IDFA 2021 Overview

Festival:
The 34th IDFA

Dates:
November 17-28

About:
Amsterdam hosts the premier nonfiction event in the world, presenting approximately 140 new and recent documentary features, in addition to shorts, live performances, and interactive works.

Among the offerings:
International Competition:

Day after…
Director: Kamar Ahmad Simon
The Rocket is a century-old paddle steamer still regularly transporting passengers along the river delta of Bangladesh, bringing rich and poor, young and old, and East and West together.

The Delights
Director: Eduardo Crespo
At a boarding school in the Argentine countryside, high school students find their way through friendships and boyhood adventures, against an inviting backdrop of dogs and chickens, fields, greenhouses, and meadows.

Mr Landsbergis
Director: Sergei Loznitsa
Lithuanian politician Vytautas Landsbergis looks back on his country’s independence struggle in this captivating masterclass on the collapse of the Soviet Union, when singing even a peaceful song could unleash a revolution. 

The One Who Runs Away Is the Ghost
Director: Qinyuan Lei
Two young sisters spend most of their time at an electronics market in Shenzhen, transforming the impersonal world of electronics into a universe full of ghosts and monsters.

Taamaden
Director: Seydou Cissé
Faith, hope, and harsh reality: the everyday lives of West African immigrants and their ties with mystical and religious fortune tellers—African occultism reaches to Europe via the smartphone.

Turn Your Body to the Sun
Director: Aliona van der Horst
The powerful story of a Soviet soldier who was a prisoner of war during the Second World War and afterwards sent to a gulag.

Vedette
Director: Claudine Bories, Patrice Chagnard
A year in the life of a cow with a feisty personality who has to face the agonizing truth that she’s no longer Queen of the Swiss Alps.

Where Are We Headed
Director: Ruslan Fedotow
In Moscow, everything and everyone comes together in the underground corridors of the subway.

​Envision Competition:

Eat Your Catfish
Director: Noah Arjomand, Adam Isenberg, Senem Tüzen
The hell of ALS filmed with brutal honesty from the point of view of ALS patient Kathryn, who is completely paralyzed, but her sharp wit remains unaffected.

Eskape
Director: Adeline Neary Hay
Forty years after their flight from the Khmer Rouge, the filmmaker hopes her mother will break her silence.

For Your Peace of Mind, Make Your Own Museum
Director: Pilar Moreno, Ana Endara Mislov
The late Senobia was an endearing woman who transformed her house in a Panamanian village into The Museum of Antiquities of All Species.

Homemade Stories
Director: Nidal Al Dibs
After the filmmaker fled to Cairo from Syria, he started filming his Egyptian friends as they worked to get a local community cinema reopened.

Housewitz
Director: Oeke Hoogendijk
Scenes which seem very ordinary—the filmmaker’s elderly mother in her living room, watching television with her cat—gradually develop into the portrait of an astute woman who has to live each day with the Holocaust as her housemate.

O, Collecting Eggs Despite the Times
Director: Pim Zwier
A fascinating archive film about the oologist Max Schönwetter, who devoted his life to the study of birds’ eggs while WWII was looming.

Octopus
Director: Karim Kassem
The aftermath of the explosion that took place at the Port of Beirut in August 2020 is revealed in quiet stillness, from the destroyed buildings and the despair of local residents to the cautious first sounds of reconstruction.

One Take Grace
Director: Lindiwe Matshikiza
Life has been hard for South African domestic worker Mothiba Grace Bapela, who’s lived it in service to others, while still pursuing a career as an actor.

​IDFA Competition for Youth Documentary:

Kids Cup
Director: Line Hatland
Young soccer players from all over the world travel to Norway for an international youth tournament, learning to deal with all sorts of challenges, both on and off the field.

Shabu
Director: Shamira Raphaëla
When 14-year-old aspiring musician Shabu wrecks his grandmother’s car on a joyride, he has to work all summer to repair the damage—both to the car and to the family ties.

Luminous:

The End of Wonderland
Director: Laurence Turcotte-Fraser
Adult performer Tara Emory has been working for years on her “trans sci-fi porn epic” Up Uranus, featuring amazing design on a super-low budget—like everything in her life.

The Hostilities
Director: Sebastián Molina
While rural Mexico is in the grip of the drug cartels, older residents in a once sleepy village look back nostalgically at more peaceful times.

Lessons for Luca
Director: Salvador Gieling
In Cuba, a farmer gets a six-year sentence for selling his own cow.

Makeup Artist
Director: Jafar Najafi
Tradition and ambition clash when a young mother in rural Iran wants to train as a makeup artist in the city, facing off against her loving but inflexible husband.

Museum of the Revolution
Director: Srđan Keča
A basement in Belgrade, the only remnant of a 1961 plan to build a grand Museum of the Revolution as a tribute to Socialist Yugoslavia, now houses the outcasts of Serbian society.

Near and Dear
Director: María Alvarez
Elderly twin sisters in Buenos Aires, formerly professional pianists, look back on their glory years.

Now Is the Past: My Father, Java & the Phantom Films
Director: Shin-ichi Ise
The filmmaker traces the route taken by his father, a film editor who made propaganda films in Indonesia during the Second World War, when Japan claimed to liberate Asian countries from colonialism.

On the Zenith’s Edge
Director: Natyvel Pontalier
“Who were we before we were discovered?” wonders the filmmaker, seeking to rediscover the culture of her Gabonese forebears after centuries of colonization.

Prince of Muck
Director: Cindy Jansen
A warm, observational portrait of Lawrence MacEwen, an amiable figure who for several decades ran the picturesque Scottish island of Muck.

Ultraviolette and the Blood-Spitters Gang
Director: Robin Hunzinger
The passionate letters that a girl named Marcelle wrote to her childhood sweetheart from a sanatorium during the interwar period evoke the image of a rebel, way ahead of her time, who goes her own way with a group of kindred spirits.

Frontlight:

The Case
Director: Nina Guseva
Lawyer Maria Eismont futiley works to get the wrongly convicted activist Konstantiv Kotov released—until Putin suddenly appears on the scene.

Ironland
Director: Lucas Bambozzi
After an environmental disaster in Minas Gerais, a Brazilian geographer returns to show how mining has both shaped and harmed her native region and its inhabitants, in a road movie that is both activist and poetic.

A Marble Travelogue
Director: Sean Wang
With a light touch and wry humor, A Marble Travelogue portrays the Greek and Chinese marble production chain. The film makes complex connections and highlights the European aspirations of the Chinese middle class in a visually seductive style.

Rebellion
Director: Maia Kenworthy, Elena Sanchez Bellot
We follow Extinction Rebellion from its launch in 2018, as the movement calls for radical action on the climate emergency. Clashing with the authorities forms part of the strategy, but the members’ diverse backgrounds also cause internal collisions.

The Treasures of Crimea
Director: Oeke Hoogendijk
Amsterdam’s Allard Pierson Museum inadvertently finds itself involved in an international wrangle over a loaned collection of art. This multifaceted reconstruction sheds light on the affair from every angle: political, legal, and emotional.

The Voice of the People
Director: Andreas Wilcke
Four MPs from the right-wing populist party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) are followed for three years. A close look on their communication strategies gives insight into the realism of their claim that they’re just an ultra-conservative party.

IDFA on Stage:

SEEK BROMANCE
Director: Samira Elagoz
A romance between two transmasculine people who met during the pandemic.

Spectral Transmissions
Director: Michael Palmieri, Donal Mosher
An atmospheric, spooky, and strangely comforting live cinema performance of ghost stories using words, images, and music exploring the space between the earthly and the intangible.

Paradocs:

In the Billowing Night
Director: Erika Etangsalé
Myth and memory intertwine as the father of the director tells his story for the first time, deeply marked by France’s colonial past and the dislocation it caused.

Masters:

Beirut: Eye of the Storm
Director: Mai Masri
Four young women in Beirut document a turbulent period in recent Lebanese history.

Homes
Director: Laila Pakalnina
Occupants pose in simple tableaux vivants in front of their own homes.

René: The Prisoner of Freedom
Director: Helena Třeštíková
Lovable Czech criminal René, who became a cause celebre in his home country following the release of a documentary about his life inside and outside prison, still struggles to get his life on track.

Song to Bergslagen
Director: Nina Hedenius, William Long
Against the backdrop of the passing seasons, an observation of life in the iron-ore region of Sweden, where old ways of life are disappearing and an as-yet unformed future is emerging.

Best of Fests:

Bigger than Us
Director: Flore Vasseur
An Indonesian activist combating plastic pollution travels the world visiting courageous fellow activists of her own generation.

God Has AIDS
Director: Gustavo Vinagre, Fábio Leal
Seven artists and an activist doctor—all HIV positive—fight against the invisibility of AIDS in Brazil.

I’m So Sorry
Director: Zhao Liang
A prophetic panorama of nuclear power, with unexpectedly poetic moments.

Revolution of Our Times
Director: Kiwi Chow
An in-depth visual reportage on mass protests escalating in Hong Kong.

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