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IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam

The 23rd edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the world's largest and most prestigious film event devoted exclusively to non-fiction film and media, will run from 17 - 28 November in the city of Amsterdam.


IDFA Films: Inform And Engage


As someone who appreciates attending documentary-only film festivals, I must admit that after a few days, it can become a bit of a slog. This is not due to the excellence of the films, particularly at a high-end event like IDFA, the acclaimed International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, which ends its 11 day run today. If anything, it is the opposite. The films presented are so visceral, so challenging, so disturbing, so awakening, that it truly is a shock to the system to see them in the marathon fashion favored by festival goers like myself. It is kind of like being chained in front of a television set which presents an unending display of death, disease, violence, political repression and other delicacies that require a strong stomach to endure.

However, it is the stated mission of the Festival to inform its audiences and to encourage them to engage. Of course, it is only when we know about something that we can begin to sort out what can be done. The documentaries at this year's IDFA did not lack for subject matter to show us the horrors that exist in our ever-shrinking world, but they also encourage engagement and involvement for change that can only come when there is awareness and concensus. So, in the end, despite the often upsetting nature of the films eventually leads to a positive place where one can feel empowered enough to at least raise your voice (or, in my particular case, pound on my keyboard).


Among the films that both outraged and motivated me this past week were BLOOD IN THE MOBILE, Danish director Frank Piasecki Poulsen's "Roger And Me" quest to get at the bottom of "blood minerals" from the Congo that are imported by one of the world's most  successful technology companies Nokia; THE FOXHOUNDS, director Jeff Proserman's engaging look at the captains of industry like schemer Bernard Madoff whose recklessness and greed nearly brought capitalism to the brink; THE GREEN WAVE, director Ali Samadhi Abadi's powerful mix of essay, animation and actual clips of the uprising in Iran following the election of 2009; HOLY WARS, an examination of both Christian and Muslim fundamentalists and the divide that has implications for all of us; the horrendously demanding and difficult lives of the rickshaw drivers of Calcutta beautifully captured by South Korean director Seong Gyou-Lee in MY BAREFOOT FRIEND; the agonies of facing the truth in the aftermath of a bloody war in Swedish director Staffan Julen's MY HEART OF DARKNESS; the revelations of child abuse by a religious priest in the Mexican film AGNUS DEI by Alejandra Sanchez; the arrogance of an American in the Phillipines who keeps a harem of women as her personal pets in KANO: AN AMERICAN AND HIS HAREM by director Monter Jiminez; and the numbing monotony and excruciating boredom that sometimes erupts in violence in the wars in Afghanistan and Iran, as experienced by the combat troops in ARMADILLO by Danish director Janus Metz.

The above is only scratching the  surface of the topics presented in the past week and a half. For the viewer, there can only be an initial reaction of shock, followed by a numbness and feeling of weakness in the presence of such monumental issues and problems. However, in each of the above films, the filmmakers have made a point of saying that the conditions and situations portrayed in the film ARE subject to change, if there is the will and the motivation to do so. That is the challenge of these films and the challenge that we each take home with us from IDFA.

Sandy Mandelberger, IDFA Dailies Editor 


Comments (1)

Laughing is not bad, even at Doc Fests

Programmers should work harder to find some lighter, even humorous non-fiction films. At Full Frame this year, I experienced a nice break from the heavies when I watched Do It Again.


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