress, and what effects this has on her life and her eventual children. NOT a fairy-tale, but the honest account nevertheless managed to enchant the audiences.
3: Beats (4.67 out of 5)
In Brian Welsh' Beats we check a couple of friends at an illegal rave party during the nineties, and we see what may be their last time together. Fun is had, loud music is played, and friendships are lost or solidified. The buzz for this film was fantastic and it was impossible for me to get into any of the screenings. Grrrr...
2: Bathtubs over Broadway (4.77 out of 5)
Dava Whisenant follows screenwriter Steve Young as he collects fun material for a comedy subject: industrial musicals. Long and elaborate song-and-dance routines in which a company's choice products are lauded, to hysterical effect. And yet...
... As Steve Young dives deeper, he uncovers a surprising treasure trove of talent and forgotten gems. His interest becomes an obsession, as he tracks down hard-to-find footage and uncovers the remarkable people who made it, even some famous musical giants who learned their craft with these silly mega-adverts.
This one came INCREDIBLY CLOSE to winning the festival (check that score!), but...
1: Capernaum (4.79 out of 5)
The number one of the festival was Nadine Labaki's fantastic Capernaum, a gut-punching drama about undocumented people living in Lebanon. Nadine carefully managed to avoid offending the authorities and got an amazing amount of cooperation from everyone, ranging from real judges, actual police officers and undocumented refugees.
In my review, I stated I loved the film, and I wasn't the only one.