IDFA Unveils First Competition Titles, IDFA Forum Selections, Alongside Lineups for Best of Fests, Signed Sections

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam has revealed its lineups for the competitions for short documentary and youth documentary, as well as the rosters for its Best of Fests section and its newly minted Signed section. In total, 100 films have been included in the IDFA program to date.

In addition, IDFA Forum, the festival’s co-production and co-financing market, has expanded to a total of 64 projects, including seven by Ukrainian filmmakers.

The 36th edition of IDFA runs from Nov. 8 to 19 in Amsterdam.

The competition for short documentary showcases a healthy boom for the short film form. A mosaic of styles and themes defines this selection of 15 films, exploring everything a short documentary can be. An international jury of three jurors will award the best film.

Pegah Ahangarani returns to IDFA with a personal telling of family history and their experience of the Iranian revolution in “My Father,” and Nastia Korkia and Vlad Fishez’s essayistic “Dreams About Putin” traverses the nightmares and hopes of many Russians. Other highlights include Esy Casey’s “A Movement Against the Transparency of the Stars of the Seas,” a visually ingenious partly dual-channel film that tells the story of the many women from the Philippines who are trafficked all over the world to support their families. Returning to IDFA after the 2017 world premiere of his film “We Will Maintain,” Festus Toll uses archive materials and striking design in his new film “The Story of Ne Kuko” to explore the disruptions and consequences caused by the colonial looting of art.

The youth competition showcases 15 films that challenge the definition of youth documentary. For the first time this edition, IDFA invited a filmmaker to curate the selection, with Niki Padidar, the director of IDFA 2022’s opening film “All You See,” initiating this new approach. The selected titles are presented for two distinct age groups: 9+ and 12+. A three-person jury, to be announced in late October, will select one award-winner from each group.

IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia said: “By inviting a filmmaker, being Niki Padidar, to lead this process, we are trying to rethink what we do with youth documentary. Niki is outspoken in wanting to move beyond the limits of structure and forced light-heartedness that fail to take children seriously. Her change starts with a compelling and complex selection and is followed by written reflections and debates during the Industry Talks program.”

Padidar said: “This year IDFA Youth will push the envelope. More uneasy and bold topics and stretching the confines of the genre; applauding diversity in documentary storytelling. Taking youth seriously and challenging them, with film that are just as interesting for adults to watch.”

Mariusz Rusiński delivers “Sister of Mine,” an intensely intimate and intricate account of the filmmaker’s family, following his parents and his 17-year-old drug-addicted and charismatic sister Zuzia. In a story about estrangement and the search for belonging, “The Sketch,” by director Tomas Cali, follows his journey as he moves to Paris and sketches a new reality for himself.

The selection presents noteworthy experiments in storytelling, including “Headprickles” by Katarzyna Miechowicz, a series of absurd and funny, animated vignettes, and Medhin Tewolde Serrano’s “Nyanga,” a handmade animation that translates a complex history of slavery into the story of Nyanga, a boy who is kidnapped to America who wants to go home.

In Signed, the audience is invited to “discover the new cinematic adventures of the most interesting contemporary filmmakers,” according to a press statement. The first selection of this new program represents a wide spectrum of artistic expression and explorations into film language, with celebrated filmmakers at various stages of their documentary career.

Nyrabia said: “Our new section Signed starts from the filmmaker, not from the film. Signed is about acknowledging a filmmaker’s career and oeuvre, giving the programming team the authority to recognize a unique cinematic voice or signature — beyond the canon.”

The selection includes genre-defying ventures into the documentary realm. Among them, documentary filmmaker Rosine Mbakam presents narrative feature “Madame Pierrette,” a moving and authentic portrait of a Cameroonian dressmaker’s daily life. Tatiana Huezo Sanchez offers an intensive and feminist immersion into the realities and fantasies of adolescent girls in a remote Mexican village in “The Echo,” and in “Tehachapi,” established photographer and artist JR gives a voice to inmates in a maximum-security prison in California.

The selection sees several renowned directors further exploring their cinematic language. Observational documentary pioneer Frederick Wiseman offers an ultimate slow-cinema experience in “Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros,” which explores the craft and mechanics of several top restaurants. Steve McQueen shows his first feature-length documentary “Occupied City,” a meditation on Amsterdam’s war history. In the profound “Our Body,” Claire Simon presents a deeply intimate and clinically detailed observation of the obstetrics and gynecology department. Final titles will be announced shortly.

The Best of Fests section brings the highlights of the year’s harvest, presenting the best films from Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Sundance, Visions du Réel and CPH:DOX, among others.

Demonstrating the growing acclaim of documentary films, the selection presents the Cannes-winning and IDFA Bertha Fund-supported film “The Mother of All Lies” by Asmae El Moudir, an unorthodox reconstruction of a painful period for her family and homeland of Morocco. In “The Disappearance of Shere Hite,” Nicole Newnham tells the story of groundbreaking feminist writer and sexuality researcher Shere Hite.

Other films travel the world to depict the heartfelt stories of resistance of queer protagonists. In the groundbreaking “Orlando, My Political Biography,” Paul B. Preciado shows a sparklingly intelligent and genre-fluid exploration of the trans experience. In Agniia Galdanova’s “Queendom,” recipient of IDFA Bertha Fund support in 2022, we follow the everyday resistance and radical performance by non-binary Russian artist and activist Gena. In “Kokomo City,” D. Smith brings together violence, beauty, and wisdom in a raw portrait of four black trans women in New York and Atlanta.

Ukraine is ever-present in the selection, with several courageous filmmakers delivering urgent perspectives on war, art and humanity. In the IDFA Bertha Fund-supported “We Will Not Fade Away,” Alisa Kovalenko speaks to the dreams of five Ukrainian teenagers as they grow up near the frontline. Incorporating footage taken on his trips as a volunteer evacuation driver, Maciek Hamela’s “In the Rearview” portrays heart-wrenching accounts of civilians who were forced to leave their homes during Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Running from Nov. 12 to 15, this year’s IDFA Forum will welcome teams, industry representatives, and observers to attend the Producers Connection, Forum Pitches, DocLab Forum and Rough Cut Presentations. This year, the Forum expands its Rough Cut Presentations to take place over two days (Nov. 12 and 13), the Forum Pitches will be scheduled to take place over two days (Nov. 13 and 14). Producers Connection will take place on Nov. 13.

“Next to presenting this year’s outstanding slate of projects, we are excited to be expanding our capacity to showcase and adapt to the needs of filmmakers. We received a record number of Rough Cut submissions this year, over a third more than in previous years, which we took as a clear sign that filmmakers and producers are in need of support in their process. That is why this edition of Forum has extended its Rough Cut Presentations to show crucial projects from Ukraine that need to be seen and deserve the widest possible audience,” said Adriek van Nieuwenhuijzen, head of IDFA Industry.

The Forum Pitch presents 20 projects this year. The selection includes notable filmmakers who make their return to IDFA, such as Aboozar Amini, whose “Kabul, City in the Wind” screened at IDFA 2018, and is now pitching the project “Kabul, Year Zero,” which threads together four vivid coming-of-age stories against the backdrop of war. After presenting “The Postcard” at IDFA 2020 and receiving IDFA Bertha Fund support for “The Mother of All Lies,” Asmae El Moudir is back with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Up on Me,” a VHS-driven love story between father and daughter. “The Visit” director Michael Madsen returns with “Architecture as Invention,” which captures star architect Daniel Libeskind’s journey into imagining his final masterpiece.

A strong slate of emerging directors and producers also join the pitch lineup. Among them are Daniel Nils Roberts with “EatenFish,” with confirmed support by seasoned producer Anne Köhncke (Final Cut for Real, Norway), which traces the outlook of a cartoonist who has fled his country. Artist Zoya Laktionova pitches her first feature-length project, using diaries and photographs to tell the stories of her own and other Ukrainian families whose homes have been destroyed by Russia’s full-scale invasion in “Ashes Settling in Layers on the Surface.”

Thirteen projects in early stages have been selected for Producers Connection, the Forum’s section for fostering international co-productions. Several stand out projects previously received IDFA Bertha Fund support. “City of the Sun” director Rati Oneli returns with “El Dorado,” a story of seeking ancient cave riches in the face of environmental devastation, and “A Girl and a Gun” by Arya Amber Lalloo, which surveys personal and colonial archives “in search for liberation from the image.”

Expanding the category this year, Rough Cut Presentations at Forum has selected 11 projects. Next to the usual six projects, the selection will showcase five Ukrainian projects—four of which have previously received support by IDFA Bertha Fund. Highlights include the IDFA Bertha Fund-supported “Flowers of Ukraine” by Adelina Borets, which details one woman’s battle to protect her lush green home from the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and “To Use a Mountain” by Casey Carter, presenting rural American stories of environmental ruin and ecopolitical activism in six candidate sites for nuclear dumping grounds.

The market’s new media strand IDFA DocLab Forum presents 20 projects in all stages of development and production. The selection includes experimental and playful projects tackling the subject of algorithms, gestures of love, and digital doubles. Next to a wide range of creative teams and subjects, the selection presents formats including VR, AR, games, mixed media, installations and audio projects. Ambitious highlights include Nicolas Blies and Stéphane Hueber-Blies’ “Ceci est mon coeur” (Here Lies My Heart) and Francisca Silva’s “Knowing Your Nature.” Baff Akoto’s “Collatoral Echoes” speaks of police violence in the U.K., and Laura A Dima’s “Future Affair” explores robots as a medium for human connection.

IDFA Competition for Short Documentary
14 Paintings, dir. Dongnan Chen (China), 24’ International Premiere
At That Very Moment, dir. Rita Pauls, Federico Luis Tachella (Argentina/Germany), 12’ World Premiere
Between Delicate and Violent, dir. Şirin Bahar Demirel (Turkey), 15’ International Premiere
Blow!, dir. Neus Ballús (Spain), 14’ World Premiere
Dreams About Putin, dir. Nastia Korkia, Vlad Fishez (Belgium/Hungary/Portugal), 30’ World Premiere
How to Please, dir. Elina Talvensaari (Finland), 27’ World Premiere
Landslide, dir. Daniel Cortés (Colombia) 25’ International Premiere
A Movement Against the Transparency of the Stars of the Seas, dir. Esy Casey (U.S./Philippines), 31’ European Premiere
My Father, dir. Pegah Ahangarani (Iran/Czech Republic), 19’ World Premiere
Newsreel 242 – Sunny Railways, dir. Nika Autor (Slovenia), 31’ International Premiere
Our Special Little Secret, dir. Anna Hanslik (France), 16’ World Premiere
People from the Heart of the Earth, dir. Guahu’i Guyra Collective (Brazil), 40’ World Premiere
Postcards from the Verge, dir. Natalia Koniarz (Poland/Bolivia), 40’ International Premiere
Red Flag, dir. Mónica Taboada-Tapia (Colombia), 20’ International Premiere
The Story of Ne Kuko, dir. Festus Toll (Netherlands), 25’ World Premiere

IDFA Competition for Youth Documentary Films in the 9+ category:
And a Happy New Year, dir. Sebastian Mulder (Netherlands), 21’ World Premiere
Figure, dir. Jonas Sars (Netherlands), 2’ World Premiere
Girl Away from Home, dir. Simon Lereng Wilmont, Alisa Kovalenko (Denmark/Norway), 22’ World Premiere
Girls Stories, dir. Aga Borzym (Poland), 62’ International Premiere
JessZilla, dir. Emily Sheskin (U.S.), 90’ European Premiere

Nelson the Piglet, dir. Anneke de Lind van Wijngaarden (Netherlands), 15’ World Premiere

Films in the 13+ category
Another Body, dir. Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn (U.S./U.K.), 80’ Dutch Premiere
Boyz, dir. Sylvain Cruiziat (Germany), 72’ International Premiere
Eternal Father, dir. Ömer Sami (Denmark), 31’ International Premiere
Headprickles, dir. Katarzyna Miechowicz (Poland), 8’ Dutch Premiere
Love, Your Neighbour, dir. Jethro Westraad (South Africa/Hungary/Portugal/Belgium), 8’ World Premiere
Nyanga, dir. Medhin Tewolde Serrano (Mexico), 20’ Dutch Premiere
Sister of Mine, dir. Mariusz Rusiński (Poland), 30’ European Premiere
The Sketch, dir. Tomas Cali (France), 9’ Dutch Premiere
Where Am I From?, dir. Nouf Aljowaysir (U.S./Saudi Arabia), 12’ Dutch Premiere

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