The 27th edition of the world’s premier nonfiction event, IDFA, begins this Wednesday, November 19, and presents approximately 175 new feature documentaries, plus dozens of retrospective screenings, shorts, transmedia, and more, before it wraps up on Sunday, November 30. I’ve greatly enjoyed traveling to Amsterdam for this event in the past, but will unfortunately be missing it again this year. The fest’s programming traditionally travels widely over the next year, so doc lovers should be sure to keep an eye out for the highlights noted below. Given IDFA’s size, I’ve split them up into two posts – competitions today, followed by the non-competitive sections tomorrow:
IDFA’s main competition sees fifteen films – many of them world premieres – vie for recognition, and for an impressive €12,500 Grand Jury Prize. Among these are: Ryan Mullins’ CHAMELEON (pictured), the eagerly anticipated story of an infamous undercover investigative journalist in Ghana; Hanna Polak’s SOMETHING BETTER TO COME, a fourteen-year chronicle of the life of a Moscow teenager who lives on a landfill; Marcus Vetter’s THE FORECASTER, a profile of a controversial man able to predict shifts in the global economy; Damon Gameau’s THAT SUGAR FILM, in which the director subjects himself to the daily average sugar intake of a teenager; Krisda Tipchaimeta’s SOMBOON, an observational portrait of an elderly man as he cares for his ailing wife; Seung-Jun Yi’s WIND ON THE MOON, about the bond between a deaf and blind young woman and her mother; and Agnieszka Zwiefka’s THE QUEEN OF SILENCE, which follows a young deaf mute Roma girl growing up in poverty.
The Mid-Length competition recognizes broadcast-length projects, which range from 45 to 60 minutes, with a prize totaling €10,000. Among the fifteen contenders are: Brent Huffman’s SAVING MES AYNAK (press), in which archaeologists try to rescue treasures threatened by a mining company in Afghanistan; Elisabeth Vogler’s A FRENCH LAUNDRY, about the efforts of an 89-year-old to keep his business operating; Chingiz Narynov’s METAL BREAD, which follows a Kyrgyzstani woman as she scavenges for sustenance; Manfred Vainokivi’s STEALING SOCIALISM, a recounting of creative resistance to Soviet oppression by Estonians; Nasib Farah and Søren Steen Jespersen’s WARRIORS FROM THE NORTH, on the efforts of militant groups to recruit young European Muslims; and Kasper Verkaik’s PLAZA MAN, a profile of the continuing mission of the man who revealed the Zapruder JFK film to the world.
The fifteen films in the First Appearance competition may be recognized with a €5,000 prize, as well as the Peter Wintonick Special Jury Award of €4,000. These include: Gábor Hörcher’s fresh portrait of a car-obsessed juvenile delinquent, DRIFTER (pictured); Facundo Marguery’s chronicle of a man’s slow roadtrip across five continents, AT 60 KM/H; Maite Alberdi’s look at a klatch of longtime friends, TEA TIME; Eva Tomanova’s profile of a large Czech family living outside the mainstream, ALWAYS TOGETHER; Mehdi Ganji’s portrait of an ambitious Iranian businessman with unusual goals, I WANT TO BE A KING; Matthias Bittner’s dissection of the Iraqi man whose fabricated stories of Saddam Hussein’s WMDs led America to conflict, WAR OF LIES; and Abhay Kumar’s exploration of the high-pressure stakes of India’s best medical school, PLACEBO.
IDFA recognizes its national cinema with a €5,000 prize in the Dutch competition. Among the twelve features represented here are: Alexander Oey’s PEKKA (pictured), on a Finnish high school shooter; Ineke Smits’ STAND BY YOUR PRESIDENT, about Georgia’s First Lady; Cinta Forger and Walther Grotenhuis’ GHOSTS FROM THE PAST, which follows an ex-con as he tries to make sense of his troubled past; and Hella de Jonge’s DON’T LOSE HEART, a revisitation of the director’s family’s experience of WWII.
The festival’s remaining competitions include student work, which primarily consists of shorts, but includes a few features such as Marisa Middleton’s THE FUTURE IS OURS (pictured), about an older pair who start a relationship; DOC U, which features a youth-led jury considering a selection of films from the various other competitions; and the DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling, focused on new media work.