IDFA 2019 Overview, Part One

The 32nd IDFA

November 20-December 1

This is the first of two posts on the lineup of the world’s biggest documentary film festival, which presents approximately 170 new and recent features, in addition to many more retrospective offerings. Today’s post covers the competition sections, while tomorrow’s will spotlight non-competitive strands.


A dozen titles are included in the fest’s Feature Competition, primarily world premieres like: Valentina Pedicini’s FAITH, following an Italian sect of martial arts champions training to fight evil; Laura Herrero Garvin’s LA MAMI, a portrait of a Mexico City nightlife veteran who cares for the young women who work in a local cabaret; and Mehrdad Oskouei’s SUNLESS SHADOWS, focused on teenage girls in an Iranian juvenile detention center for murder. Among the international or Dutch premieres are Pushpendra Singh’s PEARL OF THE DESERT, about a preteen singer who leaves his rural Indian village to go on a world tour; Seung-Jun Yi’s SHADOW FLOWERS, which follows the efforts of a North Korean woman to return home after being stranded in South Korea; and Jørgen Leth’s I WALK, which follows the acclaimed filmmaker as he copes with aging and the trauma of surviving the 2010 Haitian earthquake.


The First Appearance Competition celebrates directorial debuts, including the world premieres of Eva Marie Rødbro’s I LOVE YOU I MISS YOU I HOPE I SEE YOU BEFORE I DIE, a portrait of a young mother living on the margins in the American West; Tali Yankelevich’s MY DARLING SUPERMARKET, in which supermarket workers reflect on life in Brazil; Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili’s A TUNNEL, about a Chinese high-speed train project that threatens a small Georgian mountain village; Ilya Povolotsky’s FROTH, a portrait of a small Russian community along the Arctic Ocean; Małgorzata Goliszewska and Katarzyna Mateja’s LESSONS OF LOVE, about a 69-year-old woman’s second chance at love; and Marija Stojnić’s SPEAK SO I CAN SEE YOU, an experimental portrait of one of Europe’s oldest radio stations.


Among the world premieres in the Dutch Competition are: Petr Lom’s ANGELS ON DIAMOND STREET, about a Philadelphia church that is asked to provide sanctuary for an undocumented Mexican family; Ramon Gieling and Salvador Gieling’s THE DEATH OF ANTONIO SANCHEZ LOMAS, about a still-divisive 1952 murder in a small Spanish village; Reber Dosky’s SIDIK AND THE PANTHER, about a man seeking a leopard to declare his home a protected nature reserve; Loretta van der Horst’s BEHIND THE BLOOD, about life in a dangerous Honduran city; and Sophie Dros’ KING OF THE CRUISE, about an eccentric guest of a luxury cruise ship.


Debuts in the Mid-Length Competition include: Elina Talvensaari’s LADY TIME, in which the filmmaker researches the life of the late occupant of her new apartment; Jalal Vafaee’s ANTICLOCKWISE, a longitudinal portrait of the filmmaker’s family as they move from supporting to criticizing the Iranian regime; Galina Leontieva’s THE SEASON WHEN VELVET ANTLERS GET RIPE, about Russian reindeer herders and the antler trade; Remi Itani’s A LONG BREATH, about a Lebanese Muslim man who struggles with personal demons; Madeleine Leroyer’s #387, an investigation into the death of refugees off the Libyan coast; and Maciej Cuske’s THE WHALE FROM LORINO, a portrait of a whale-hunting Siberian indigenous community.


Finally, the Student Competition offers Molly Stuart’s OBJECTOR, about a young Israeli activist who refuses military service; Max Ploeg’s LAST OF THE MOHICANS, a portrait of a woman who runs a mobile supermarket to help the less fortunate; Moritz Schulz’s SUMMERWAR, about a rightwing summer camp for Ukrainian children; and Yuriy Pivovarov’s THE SECRETARY OF IDEOLOGY, a portrait of a teenage communist dedicated to the rebirth of socialism.

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

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