International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) announced the selections for the Masters and Paradocs program sections, as well as the remaining titles in the Best of Fests section. A total of 47 films have been added to the IDFA 2020 program.
In the Masters section, IDFA selects 18 titles from today’s auteurs of documentary cinema including Rithy Panh’s Irradiated, winner of the Berlinale Documentary Award, where he masterfully contemplates the image of human suffering throughout history in a revolutionary film that approaches cinematic installation. In the long-awaited Gunda, Victor Kossakovsky intimately examines our relationship with animals as he invites audiences to fall in love with the titular character, a wonderful mother pig. Paris Caligrammes sees Ulrike Ottinger curate a rich archival history of 1960s Paris, in which the award-winning director stars alongside the great artists, thinkers, and revolutionaries of the day.
Dieudo Hamadi’s Downstream to Kinshasa pays tribute to the survivors of the Six-Day War in Hamadi’s native Congo, finding poetry in stories of human resilience. European premieres include Sam Pollard’s MLK/FBI, an investigation into secret US documents that uncover Martin Luther King Jr. as the victim of the FBI’s decade-long witch hunt.
Oscar-nominated director Hubert Sauper returns with Epicentro, a thought-provoking portrait of Cuba that charts the (neo)colonial history of the world’s so-called last communist country. Frederick Wiseman’s four-and-a-half-hour City Hall presents the heart and soul of Boston policy-making, revealing the inner workings of the celebrated filmmaker’s hometown. Concert film extraordinaire David Byrne’s American Utopia offers a joyous meeting of minds between director Spike Lee and the Talking Heads frontman, celebrating Byrne’s unadulterated creativity live and on stage.
In the Paradocs section, IDFA showcases 11 of the year’s best experimental documentary artworks. Within the selection, several titles subvert the passing of time, pushing it to its cinematic limits. Purple Sea by Amel Alzakout and Khaled Abdulwahed plunges audiences into a capsized refugee boat via submerged body camera, as the clock ticks in real time. In 13, director Shinya Isobe condenses five years of astronomical activity into one 16mm short film, leaping across the color spectrum in 11 minutes of haptic bliss. Meanwhile, Anders Edström and C.W. Winter’s eight-hour The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) takes slow cinema to new heights, offering a slice of daily life in a small Japanese mountain village.
Time also finds new meaning in the films with pre-existing footage, as several titles confront complex layers of representation and re-appropriation, prompting audiences to question what they are really seeing. There Will Be No More Night by Éléonore Weber reworks video footage from American and French armed forces in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, deconstructing the first-hand perspective of a fighter pilot. In Geographies of Freedom, Miguel Peres dos Santos explores Shell’s legacy of colonial and environmental violence in Curaçao and its representation through propaganda films, news reports, and original cinematography. In Cause of Death, Jyoti Mistry reimagines the representation of violence against women through a powerful collage of archival scenes, animation, and spoken word.
As part of IDFA’s ongoing collaboration with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Paradocs program also includes an evening of video art from the Stedelijk collection, curated by acclaimed artist Ahmet Öğüt.
IDFA also announces 18 more titles selected for the Best of Fests section. The complete program now includes 39 feature-length films, four mid-length films, and five shorts, with notable additions such as Francesca Mazzoleni’s Punta sacra, winner of the main award at Visions du Réel, and Catarina Vasconcelos’ The Metamorphosis of Birds, winner of a FIPRESCI Prize at this year’s Berlinale.
IDFA 2020 runs November 18 to 29 in Amsterdam venues, in addition to online screenings (November 18 to December 6) and online markets (November 16 to 20).
9to5: The Story of a Movement
- Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar
Dolly Parton’s hit song “9 to 5” and the 1980 comedy film of the same
title were inspired by an influential women’s movement of the early
1970s. Members of this movement look back on their resistance to
the disenfranchisement of female office staff.
- Jerzy Sladkowski
An extraordinarily intimate, observational portrait of passengers on
a river cruise—full of drama, poetry, vulnerability, humor, and
melancholy music. As Russian landscapes peacefully glide by, both
young and old struggle with love.
- Frederick Wiseman
In long takes that compel us to listen patiently and observe,
Wiseman immerses viewers in the local government of his hometown
of Boston. His portrayal of how the city is run shows what it means to
live together as a society.
Crazy, Not Insane
- Alex Gibney
U.S. forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis has been studying serial
killers for decades. Are they simply bad or mentally disturbed? Her
controversial theory is vital in a country where the distinction can
make the difference between life and death.
David Byrne’s American Utopia
- Spike Lee
Spike Lee’s spellbinding concert film of David Byrne’s Broadway
show American Utopia. The former Talking Heads front man sings,
talks, and even dances, as he searches for hope and connection—with
a touch of politics and activism.
Downstream to Kinshasa
- Dieudo Hamadi
A powerful record of a desperate call for justice. The civilian victims
of the six-day war in Kisangani, DR Congo, in June 2000, are still
waiting for compensation. They travel to the capital Kinshasa to
make their voices heard.
- Hubert Sauper
A kaleidoscopic portrait of Cuba: The former epicenter of the New
World has been ravaged by repeated invasions and struggled under
the yoke of dictators. Now, it’s being overrun again—this time by
The Filmmaker’s House
- Marc Isaacs
In protest against sensationalism in the documentary industry, Marc
Isaacs makes a film in his own home. Blending fact and fiction, he
explores the theme of hospitality and indirectly asks questions about
- Luke Holland
Testimonies from ordinary people who sided with the Nazis during
the Second World War, whether out of fear, complacency, or
conviction. Their sedate tone of voice makes the accounts of these
elderly speakers even more shocking.
- Victor Kossakovsky
Minimalist and meditative monument to a sow named Gunda and
her newborn piglets—with supporting roles for ecstatic cows and a
one-legged chicken. The engaging scenes in black and white amount
to a powerful statement that clearly makes its case.
- Rithy Panh
Rithy Panh is unrelenting as we become witnesses to human evil in
an overwhelming, three-screen meditation on the mechanisms of
violence. These are the same all over the world, and they all cause the
same unspeakable pain and distress.
- Sam Pollard
A revealing documentary drawing on declassified documents
released by the American government and the FBI that uncovers the
steps taken by the intelligence service to bug Martin Luther King and
- Karim Aïnouz
A spectacular record of a mass demonstration against the Algerian
regime in the spring of 2019. We follow a day in the life of activist
Nardjes A., who voices the discontent of Algerians young and old.
A Night at the Opera
- Sergei Loznitsa
A dream gala evening at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, composed of
archive footage expertly edited to produce a dazzling society portrait
of the 1950s and 1960s. With royalty, Brigitte Bardot, and the
unparalleled Maria Callas.
- Ulrike Ottinger
Portrait of the cultural circles director Ulrike Ottinger moved in
when she arrived in 1960s Paris as an ambitious young artist from a
small German town. Archive material and black-and-white footage
captures the atmosphere of a turbulent period.
Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue
- Jia Zhang-Ke
Famous Chinese authors such as Yu Hua and Jia Pingwa talk about
the role of the countryside in their lives and work. A look at 70 years
of Chinese history, portrayed by the chronicler of rapidly changing
provincial life, Jia Zhangke.
- Ai Weiwei
Six dead, 43 missing, no convictions: that’s the final tally of the 2014
attack on a group of buses in Mexico packed with students. Ai
Weiwei’s record of the broken lives of the families they left behind is
an indictment of a corrupt narco-state.
- Kazuhiro Soda
After working as a psychiatrist for more than 50 years, 82-year-old
Masatomo Yamamoto is about to retire—though his care and
thoughtful tenderness are undiminished. A sincere and deeply
moving portrait of compassion.
- Shinya Isobe
For five years, filmmaker Shinya Isobe left his camera in exactly the
same spot to record a series of time-lapse shots of the sunset. In his
hypnotic short film, the images combine to create a unique poetic
Cause of Death
- Jyoti Mistry
A timeless and universal phenomenon: violence against women. This
rhythmic montage of women’s bodies from archive footage and
animation accompanied by a spoken lament produces an experience
that is almost hypnotic.
- Jonathan Perel
A haunting minimalist account of how major national and
international companies were actively involved in serious human
rights violations under the military dictatorship of Argentina from
1976 to 1983.
Geographies of Freedom
- Miguel Peres dos Santos
A compilation of archival footage and images of the current
landscape on Curaçao lays bare the painful historical relationship
between the oil refineries of Dutch multinational Shell and the
inhabitants of the Netherlands Antilles.
- Akram Zaatari
First, there was desert. Then came the houses for a Bedouin
community. But now the sand has returned: it seeps through the
ruins as three men pluck and scrape to elicit experimental music
from this site that sparks the imagination.
- Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis
The suicide bombing on the Brussels subway on March 22, 2016
leaves Sabine in a coma for three months. When she wakes up, there
is a black hole in her memory. Her search for explanations is
beautifully depicted in this collage of images and sound.
- Louis Henderson , Olivier Marboeuf
In the streets of Port-au-Prince, a group of young Haitian actors pay
tribute to the 18th-century revolutionary Toussaint Louverture. They
reflect on theatrical texts with themes such as colonialism, racism,
- Amel Alzakout, Khaled Abdulwahed
A boat sinks off the coast of Lesbos with Syrian artist Amel Alzakout
onboard. She shoots dizzying footage from the water: dangling legs
and almost nothing to cling onto. An utterly gripping experience.
Red Moon Tide
- Lois Patiño
An unforgettable, mystical portrait of a community on the Galician
coast. When a man goes missing at sea, his fellow villagers wait for
news, frozen in time, suspended in a twilight zone between life and
There Will Be No More Night
- Éléonore Weber
Helicopter pilots and gunners have to make complex decisions
during their nighttime missions in war zones. An intense, topical
documentary about the tension between observation and
The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin)
- C.W. Winter, Anders Edström
This meditative marathon film is a comprehensive record of the
everyday activities of an elderly couple in the Japanese countryside.
As hospital visits increase, the serenity of their lives is tragically
Best of Fests
Acasă, My Home
- Radu Ciorniciuc
A filmic portrait of a large Romanian family going though turbulent
times. After 20 years of living in nature near Bucharest, they must
return to modern, urban society—and all its problems.
The Art of Living in Danger
- Mina Keshavarz
Iranian women have lived in fear for decades, with no legal
protection against domestic violence. Filmmaker Mina Keshavarz
follows a group of activists fighting for change, intertwined with the
story of her own family.
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
- Bill Ross, Turner Ross
In a dark neighborhood bar on the outskirts of Las Vegas, the
regulars drop by one final time to seek refuge in alcohol and in each
other. This cinéma vérité-style ode to the American dive bar evokes
unexpected feelings of nostalgia.
- Todd Chandler
A provocative look at the industry surrounding U.S. school
shootings. Restrained images of bullet-proof school furniture,
shooting courses, and evacuation drills provide space to reflect on
responses to gun violence in the United States.
Dope Is Death
- Mia Donovan
Combining controversial political activism with the struggle for civil
rights in 1970s America, Mutulu Shakur stood up for people living in
poverty in New York’s South Bronx and was at the forefront of
acupuncture treatment for drug addiction.
The Earth Is Blue as an Orange
- Iryna Tsilyk
With bombs falling all around their home in Ukraine, Anna and her
four children manage to keep the chaos of war at bay by making a
film about their experiences.
El Father Plays Himself
- Mo Scarpelli
A making-of documentary about a movie with an uncontrollable
protagonist in the remote jungle. Sharp and moving observations
reveal the dynamics of a son directing his father who’s playing his
Feels Good Man
- Arthur Jones
Brilliant animations illustrate this documentary about comic strip
artist Matt Furie and his attempts to free his popular character Pepe
the Frog from the shadowy world of online memes, hate campaigns,
trolls, and alternative facts.
The Foundation Pit
- Andrey Gryazev
This hard-hitting, found-footage film shows Russian citizens voicing
their concerns and rage about Putin’s rule. Combined in this way, the
clips constitute a powerful protest against a government that appears
to have forgotten about its citizens.
- Roman Hodel
Soccer refereeing is a demanding sport: you’ve got to run for 90
minutes, always be alert, and make tough decisions in a heaving
stadium. A roller coaster ride packed with drama and excitement,
filmed from the perspective of referee Fedayi San.
- Natalija Yefimkina
In northern Russia, the garage is a treasured refuge for people who
want space to daydream, enjoy hobbies, or just get some peace and
quiet. It’s an ideal place for quirky pastimes, reflecting on life, and
drinking vodka without being bothered.
- Qutaiba Barhamji
Gevar is from Syria and has recently started living in France with his
girlfriend and young son. Tending his community garden plot while
trying to put down roots of his own in his new country, he discovers
both processes are hard work.
Heaven Beneath My Feet
- Sandra Madi
Heartbreaking stories from Lebanon, where divorced mothers have
to fight for years just to see their children. Filmmaker Sandra Madi
follows three women in their struggle for justice—and for
- Yulia Vishnevets
The idealistic approach of two young teachers is put to the test in a
provincial Russian town. Beneath their students’ typical adolescent
behavior, there is also deep-rooted conservatism. Russia as we rarely
Il mio corpo
- Michele Pennetta
Fact and fiction blur in this sensitive film about a young scrap metal
collector and an African boat refugee living in Sicily. Their lives turn
out to be more similar than they might have imagined.
IWOW: I Walk on Water
- Khalik Allah
A hypnotic journey along a stream of voices, images, colors, and
music. The central figure in this ode to love, friendship, and religion
is Frenchie, one of the many homeless on the streets of New York.
- Jessica Earnshaw
An intense and candid portrait of an American family in which drug
addiction and crime are passed on from mother to daughter. The
26-year-old Jacinta wants to break the cycle.
- Louise Mootz
A group of very vocal women with diverse backgrounds dance, laugh,
fuck and dither their way through life in a Parisian suburb. The
energy crackles from the screen in this intimate and cliché-crushing
portrait of true Parisiennes.
Long, Live, Love
- Sine Skibsholt
Rosemarie, age 15, already survived cancer twice. Now she’s
recovered and wants to get on with life—school, friends, love, parties.
Her young mother hasn’t yet come to terms with her fear of losing
her child. A search to establish a new relationship.
Lost Kids on the Beach
- Alina Manolache
The director embarks on a personal quest in Romania to portray the
generation born shortly after the fall of the country’s dictator
Ceausescu—and the beginning of a new, post-communist era.
- Elvis Sabin Ngaibino
A cinematic portrait of two young Aka pygmies from the Central
African Republic. In their efforts to improve education for their
communities, they discover that city dwellers are not as altruistic as
they are themselves.
- David Osit
Emmy winner David Osit follows the likeable mayor of Ramallah
through dryly humorous meetings, school visits and everyday local
politics, as he tries to hold his own in a geopolitical minefield.
Me and the Cult Leader
- Atsushi Sakahara
In 1995, director Atsushi Sakahara survived a nerve gas attack by the
Aum cult on the Tokyo subway. Now he holds a long and courageous
conversation with Araki, executive cult member, who was not
personally responsible—but has remained a member.
The Metamorphosis of Birds
- Catarina Vasconcelos
A magnificent personal portrait of a Portuguese family. Rich in
beautiful, fictionalized scenes that find universal truths in the
warmth of a family, the melancholy of seeing children grow up, and
the absence of a mother.
The Mole Agent
- Maite Alberdi
In this blend of spy flick and observational documentary, 83-year-old
Sergio goes undercover in an old folks’ home. Starting out as a wryly
comical detective yarn, the film ultimately offers us an intimate look
at affection and loneliness in old age.
- Roxanne Gaucherand
We follow the story of two girls in a village in southeastern France
that is preparing for the annual, disruptive invasion of the box tree
moth. Lou develops feelings for her childhood friend Sam, in a sultry
mix of documentary and fiction.
- Ana Edwards
Matilde is an elderly alpaca herder surrounded by the awe-inspiring
natural scenery that was once sacred to the Aymara, the indigenous
Chilean community to which she belongs. But today all that counts
for Mathilde is the Word of God: the Bible.
- Halima Ouardiri
Atmospheric shots accompanied by spot-on sound design capture the
daily life of hundreds of stray dogs in a Moroccan shelter. With
resignation they unknowingly wait to be adopted.
Narcissus Off Duty
- Renato Terra, Ricardo Calil
Brazilian singer and composer Caetano Veloso was imprisoned for
two months during his country’s military dictatorship. Fifty years on,
his recollections give an impression of the military regime’s practices
and the impact of being deprived of one’s liberty.
- Laura Plancarte
Well-educated, independent Nanci is marrying Thaddeus, a
Cheyenne man. In the run-up to their wedding, they see they have
considerable differences about gender roles. Gradually they learn to
understand and appreciate each other’s cultures and feelings.
Notes from the Underworld
- Tizza Covi, Rainer Frimmel
What starts as a portrait of the popular Austrian singer Kurt Girk
develops into a unique and powerful document of an era: the
Austrian underworld in the 1960s. Packed with tall tales, bad cops
and bittersweet songs.
- Carmen Losmann
A multilayered quest to fathom the workings of the capitalist system.
Financial sector insiders grapple with simple questions such as
“Where does profit come from?” and “How is money created?” Some
of the staged scenes are quite telling.
Once Upon a Time in Venezuela
- Anabel Rodríguez
A Venezuelan fishing community on Lake Maracaibo struggles with
the decline brought about by oil pollution, political division, and
neglect—a situation that reflects the deplorable state of the country
as a whole.
An Ordinary Country
- Tomasz Wolski
The Polish Secret Service kept a very close watch on its citizens from
the 1960s through the 1980s, often using hidden cameras and
microphones. This compilation paints a claustrophobic picture of a
brutal and bureaucratic surveillance state.
- Paloma Sermon-Daï
A warm, observational portrait of a mild-mannered man and his
mother, who tirelessly supports him in his struggle with addiction.
His latest attempt to stop using drugs creates tension in their close,
Please Hold the Line
- Pavel Cuzuioc
A beautifully filmed allegory about communication and connection,
told from the perspective of telecom engineers and their customers.
Modern means of communication offer a window on the world, but
also reveal what people are missing.
- Francesca Mazzoleni
A captivating portrait of the small village of Ostia and its inhabitants.
The five hundred families who live there—illegally—show why they
feel such a deep bond with this place surrounded by the waters of the
sea and the Tiber.
A Shape of Things to Come
- Lisa Marie Malloy, J.P. Sniadecki
Vivid impressions of Sundog’s self-sufficient life in the Sonora
desert, far removed from the unhealthy rat race of city life. Seeing his
freedom and the ecosystem coming under increasing threat, he
dreams up an act of eco-terrorism.
Songs of Repression
- Estephan Wagner, Marianne Hougen-Moraga
The aftermath of atrocities that took place in a German sect in Chile
lives on in the surviving former members. They’ve made the best of
the situation by transforming the colony into a tourist attraction.
Son of Sodom
- Theo Montoya
Camilo Najar was known on the Medellín queer scene as “Son of
Sodom.” At the age of 21 he died of a heroin overdose. Montoya
explores the no-future mentality of his generation in a freewheeling,
S p a c e s
- Nora Štrbová
Moving and cleverly crafted animated film about the devastated
short-term memory of the filmmaker’s brother. The jittery animation
captures his fragmented perception and memory: lost in time and
space, trapped in a loop.
- Elizabeth Lo
The stray dogs Zeytin, Nazar and Kartal the puppy trot calmly from
one favorite place to another in Istanbul. The camera follows them at
snout level as they join forces with other urban outcasts.
Things We Dare Not Do
- Bruno Santamaria
The village of El Roblito on a peninsula in the Atlantic Ocean seems
to be mainly inhabited by children. We see the machismo of the adult
world only in passing in this subtle yet compelling coming-of-age
story filtered through children’s eyes.
’Til Kingdom Come
- Maya Zinshtein
Even in the poorest parts of the U.S., the Christian faithful collect
donations for Israel. The controversial connection between
evangelical Christians and Jews is partly about belief, and partly
about money, power, and politics.
- Garrett Bradley
An impressive portrait of Fox Rich, who raised six sons on her own
while fighting the judicial system. Her husband was sentenced to 60
years in prison for a bank robbery with a loot of just a few thousand
The Truffle Hunters
- Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
For generations, the Italian town of Alba has been captivated by a
rare delicacy. Wealthy gourmets, hard-working truffle hunters,
shameless traders—no one can ignore the almost-mythical white
Welcome to Chechnya
- David France
Russian activists take unimaginable risks to smuggle persecuted
LGBTQ+ people out of Chechnya. In this chilling documentary
thriller, David France films the most dangerous moments of their
- Alex Winter
With unlimited access to Frank Zappa’s extensive personal archive,
Alex Winter has crafted a striking portrait from more than a
thousand hours of material, presenting the brilliant musician and
composer as the guide to his own eventful history.