IDFA 2015 Overview, Part One

idfa Just as America’s largest nonfiction festival, DOC NYC, wraps up, the world’s largest documentary event, Amsterdam’s IDFA, kicks off. The powerhouse fest celebrates its 28th edition between tomorrow, Wednesday, November 18 and Sunday, November 29, showcasing more than 170 new documentary features among scores more retrospective programming, shorts, and new media work. As in the past, IDFA’s massive scope necessitates splitting up this overview into two posts – today’s spotlights the various competitive sections, while tomorrow’s looks at non-competitive strands:

roadThe festival’s premier recognition goes to the winner of the Feature Length Competition, one of fourteen titles, which include: Zanbo Zhang’s THE ROAD (pictured), a masterful look at a highway development project in China; Antonio Tibaldi and Alex Lora’s THY FATHER’S CHAIR, which follows the efforts to clean the home of elderly Orthodox Jewish twin brothers; Roman Bondarchuk’s UKRAINIAN SHERIFFS, about the adventures of a pair of village lawmen; Jorge Caballero’s PATIENT, which offers a frank view inside Colombia’s health care bureaucracy; Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s SONITA, a profile of an Afghan would-be female rapper; Tom Fassaert’s A FAMILY AFFAIR, the filmmaker’s portrait of his willful grandmother; and Frédéric Guillaume’s CLEAR YEARS, a decade-long personal chronicle of the filmmaker’s obsessive filming.

kiberaBroadcast-ready fare squares off in the Mid-Length Competition. Among the fourteen projects are: Eldora Traykova’s CAMBRIDGE, about a Bulgarian village that focuses on education for its Roma people; Ivan S Tverdovskiy’s GRUMANT: ISLAND OF COMMUNISM, about the community formed by Russian seasonal mine workers in a Norwegian Arctic archipelago; Kati Juurus’ FOR KIBERA! (pictured), which follows a local Kenyan radio personality as he explores the deplorable state of his slum neighborhood; Ugis Olte’s DOUBLE ALIENS, a profile of a Georgian community and its fraught relationship with its Armenian inhabitants; Mattia Epifani’s THE SUCCESSOR, about the heir to a landmine manufacturer; Valeria Testagrossa, Nicola Grignani, and Andrea Zambelli’s IRRAWADDY MON AMOUR, which details clandestine gay wedding preparations in Myanmar; and Christophe Reyners’ COUPS DE FOUDRE, about domestic abuse.

when the earthFifteen first-time filmmakers are the contenders for the festival’s First Appearance Competition, including: Hassen Ferhani’s ROUNDABOUT IN MY HEAD, an observational portrait of Algiers through an abattoir; Imam Hasanov’s HOLY COW, in which an Azerbaijani villager’s plan to purchase a European cow stirs up controversy; Nirit Aharoni’s STRUNG OUT, a personal quest for the filmmaker’s mother among Tel Aviv’s drug-addicted prostitutes; Vladi Antonevicz’s CREDIT FOR MURDER, an examination of disturbing brutality by Russian neo-Nazis; Paula Gomes’ JONAS AND THE BACKYARD CIRCUS, about a boy’s circus dreams; David Dawkins’ THE WEDDING CONTRACT, in which the American director reveals how he kidnapped his Balinese lover in order to marry her; Charles Redon’s IN CALIFORNIA, the filmmaker’s diary film about his obsessive love for his ballerina girlfriend; and Salome Machaidze, Tamuna Karumidze, and David Meskhi’s WHEN THE EARTH SEEMS TO BE LIGHT (pictured), an impressionistic portrait of Georgian skate punks.

boy's dreamIDFA recognizes its national cinema through the Dutch Competition, which includes: Walther Grotenhuis and Cinta Forger’s A BOY’S DREAM (pictured), about an artist who builds animatronic plastic beach animals; Catherine van Campen’s GARAGE 2.0, a portrait of a struggling car dealership; and Pieter van Huystee’s JHERONIMUS BOSCH, TOUCHED BY THE DEVIL, which follows art historians investigating the work of the legendary Renaissance artist.

arletteFinally, the Student Documentary Competition consists of both short and feature graduation projects. Among the latter are: Luke Lorentzen’s look at diverse NYC hair salons, NEW YORK CUTS; Felix Röben and Ajay Koli’s meditation on labor, COAL INDIA; and Florian Hoffmann’s portrait of culture shock through the experiences of a Central African Republic girl stuck in Germany, ARLETTE – COURAGE IS A MUSCLE (pictured). The festival also includes competitions for DocLab, its new media section, as well as for youth oriented work in Kids & Docs and DOC U.

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