From acclaimed auteurs to emerging directors to visual artists that push the limits of documentary film, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) announced 70 selected documentary film titles to the program sections Frontlight, Masters, Paradocs, Paradocs: Amsterdam Art Weekend at IDFA, and Best of Fests, plus a Lifetime Achievement Award for Jørgen Leth. The new selections include world premieres from Oeke Hoogendijk, Louise Detlefsen, Louise Kjeldsen, and Basir Mahmoud.
The 32nd edition of IDFA will take place November 20 to December
The non-competitive premiere program section returns with 9 out of 18 hard-hitting films that urge us to stand in solidarity with the world’s vulnerable populations. From street protests in Ougadoudou to body politics in Scandanavia, Frontlight showcases incredible filmmakers and protagonists standing up for their rights.
Eagerly anticipated selections include: the international premiere of Marcus Vetter’s The Forum, with unprecedented access to world leaders at the Davos convention; the international premiere of Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, an engaging portrait of the late visionary writer; and the world premiere of Louise Detlefsen and Louise Kjeldsen’s Fat Front, on the four women who started the body positive revolution in Scandinavia. Films by up-and-comers include Maxima (dir. Claudia Sparrow), with a Peruvian farmer who defends her land against the gold mining industry; The Two Lives of Li Ermao (dir. Jia Yuchuan), which tells the story of a transmigrant worker in China; and Radio Silence (dir. Juliana Fanjul), on a female journalist’s fight against censorship in Mexico.
After Your Revolt, Your Vote!
Kiswendsida Parfait Kaboré – 2019
After a popular uprising in 2014, Burkina Faso finally had the
chance to vote for a democratically elected president. To encourage
people to go back to the polls again, the “Citizen’s Broom”
movement is now touring the country with a catchy campaign.
Always in Season
Jacqueline Olive – 2019
A probing exposé about the deep roots of racist violence in the United States, starting with the death of a black teenager. The police say it was suicide, but the boy’s friends and family believe he was lynched.
Louise Unmack Kjeldsen, Louise Detlefsen – 2019
An optimistic portrait of four young Scandinavian women who start a body positivity movement. They carry their fat bodies with pride, and bid farewell to the self-hatred and guilt they have lived with for so long.
Marcus Vetter – 2019
Every year, the international elite gather at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to talk privately about global issues. Marcus Vetter was the first filmmaker to be granted behind-the-scenes access.
Claudia Sparrow – 2019
A big goldmine in Peru wants to expand operations, and that would mean swallowing up the little plot of land belonging to Máxima. But she’s not about to go down without a fight. With impressive tenacity she battles it out against greed and corruption.
Of Land and Bread
Ehab Tarabieh – 2019
With the support of human rights organization B’Tselem, Palestinians made dozens of short films about the bullying and humiliation they encounter every day. From these, filmmaker Ehab Tarabieh edited this angry montage of provocations.
Juliana Fanjul – 2019
The popular Mexican radio journalist Carmen Aristegui battles against her corrupt government, which is in the grip of drug cartels. Risking her own life, she continues to broadcast to her millions of followers on social media.
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am
Timothy Greenfield-Sanders – 2019
A film portrait of Toni Morrison (1931-2019), the great American teacher, editor, and above all author and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. She gave entirely new meaning to the idea of “black literature.”
The Two Lives of Li Ermao
Jia Yuchuan – 2019
A powerful portrait of Li Ermao, who lives as a “ladyboy”. The film follows her over the course of 17 years in her native China, as she searches for love and acceptance but encounters prejudice and aggression.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Jørgen Leth
From his influential short film The Perfect Human (1967) through to today, Jørgen Leth inspired generations of filmmakers with his strong auteur voice and fearless perspective on reality. Based in Denmark and Haiti, Leth was never hampered by concerns of veracity and fact. In celebration of his extraordinary filmmaking, IDFA will award the 83-year-old director with a Lifetime Achievement Award during the festival.
With 17 titles, Masters celebrates the great documentary filmmakers of our time. World premieres include My Rembrandt, the much-anticipated new film from Oeke Hoogendijk. Among the European premieres, Eva Mulvad delivers Love Child.
Within the section, many filmmakers use a personal angle to tell a wider story. Andrés Di Tella’s Private Fiction puzzles over family memory through letters from the director’s own parents. Alain Cavalier’s Living and Knowing You’re Alive goes behind the scenes of the filmmaking process as Cavalier creates an autobiographical film with writer Emmanuèle Bernheim. Helena Třeštíková and Jakub Hejna’s Forman vs. Forman tells the story of Czech director Miloš Forman, a formative figure in Třeštíková’s own relationship with film. Masters also includes filmmakers who take a broad view on recent history-shaping stories. Alex Gibney’s Citizen K documents the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky as he rockets to prosperity, serves a decade behind bars, and becomes an unlikely martyr for the anti-Putin movement. In The Apollo, Roger Ross Williams recounts the history of the venue that launched the careers of countless African American artists, while in Inna De Yard: The Soul of Jamaica, Peter Webber introduces us to Jamaican reggae legends in their homes. Finally, Varda by Agnès makes history itself, as the final film from the late French auteur.
Roger Ross Williams – 2019
Take a trip back into the turbulent and politically charged history of New York’s legendary Apollo Theater, birthplace and home to so many great African-American performers. With countless interviews and previously unseen footage.
Blow It to Bits
Lech Kowalski – 2019
An activist account of the events surrounding the planned closure of the GM&S car part factory in La Souterraine, France. The employees will go to extreme lengths to keep their jobs.
Alex Gibney – 2019
Told against the background of post-Soviet Russia, this is the story of former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky. Once one of the richest people in Russia, he also spent 10 years in a Siberian prison.
Nikolaus Geyrhalter – 2019
A beautifully shot film about people whose job is to dig the earth, exploit it and make money from it, with virtually no regard for the consequences—all so we can maintain our demanding lifestyle. But who’s actually responsible in the end?
Forman vs. Forman
Helena Třeštíková, Jakub Hejna – 2019
Oscar-winning director Miloš Forman (1932-2018) gives his own account of his eventful career and private life in this collage of interviews, excerpts from film classics, visits to film sets, and home videos shot by Forman himself.
Heimat Is a Space in Time
Thomas Heise – 2019
A chronicle of Germany through the prism of the director’s own family history. In voice-over, Thomas Heise reads documents from his family’s archive, accompanied by powerful black-and-white images of the “guilty” landscape of his homeland.
Inna de Yard: The Soul of Jamaica
Peter Webber – 2018
A delightful and lively documentary in which the now gray-haired icons of reggae gather in the garden of a magnificent stately home to re-record their old hits—this time as acoustic versions made in collaboration with a new generation.
Living and Knowing You’re Alive
Alain Cavalier – 2019
Filmmaker Alain Cavalier and writer Emmanuèle Bernheim are working on a film based on her autobiographical book about her father’s self-chosen death. But then she falls ill. A delicate ode to life, both tender and frank.
Eva Mulvad – 2019
They are blissfully happy together, have a cute little son and are ready for a new start. But there’s a big problem: Leila and Sahand are both still married to other people. And in Iran, there are severe penalties for adultery.
Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love
Nick Broomfield – 2019
A chronicle of the tragic love between writer and musician Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen. They lived together for many years on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra, but everything changed when Cohen became an international star.
Oeke Hoogendijk – 2019
What makes Rembrandt’s paintings technically so extraordinary, and why are different people so deeply affected by his oeuvre, or a specific work? Centuries after his death, his paintings are still a source of drama and gripping plot twists.
Andrés Di Tella – 2019
A hybrid narrative in which two actors read aloud letters that the now deceased parents of filmmaker Andrés Di Tella wrote to one another over a period of decades, bringing their turbulent 20th-century love story back to life.
Fredrik Gertten – 2019
Housing in major cities has become unaffordable for many. Push explores the world of slumlords, property speculators and venture capitalists, and features Leilani Farha, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing.
Shooting the Mafia
Kim Longinotto – 2019
A portrait of the Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia, famous for her compelling photos of Mafia victims. This revealing retrospective of both her career and private life dispels romantic notions of organized crime.
Sergei Loznitsa – 2019
A montage of previously unreleased material immerses us in the Soviet Union, in the four-day period of mourning following the death of Joseph Stalin on March 5, 1953. This is the grotesque culmination of the personality cult surrounding the dictator.
Varda by Agnès
Agnès Varda – 2019
Photographer, film director and installation artist Agnès Varda looks back on her life and career, using scenes from her own rich body of work to shed light on her artistic vision and ideas.
Waiting for the Carnival
Marcelo Gomes – 2019
This portrait of an enterprising Brazilian town where almost everyone manufactures jeans is also the travelogue of filmmaker Marcelo Gomes. He knows the town from a distant past, and alternates nostalgia with a sense of realism.
IDFA’s experimental section returns with 12 works that push the limits of the documentary form. A selection of short, mid-length, and feature films showcase both established names and newcomers.
Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream marks the feature debut of acclaimed shorts filmmaker Frank Beauvais in the form of a video-diary collage. Renowned artist Yuri Ancarani returns to IDFA with new film San Vittore, a poetic investigation of children visiting their imprisoned fathers at a historic Milan penitentiary. Yaser Kassab is back with new film I Have Seen Nothing, I Have Seen All, a family story about the transfer of graves from public parks in Aleppo. The debut film from Alexis Delgado Búrdalo, This Film Is About Me, captures the cinematic interplay between filmmaker and a protagonist accused of murder. The world premiere of The Ride by emerging filmmaker duo Esther Polak and Ivar Van Bekkum takes audiences from installation to screen with a personal video work full of emotion and atmosphere.
The Hissing of Summer Sands
Catarina Mourao – 2019
It turns out that the mythical bogeyman of the Portuguese Salazar dictatorship era was real after all. Telling his story reconstructs a time that has become surrounded with an equally mythical aura, thanks to collective silence.
Hours of Glass
Michiel van Bakel – 2018
The roles are reversed when observatories are viewed with a seemingly extraterrestrial eye. A poetic miniature about interstellar surveillance and the relationship between an infinite universe and limited human life.
I Have Seen Nothing, I Have Seen All
Yaser Kassab – 2019
Filmmaker-in-exile Yaser Kassab calls his father in Aleppo, who tells him his brother’s grave has been moved. The physical distance increases Kassab’s sense of loss, but also turns him into an outsider.
Just Don’t Think I’ll Scream
Frank Beauvais – 2019
In a breathtaking collage of ultra-short film excerpts, Frank Beauvais talks about his past, fears, thoughts and desires. The result is a superior and autobiographical sampling composition with a literary slant.
Palace of Colours
Prantik Basu – 2019
While villagers prepare for the annual Sohrai festival, a woman from the Indian Santhali people tells her version of the creation story according to oral tradition.
Esther Polak, Ivar van Bekkum – 2019
A nocturnal car ride to the scene of a calamity. The combination of impersonal Google Earth imagery, sparse dialogue and the sound of a heartbeat is emotionally gripping, while leaving room for the imagination.
Yuri Ancarani – 2018
A visually striking short film about drawings made by children visiting their parents at the San Vittore prison in Milan. They see San Vittore as a castle.
Daniela Delgado Viteri – 2019
Small acts of subversive resistance—teasing tourists, crashing election parties, insulting filmmakers—in five fictive interviews with ordinary citizens who refuse to submit to the powers that be.
Feargal Ward, Adrian Duncan – 2019
How do you generate structures that won’t collapse, even under the worst imaginable conditions? This roving travelogue forges unexpected connections between ambitious Parisian structures and the tensions surrounding the gilets jaunes protests.
This Film Is about Me
Alexis Delgado Búrdalo – 2019
This portrait of a woman who is imprisoned for a brutal murder isn’t about her crime or punishment, but about herself. With both the director and the protagonist having a passionate desire to make this film, an intriguing interplay unfolds.
Lydia Nsiah – 2019
Memories fade and distort, also when they are recorded on film, which deteriorates over time. A collage of archetypal but damaged footage reveals the perishability of this medium for our collective memory.
Florian Fischer, Johannes Krell – 2019
Fascinating sequences of optical phenomena—some familiar, some very mysterious—at the interface of documentary and experimental film. Are you seeing what you think you’re seeing?
Paradocs: Amsterdam Art Weekend at IDFA
In collaboration with EYE Film Museum, IDFA presents Paradocs during Amsterdam Art Weekend, with seven titles that fuse documentary and video art. Among the highlights are: the new two-channel work from Paulien Olthesten, To those that will, ways are not wanting; the world premiere of Basir Mahmoud’s docufiction work Good Ended Happily, which recreates the American Special Forces operation that took down Osama Bin Laden; and renowned Dutch artist Dick Verdult’s Viva Matanzas, a fantastical re-enactment of a 1628 Dutch-Spanish naval battle.
Forest on Location
Persijn Broersen, Margit Lukács – 2018
In a replica of the last remains of Europe’s last primeval forest Białowieża, the avatar Shahram Yazdani sings his Farsi version of the popular hit song “Nature Boy.” Nature is presented as a virtual construct, meandering between the mythical and the actual.
Good Ended Happily
Basir Mahmood – 2019
What happens if you leave the filming to others? Artist Basir Mahmood asked a film crew from the Pakistani film industry in Lahore to unleash their imaginations on the Special Forces operation in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
Metodo dei Loci
Rebecca Digne – 2019
An elephant walks through a park. With its proverbially infallible memory, this animal is a representation of the “method of loci,” a strategy for retaining information by arranging the memory as an architectural structure.
She Breathes Water
Penny Siopis – 2019
In this associative collage of found footage, the poetic subtitles and soundscape of crackling ice add an extra layer of meaning to a warning packaged in symbolism. Mother Earth admonishes humanity.
To Those That Will, Ways Are Not Wanting
Paulien Oltheten – 2019
Jacques Tati in Russia and Iran. Snow piles, posts, fences and much too narrow openings: the obstacles that people face on a daily basis are numerous. Wonderful observations of perseverance in two parallel worlds.
Dick Verdult – 2018
The Dutch capture of the Spanish treasure fleet in 1628 heralded the end of the Spanish Empire. The film presents a masked-dance reenactment of this historical event—which passed without bloodshed—as an over-the-top costume drama.
Worker’s Ordinary Day
Ahmet Öğüt – 2019
Where fighter planes once stood, people now laze under palm trees. Ahmet Ögüt shows the absurdity of a hangar converted into a Tropical Islands resort by focusing on the man who gives hot air balloon tours—indoors.
Best of Fests
IDFA’s take on the year’s most outstanding documentary films, Best of Festsoffers 25 titles from the international festival circuit. Consisting of award winners from around the world, the program includes Cannes hit For Sama (dir. Waad Al Kataeb, Edward Watts), Berlinale hit Talking About Trees (dir. Suhaib Gasmelbari), Venice hit Collective (dir. Alexander Nanau), Sundance hits Midnight Traveler (dir. Hassan Fazili), Midnight Family (dir. Luke Lorentzen), and One Child Nation (dir. Nanfu Wang, Lynn Zhang), and TIFF hit The Cave (dir. Feras Fayyad). The program also promises to mesmerize with dance films such as Lil’ Buck: Real Swan (dir. Louis Wallecan). Alongside the award winners, the program offers IDFA’s tips for must-see films from the past year, such as Michel K. Zongo’s No Gold for Kalsaka, following its premiere at FESPACO.
Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaiche – 2019
Vilified and praised in equal measure, the Israeli human rights lawyer Lea Tsemel has spent the last 50 years fighting against her country’s discriminatory legal system, primarily by defending Palestinians accused of violent acts of resistance. African Mirror Mischa Hedinger 2019 Admiration and destruction are two sides of the same coin in this collage of archive footage that reveals how, since the 1950s, Europeans have projected their own idealized images onto Africa and destroyed original cultures.
Born in Evin
Maryam Zaree – 2019
The German actress Maryam Zaree fled the Iranian regime as a small child with her mother. She knows she was born in prison, but nobody ever talks about it. Now she wants to know why.
Alison Klayman – 2019
Trump’s ex-strategist Steve Bannon is mobilizing leading European politicians for his populist movement. This subtle portrait dissects the method behind his mission, which he fearlessly pursues despite loss and vilification.
Buddha in Africa
Nicole Schafer – 2019
Fifteen-year-old Enock and other African orphans get a strict Buddhist education at the Chinese boarding school in Malawi. Now he’s faced with a choice: should he go study in faraway Taiwan or return to his home village?
Feras Fayyad – 2019
How do you run an underground hospital in a besieged area in Syria that’s under constant bombardment? As if that wasn’t challenging enough, the manager and her female colleagues also have to deal with deep-rooted sexism.
Alexander Nanau – 2019 The consequences of a serious fire in the Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest were made even worse by the failures of the Romanian health care system, which like the rest of the country is plagued by deep-seated corruption.
The Euphoria of Being
Réka Szabó – 2019
During the making of a dance theater piece, a special friendship develops between director Réka Szabó and her two leads: the young dancer Emese Cuhorka and the elderly writer and activist Éva Fahidi.
Waad Al Kataeb, Edward Watts – 2019
The 26-year-old citizen journalist Waad al-Kataeb films her life in besieged Aleppo, Syria. In the form of a letter to her newborn daughter Sama, the film captures the reality of war and an uncertain future.
Ljubomir Stefanov, Tamara Kotevska – 2019
In a deserted mountain village, Europe’s last female wild-beekeeper lives with her elderly mother. A stunningly filmed, intimate portrait of their peaceful existence—and how it is rudely disturbed by newcomers.
In Mansourah, You Separated Us
Dorothée Myriam Kellou – 2019
For the first time since the Algerian War of Independence, witnesses talk about the rural resettlement camps, shedding light on an appalling and neglected episode in history. Why have people kept silent for all these years?
Marwa Zein – 2019
A portrait of female soccer players in Khartoum, as they struggle for a place both on the field and in Sudan’s conservative society—with humor, perseverance and irrepressible optimism.
Lauren Greenfield – 2019
There’s great poverty in the Philippines, but the Marcos family is awash with money. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos proudly talks about her patriotism, but the main thing that strikes us is the deep-rooted, inexhaustible corruption.
Lil’ Buck: Real Swan
Louis Wallecan – 2019
A glowing example of the power of dance as a form of expression and social life buoy. Lil’ Buck combines classical ballet with jookin, the hip-hop dance style he grew up with. His version of The Dying Swan became a sensation.
Luke Lorentzen – 2019
There are just 45 public-run ambulances operating in Mexico City. Private ambulances, such as the one run by the Ochoa family, offer a lifeline for this huge metropolis. We closely follow the family over a series of intense, nerve-wracking nights.
Hassan Fazili – 2019
Under the threat of being killed by the Taliban, an Afghan family of filmmakers attempts to travel to Europe illegally. They document the dangerous journey with their cell phones.
Movements of a Nearby Mountain
Sebastian Brameshuber – 2019
On an abandoned industrial site in the Austrian Alps, a lone mechanic prepares used cars for export to his home country of Nigeria. A serene portrait of a person who seems to find peace within himself, without resigning himself to his fate.
No Gold for Kalsaka
Michel K. Zongo – 2019
Burkina Faso becomes a Wild West as a British multinational promises the people of Kalsaka heaps of gold, but in reality only robs them of their livelihoods. Left with nothing but an environmental disaster, they seek justice.
One Child Nation
Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang – 2019
Filmmaker Nanfu Wang was born in the days of China’s one-child policy. This revealing documentary shows the barbaric and deeply tragic consequences of this law. How is it possible that an entire country could resign itself to such inhuman regulations?
Agostino Ferrente – 2019
Director Agostino Ferrente gave underprivileged teenagers a phone to film their own lives in whatever way they liked. The result brings us movingly close to the grim reality of life in Naples.
Pia Hellenthal – 2019
An unconventional inside view of the equally unconventional life of Eva: sex worker, writer, musician, model, blogger, anarchist and feminist. And much more, because Eva can’t be pinned down.
Talking About Trees
Suhaib Gasmelbari – 2019
In Sudan, cinema is a thing of the past, but four directors and lifelong friends refuse to accept it. Although film is clearly out of favor with the current regime, the four men remain determined, hopeful and touchingly funny.
That Which Does Not Kill
Alexe Poukine – 2019
Ada was 19. He was someone she knew, and she didn’t resist. Ada’s testimony is central to this film, but many share her history. The sensitive narrative style creates space for the universality of this story.
Tim Travers Hawkins – 2019
An intimate investigative portrait of transgender whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who was pardoned by President Barack Obama in 2017. Only now that she’s free can Manning fully experience and give shape to her new gender identity.