My overview of the world’s largest documentary festival, IDFA, continues in this second post, just in advance of the opening of the fest’s 25th anniversary edition tomorrow evening. Yesterday’s post looked at competition titles; today’s puts the focus on a number of the films in IDFA’s regular, non-competition programs.
“Reflecting Images” is the festival’s largest section, screening over one hundred feature docs. The section if divided in three subsections. The first of these is “Best of Fests,” a showcase for docs that have proven popular on the fest circuit in the past year. There are far too many fantastic films that I’ve already seen (and written about) here to name, so I’ll just point out a handful that I’m less familiar with that I hope to check out in Amsterdam. These include: Manuel H Martín’s 30 YEARS OF DARKNESS, about a former socialist Spanish mayor who stayed in hiding in his own home for three decades; Clémence Ancelin’s LIVING/BUILDING, on the impact of the building of a road in Chad; Toshi Fujiwara’s NO MAN’S ZONE (pictured), an exploration of the not-quite deserted area around Fukushima; and Migueltxo Molina and Pablo Iraburu’s THE RIDGE, revealing a treacherous rescue mission in the Himalayas.
The next subsection of “Reflecting Images” is “Masters,” a spotlight of new work by established filmmakers. Among the many notable projects here are: Sergey Miroshnichenko’s Russian take-off on Michael Apted’s longitudinal study, BORN IN THE USSR: 28UP; Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s look at one of Europe’s largest hospitals, DONAUSPITAL – SMZ OST; and Peter Friedman’s exploration of impact of soap operas as tools of societal change, POOR CONSUELO CONQUERS THE WORLD (pictured).
The final and largest subsection of “Reflecting Images” is “Panorama,” which presents films with thought-provoking subjects and approaches. A number of films make my wishlist from this section, including: the anonymous North Korean PROPAGANDA, an anti-Western look at American culture on the rest of the world; Ann Shin’s THE DEFECTOR: ESCAPE FROM NORTH KOREA, a look at the harrowing path to freedom many take through China; Janina Pigaht’s THE DIARIES OF AN ELEPHANT (pictured), in which the filmmaker uncovers her grandfather’s SS past; Seyed Reza Razavi’s SECONDS OF LEAD, a search for a projectionist who witnessed an atrocity in pre-Revolution Iran; Robyn Patterson’s FINDING MERCY, in which the filmmaker, a white Zimbabwean, seeks out her black childhood friend; John Dentino’s FOR I KNOW MY WEAKNESS, in which the director becomes intertwined in the life and conflicts of his homeless, alcoholic subject; Dimitris Athiridis’ ONE STEP AHEAD, a profile of the path to political office taken by Thessaloniki’s maverick mayor; Patrick Reed’s FIGHT LIKE SOLDIERS DIE LIKE CHILDREN, following Roméo Dallaire’s new mission to end the practice of child soldiers in Africa; and Bosse Lindquist’s GIVE US THE MONEY, a look at the real results of celebrity-driven anti-poverty campaigns.
Among the portraits appealing to me in “Panorama” are Holly Hardman’s GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HELL, SAVED PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN (pictured), about end-times evangelists in natural disaster-prone Louisiana; Catalina Vergara and Cristian Soto’s THE LAST STATION, capturing a Chilean nursing home; Christophe Farnarier’s SPRINGTIME, a quiet portrait of the toil of a Spanish female farmer; Kim Hopkins’ FOLIE Á DEUX – MADNESS MADE OF TWO, focusing on a couple who plan to convert the oldest house in England into a hotel just as the Great Recession hits; Filipa Reis and João Miller Guerra’s CAT’S CRADLE, a verité portait of a teenage mother; and Margreth Olin’s NOWHERE HOME, on the troubles faced by underage asylum seekers in Norway.
IDFA’s “Paradocs” section gives home to films on the documentary periphery, including hybrid projects and innovative experiments, like the fantastic LEVIATHAN, which I saw at the NYFF but haven’t had a chance to write about yet. Of these, my curiosity is especially piqued by Barbara Visser’s search for a unlikely, and vanished, embezzler, CK(pictured); and Dana Ranga’s contemplation of life experienced in orbit, I AM IN SPACE.
The festival is devoting significant programming to the WHY POVERTY? series, including a whole day of screenings on Thursday, November 22 that includes all eight feature projects plus eight of the shorts from the series. A number of the films are screening throughout IDFA’s program, while four of the features are exclusive to this special program, including Weijun Chen’s EDUCATION, EDUCATION, on China’s troubled university system; and Christoffer Guldbrandsen’s STEALING AFRICA (pictured), exploring the multinational exploitation of Zambia’s resources without benefit to its people.
Finally, it should be noted that IDFA features an impressive array of retrospective programming, especially in its anniversary year. This includes the regular filmmaker retrospective – this year on the man behind the awe-inspiring ¡VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS!, Victor Kossakovsky, who also selects this year’s special Top 10 retro; as well as two series of fifteen past favorites covering the last 25 years of the festival: international fare in “RE:Constructing History” and Dutch docs in “25 Years: Highlights of the Lowlands”.