IDFA 2017 Overview, Part One

The 30th anniversary IDFA

November 15-26

The world’s largest nonfiction event bids farewell to founder and longtime director Ally Derks with its 30th edition, which showcases over 180 new and recent documentary features. Because of the size of the event, this overview is split in two, with today’s post covering the competition sections and tomorrow’s the non-competitive strands.


IDFA’s main competition, for Features, consists of 15 titles, primarily world premieres, including: Mohamed Siam’s AMAL, a coming-of-ager about a teenage girl in the aftermath of the Egyptian revolution; Bernadett Tuza-Ritter’s A WOMAN CAPTURED, an intimate portrait of a woman who has worked as a slave for over a decade; Håvard Bustnes’ GOLDEN DAWN GIRLS, on the female heads of Greece’s extremist party; Talal Derki’s OF FATHERS AND SONS, in which the filmmaker embeds with the family of a Syrian Jhadist; Leonard Retel Helmrich’s THE LONG SEASON, about life in a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon; Kamran Heidari’s ALI AQA, a portrait of an Iranian man obsessed with pigeons; and Feargal Ward’s THE LONELY BATTLE OF THOMAS REID, on the faceoff between a lone Irish farmer and a multinational corporation seeking his land.


Fifteen directorial debuts appear in the First Appearance competition, including: Dorottya Zurbó and Arun Bhattarai’s THE NEXT GUARDIAN, on the children of a Bhutanese Buddhist temple caretaker; Renata Terra, Bruno Jorge, and Mariana Oliva’s PIRIPKURA, seeking out two of the last surviving members of the titular Amazonian indigenous people; Mercedes Dominioni’s THE CREATOR OF UNIVERSES, about a teen with Asperger’s who makes films starring his 96-year-old grandmother; Ieva Ozolina’s SOLVING MY MOTHER, a profile of a Latvian computer programmer with an irrational fear of his mother; Lukas Kokes and Klara Tasovska’s NOTHING LIKE BEFORE, on a group of Czech friends on the cusp of adulthood; Willem Baptist’s INSTANT DREAMS, an essay on the inventor of Polaroid film; and Shai Gal’s THE JEWISH UNDERGROUND, which explores the Israeli right-wing terrorist group.


Another 15 films take part in the Mid-Length competition, including: Grzegorz Szczepaniak’s THE UGLIEST CAR, about the proud Polish owner of the titular vehicle; Ainara Vera’s SEE YOU TOMORROW, GOD WILLING!, a portrait of a Franciscan convent in Spain; Martin Benchimol and Pablo Aparo’s THE DREAD, about the superstitious residents of a small Argentine village; Enrico Maisto’s THE CALL, on Italian jury duty for criminal cases; Carina Molier’s BACK TO THE TAJ MAHAL HOTEL, in which five survivors of a terrorist attack return to the site; Petr Horký’s THE RUSSIAN JOB, an absurdist look at one of Russia’s biggest companies; and Usama Ghanoum’s BLACK STONES, a look at life in Homs while under siege.


National cinema faces off in the Dutch competition, which features: Alex de Ronde’s DEAF CHILD, the director’s portrait of his now grown deaf son; Vincent Boy Kars’ INDEPENDENT BOY, in which the filmmaker dictates the life of his Millenial subject; Jaap van Hoewijk’s PIET IS GONE, about a cold case of a man’s disappearance in 1987; Marco Niemeijer’s GARDEN OF LIFE, a portrait of the filmmaker’s father-in-law, who suffers from Alzheimer’s; Ramon Gieling’s FATUM (ROOM 216), the chronicle of a mysterious interrogation about a missing woman; and Sean Wang’s LADY OF THE HARBOUR, which follows the efforts of a Chinese immigrant to Greece to help refugees.


Remaining competitions include one focused on students, which includes Alexandra Wesolowski’s IMPREZA: THE CELEBRATION, which follows a young Polish woman’s reunion with relatives whose political leanings have become increasingly right-wing; and Kids & Docs, which spotlights work appropriate for younger audiences.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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