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IDFA – International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam – One of the most renowned documentary film festivals in the world starts tomorrow and lasts until the 25th of November in the beautiful city of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. As before, the festival boasts hundreds of documentaries, short & feature-length, as well as Q&A´s, panels, masterclasses, IDFA Academy with it´s training program for film students and emerging filmmakers and much more. The festival is also the biggest documentary market in the world and through the online viewing platform Docs for Sale, industry professionals have access to more than 1000 documentaries which they can watch both at the videoteque at IDFA as well as online, wherever they are located and whenever. The IDFA forum is yet another major element of the festival. The forum is international co-financing and co-production market and a meeting place for filmmakers, television commissioning editors, documentary stakeholders and independent documentary producers. Given IDFA´s status in world of film festivals, getting a documentary project in the Forum or a documentary in the festival is a great honor. Winning an award is even greater and often the start of further film festival travels and more awards.
So what is there to see and do over the next two weeks or so? Well, plenty! IDFA is like a big international buffet of documentaries and no guest will leave this party with an “empty stomach”. Docs & Film Festivals ran through program and here are some interesting documentaries. Some big names /titles have been skipped this time, titles that have been in previous posts like Searching for Sugar man, Queen of Versailles, ¡Vivan las antipodas!, to name a few. List of all documentaries screening at the festival can be found here.
Amsterdam Stories USA, dir. Rob Rombout, Rogier van Eck, Belgium, 2012, color, DCP, 360′ – “The Netherlands has left its mark on the United States. Filmmakers Rob Rombout and Rogier van Eck track that history across the continent in their search for towns called Amsterdam. Their quest begins with a nostalgic take on the history of the Netherlands in the U.S., including a bit on the Holland Society in New York. This is followed by a collection of stories from average Americans, often living in rural areas.”
Bajarí: Gypsy Barcelona, dir. Eva Vila, Spain, 2012, color, DCP, 84′ – “Flamenco is one of the few art forms believed to be passed on in the genes. In Barcelona, there is a community of descendants of Gitano gypsies. They created flamenco in cafés, practiced it at home and perfected it on the streets.”
Berlin Diary, dir. Rosemarie Blank, The Netherlands, 2012, color, video, 74′ – “A visual account of Rosemarie Blank’s observations on Berlin, her place of birth. Having never felt quite at home there herself, she tries to discover why so many foreigners feel so comfortable in Berlin. This slice of daily life in the metropolis shows how these foreigners live and survive there. Through spontaneous meetings in public places, often without knowing who she’s speaking with, the filmmaker chats with Arab, Turkish and Kurdish immigrants and meets musicians and other artists who have settled here.”
Born in the USSR: 28Up, dir. Sergey Miroshnichenko, Russia / England, 2012, color, HDcam, 105′ – “The British Up series by Michael Apted was a global success. So much so that the idea was copied in several countries, including Russia. Under the wings of Apted himself, the project selected a group of Russian children who have been filmed every seven years; the first episode was released in 1991. A few of them grew up in harrowing poverty, and their parents saw school as a luxury. Others got every opportunity they could hope for – they studied abroad or dreamed of a life with even more fancy stuff than they already had. But all these kids have one thing in common: they were all born in a country that no longer exists.”
Camera/Woman, dir. Karima Zoubir, Morocco, 2012, color, HDcam, 59′ – “”Moroccan divorcee Khadija works as a camerawoman at weddings in Casablanca. Her mother and brother strongly disagree with her choice of occupation and want her to quit. They’re already ashamed enough that Khadija, the mother of an 11-year old son, is living back at home. But Khadija is the breadwinner in the family and she won’t back down. She’s sometimes out for several days in a row at parties and weddings, working until the early morning. Although a working woman is a taboo in the conservative section of Moroccan society, the demand for female camera operators is big, because families prefer having a woman film their daughters at their wedding.”
Dirty Energy, dir. Bryan D. Hopkins, USA, 2012, color, DCP, 94′ – “Plenty of information has already appeared in the media about the huge BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Now that most of the journalists have moved on, director Bryan D. Hopkins focuses his camera on those who have been left behind. They are the ones who have to live with the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, and who are worrying about their health and their environment. They read in the papers that oil has been found in the eggs of shrimp, they hear about stranded stillborn dolphins, and they see with their own eyes that the populations of some animals are dwindling. Most of the locals make their living in the fishing industry, but its future is uncertain.”
The Defector: Escape from North Korea, dir. Ann Shin, Canada, 2012, color, HDcam, 71′ – “Every year, large numbers of people flee North Korea by attempting to cross its border with China. But not everyone makes it across, and those who do are still not safe: China does not recognize North Korean refugees, so those who are caught are deported back to their home country. They have to move on, and this is where Dragon comes in. Once a refugee himself, Dragon now mediates between refugees and human traffickers who lead them through the Chinese provinces and Laos to Thailand. This journey is also fraught with the constant danger of being caught. Dragon’s position is ambivalent; he sees himself as a human rights activist, not as “some shady broker” who charges a fee. This tense, revealing documentary uses a hidden camera to follow two North Korean refugees and Dragon.”
For You Naked, dir. Sara Broos, Brazil / Sweden, 2012, color, DCP, 74′ – “One of Sweden’s greatest modern painters, Lars Lerin, struggled for decades with phobias and the addiction to alcohol and pills that came along with them. After a long time in detox, he meets the Brazilian dancer Junior online and decides to invite him to Sweden. They start an affair despite being unable to speak a word of each other’s language. Lerin’s stepdaughter Sara Broos films the search for love and self-acceptance that follows. She shows the artist at his most vulnerable: ecstatically happy when he and Junior first meet each other in person; befuddled and panicky when, soon after, he feels trapped in the relationship, asking himself if he’s really worthy of another person’s love.”
A Girl Like Her, dir. Ann Fessler, USA, 2011, color / black and white, HDcam, 48′ – “Between 1945 and 1973, 1.5 million unmarried American girls gave up their children for adoption – because “nice girls” didn’t get pregnant out-of-wedlock. Decades later, we discover just how traumatic an experience this was, and how big an impact it has had on the rest of their lives. Back then they had no voice, but now director Ann Fessler lets about a hundred women have their say. Their anonymous stories vary, but many ingredients are common to them: feelings of shame, ignorance, ruined family relationships, a wasted future, and sorrow about separation from their child.”
Lovebirds – Rebel Lovers in India, dir. Gianpaolo Bigoli, Italy, 2012, color, video, 51′ – “In India, you’re running a big risk if you fall in love with someone from a different caste or religion. Being kicked out of the family or becoming the victim of an “honor killing” are just two of the possible consequences for lovers who choose to stay together against their families’ wishes. This film follows a few couples that have rebelled and run away from home, fleeing their small villages in the countryside. They’re welcomed into a dilapidated house in New Dehli, where Mr. Sachdev, who wholeheartedly supports their choice, takes the lovebirds under his wing. Together with his activist group of aid workers called the “Love Commandos,” he supports the latter-day Romeos and Juliets with legal help and advice, and by mediating with the families and providing safe houses and protection against any possible acts of revenge from villagers.”
Mansome, dir. Morgan Spurlock, USA, 2012, color, HDcam, 80′ – “After investigating the influence of the fast food industry by eating McDonald’s for a month in the Oscar-nominated Super Size Me (2004) and offering a critique of marketing, advertising and product placement in The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011), Morgan Spurlock is back to discover the meaning of masculinity in the 21st century. From America’s greatest beardsman, to Morgan Spurlock’s own mustache, executive producers Will Arnett, Jason Bateman and Ben Silverman bring us a hilarious look at male identity. Just how hairy, metro sexual or “as vain as a woman” can a guy be these days? On the basis of chapters that include “The Moustache,” “The Beard,” “The Products” and “The Body,” Spurlock scours the country for expressions of new and old ways of dealing with hair and body. On the way, we meet Hollywood celebrities, old-fashioned barbers, Italian toupee makers, cage fighters and participants in a beard competition.”
Mastering Bambi, dir. Margit Lukács, Persijn Broersen, The Netherlands / USA, 2011, color, DCP, 13′ – “Mastering Bambi is a film composed entirely of scenery. It is a reconstruction of Walt Disney’s 1942 classic animation film Bambi, well-known for its distinct main characters – a variety of cute, anthropomorphic animals. An important but often overlooked protagonist in the movie is nature itself: the pristine wilderness as the main grid on which Disney structured his Bambi.”
Men at Lunch, dir. Seán Ó Cualáin, Ireland, 2012, color, HDcam, 71′ – “Eleven ironworkers eat their lunch sitting on an iron beam. They don’t seem to care that their feet are dangling in the air high above New York, with Central Park and a foggy Manhattan in the depths below them. Everybody knows the photograph “Lunch atop a Skyscraper,” taken during construction of the RCA Building at Rockefeller Center in 1932. The image became an icon of the Great Depression. But its backgrounds remain mysterious: despite extensive research, neither the 11 men nor the photographer have been definitively identified. When director Seán Ó Cualáin stumbled upon a copy of the picture in a pub in a small Irish hamlet, with a note that two of the men came from that village, he decided to delve into the history of the photo. The resulting film gives new depths to the iconic image – even in a literal sense, through digital manipulations of the original.”
Missing in the Land of Gods, dir. Davor Dirlic, Australia, 2012, color, HDcam, 82′ – “At first glance, Australians Jock and Dianne Chambers look like an ordinary couple on a trip around India. But their motives for being here are very different: they are searching for their son Ryan, who vanished in 2005 after staying in an ashram. He vanished without a passport, money or his cellphone, leaving only a note behind: “If I’m gone, I’m not dead. I need to free minds, but first I had to free my own.” Although his parents have looked everywhere, during their travels new doors occasionally seem to open that could lead to a clue to their youngest son’s whereabouts.”
No Man’s Zone, dir. Toshi Fujiwara, France / Japan, 2011, color, DCP, 105′ – “The disaster at the 40-year-old nuclear plant on the coast near Fukushima, Japan took place on March 11, 2011. Within 24 hours, the authorities ordered the evacuation of the area within a 12-mile radius area from the plant. Toshi Fujiwara traveled through this no man’s zone and the surrounding area, which people didn’t leave despite the elevated levels of radiation. Just 40 days after the disaster, he meets people who still have to be evacuated, and others who have no choice but to keep living near the nuclear plant.”