International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2020 (IDFA) announced the films selected for the Dutch, short, student, and young audience competitions, as well as for the non-competitive sections Luminous, Frontlight, and IDFA on Stage.
In addition , IDFA selected Ziyara by Simone Bitton for Masters and Their Algeria by Lina Soualem for Best of Fests. The non-competitive program sections now stand at 19 titles and 48 titles respectively.
IDFA 2020 runs in Amsterdam venues and online from November 18 until December 6, in addition to online markets (November 16 to 20).
IDFA Competition for Dutch Documentary
- Heddy Honigmann
Can you still be full of lust for life when you’re over 100? Absolutely! Despite declining health, the loss of loved ones, and concerns about the future of the world, the centenarians in this documentary portrait are eager for each new day.
- Daniel Krikke
After years spent in institutions and prison, 27-year-old Bruce is looking for a way back into society. With the help of his aunt and best friend he learns, for the first time, to reflect on his habits, behavior, and feelings.
Dealing with Death
- Paul Sin Nam Rigter
Funeral director Anita is tasked with ensuring that the many cultures in the Bijlmer suburb of Amsterdam can all find their place at a proposed new funeral home. But the more she learns, the more she doubts her mission.
Here We Move Here We Groove
- Sergej Kreso
A stirring and hopeful musical story about building bridges with music. DJ Robert Soko, who came to fame with his Balkan Beats, embraces musical influences from newcomers in multicultural Europe.
In His Image
- Tami Ravid
The stories of three Israeli mothers mourning their sons who died during military service. Using semen collected shortly after their sons’ deaths, they hope to have them live on in a posthumous grandchild.
- Saskia Gubbels
Tough and tender observations of the ups and downs at an animal shelter, where humans and animals alike find unconditional love. Not every story has a happy ending, but the caregivers keep on fighting—even for the total misfits.
Silence of the Tides
- Pieter-Rim de Kroon
The passage of time is spellbinding in this cinematic tour de force about the Wadden Sea. A film that inhales and exhales along with the tides as it explores the fragile relationship between man and nature.
- Renzo Martens
Congolese plantation workers set a new precedent: they successfully co-opt the concept of the “white cube” gallery space as a means to stop the commercial exploitation of their land by multinationals such as Unilever.
IDFA Competition for Short Documentary
The Big-Headed Boy, Shamans & Samurais
- Bibhusan Basnet, Pooja Gurung
An intriguing travelogue by two filmmakers who go in search of actors in a remote Nepalese mountain village. The grainy black-and-white images allude to archive footage and ethnographic films, but in the commentary we get to hear the real story.
- Eloy Domínguez Serén
A compelling visit to the traditional Carnival in Galicia, in northwestern Spain, just ten days before the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in the region—adding another layer of significance to the nighttime scenes of the partying crowd.
Burnt. Land of Fire
- Ben Donateo
All the senses are engaged in this meticulously composed landscape film about the depopulation of the southern Italian countryside. The deafening chirping of crickets fills the otherwise deserted, barren fields. The emptiness is almost palpable.
- Alina Cyranek, Falk Schuster
Memories of the renowned Hotel Astoria in Leipzig in the days of the GDR are brought to life in a mix of archive footage and animation. Although the Stasi were always watching, former staff and guests also remember this place with nostalgia.
A Little Bit of Paradise
- Andrzej Cichocki
Beautiful details of the everyday life of a Silesian family in a remote corner of Poland. Living on the outskirts of the city, their world is inextricably linked with the nature around them.
Lost on Arrival
- Esther Polak, Ivar van Bekkum
After retiring, a man wants to return to the Caribbean island where he lived during his working life. However, advancing dementia ruins his idyllic plans. He moves there but never really arrives.
Made for Walking
- Hélène Baillot , Raphael Botiveau
Wading through knee-high snow in the mountains separating France and Italy, young West-Africans venture clandestinely across the border at night. Then they hand back the boots they received from volunteers so that the next person can cross.
- Mladen Bundalo
As an emigrant, Mladen Bundalo still feels drawn to his native country, no matter how much Bosnia and Herzegovina has changed. As he follows the life of Nenad, who is also about to emigrate, he explains his dilemmas with poetic precision.
- Jin Jiang
We follow an elderly man walking along a misty mountain path in China. Filmed in a refreshingly understated style, his journey opens up a space for philosophical reflection about what we do with our time.
- Fernanda Pessoa, Adriana Barbosa
During lockdown, two girlfriends exchange video letters between São Paulo and Los Angeles. They experiment with image, text, and sound, sharing poetic inspirations and everyday realities.
To Calm the Pig Inside
- Joanna V Arong
Filipino filmmaker Joanna Vasquez Arong looks back at the devastation that Typhoon Haiyan wreaked in her country. In just 19 minutes she tells a remarkably sensitive, personal and rich story.
- Marlén Viñayo
Geovanny became a gang member and a murderer when he was 12. In prison, he joined an evangelical church that lavished God’s forgiveness on him. However, one sin is unforgivable for both the gang and the church: Geovanny is gay.
IDFA Competition for Student Documentary
- Anne Bertille Vopiande Ndeysseit
Shilo and his family in the Central African Republic can barely get by on what he earns as a meat “pusher” (courier). Despite the many obstacles, he still dreams of a career as a marathon runner.
- Bálint Bíró
An ominous documentary viewing a global theme from the perspective of a small Hungarian community. A “landguard” and his son go on patrol in the border area near Serbia, where an invisible danger looms.
- Kamila Chojnacka
The intimate record of a family’s life in lockdown. Filmmaker Kamila Chojnacka lives with her toddler and husband in their small home. News reports and telephone conversations with her grandmother form fragile connections to the outside world.
I Don’t Feel at Home Anywhere Anymore
- Viv Li
A wistful but witty account of a trip to Beijing by filmmaker Viv Li, a Chinese art student who has been living abroad for ten years. Her stay with her family mercilessly exposes how uprooted she has become by her life abroad.
The Perfect Picture
- Hala El Kouch
Filmmaker Hala El Kouch creates a therapy session setting to confront her parents about a traumatic event. Photos of a happy family accompany a conversation that takes an unexpected turn. Has permanent damage been done to the perfect picture?
- Saara Hakkarainen
“How would you feel if you were never able to embrace your sexual orientation?” Aleksi has been struggling for years with pedophilic feelings. This sincere and honest hybrid film offers glimpses into his heartrending loneliness.
The Snow Calls
- Marjan Khosravi
After bearing three daughters, Mina has one more chance: her next child has to be a boy, or her husband will marry another woman. A painful and intimate portrait of the tension between love and tradition.
- Hovig Hagopian
The tunnels of an Armenian salt mine, 230 meters below the Earth’s surface, are home to an unusual kind of health center: a speleotherapy clinic. This magical-realistic graduation film follows the perpetual goings-on here without commentary.
- Stanislav Danylyshyn
A calmly observed black-and-white impression of daily life in one of Ukraine’s largest Roma communities. In richly textured monochrome we see the seemingly archetypal figures of mother, father, and child as they carry on a timeless way of life.
Ugoku Tokai — Moving City
- Lars Ostmann
A young man’s essayistic exploration of Tokyo’s varied rhythms. Guided by his musings and a map, we search the downtown streets, the suburbs, and the surrounding countryside for answers to life’s questions.
The Way We Wait
- Ji-Yoon Park
While the filmmaker’s grandmother is in the hospital, on the seashore an apartment building is being sculpted from sand, but the sea is already starting to wash away its foundations. Sensitive observations about the vulnerability and insecurities of life.
IDFA Competition for Kids & Docs
- Carolina Admirable García
Disarming excerpts from video diaries offer intimate glimpses into the lives of two bubbly Mexican girls, on the cusp of puberty. Lots of what these two best girlfriends do and experience is universal, but not everything.
Cabinets of Wonder
- Susanne Kim
In this virtual reality experience you enter three fantasy worlds of children who feel out of place in the real world. Glide along a river in Cameroon, dive underwater with a mermaid, and explore a planet with guinea pigs and a talking machine.
Cut the Chit Chat
- Léa Forest
Léa Forest talks to barbershop customers, boys aged between 12 and 18. Even the toughest looking guys give candid answers to forthright questions about love, sex, grief, and what it’s like to be a man.
- Edwin Mingard
Director Edwin Mingard worked with a group of young homeless people to portray their views on the world. In their short film we hear how they see contemporary Britain, as well as their collective story of abandonment and resilience.
Jano & Shiro, a Brother’s Journey
- Els van Driel, Eefje Blankevoort
An experimentally filmed account of the far-reaching consequences of Dutch asylum policy for Jano and Shiro, two brothers who fled from Syria. With music and editing at times reminiscent of a video clip.
My Family Is a Circus
- Nina Landau
A Belgian girl performs with her circus family in France for a summer. In letters to classmates she relates her experiences, her life as a circus performer, and her big dreams for the future.
- Pierfrancesco Li Donni
A coming-of-age portrait about the final school year of young people in a poor neighborhood of Palermo. There’s a stark contrast between their dreamy childhood world and the harsh realities around them.
- Lauranne Van den Heede
A lucid youth documentary about a school-age boy with autism. Felix makes serious radio items about world problems that symbolize the chaos, loneliness, and conflict he experiences on an average day.
- Nele Dehnenkamp
Fleeing from IS five years ago, Hanan crossed the Mediterranean in a rubber dinghy that almost sank. Now she has become a swimming teacher, using this newfound skill as her way of dealing with the traumatic memories.
- Ako Salemi
A beautiful observation of 12-year-old Milad, who spends his days in the Shadegan Wetlands of Iran. Life seems unhurried, and in close contact with nature, but here too the threat of drought and pollution looms.
Skies Above Hebron
- Esther Hertog, Paul King
This coming-of-age story follows the lives of three Palestinian boys from Hebron over five years. How do they cope in an environment where their freedom is constantly being curtailed by Israeli settlers and soldiers?
- Mark Waters
Felix, a 16-year-old boy with Tourette’s syndrome, allows us into his world. What he finds especially hard to deal with is the misunderstanding he often encounters. His mission is to raise awareness about the reality of Tourette’s.
- Benjamin Bucher, Agnese Làposi
Friendship, exclusion, obsessions, and insecurities: Trio shows what happens beyond the organized educational activities at a school camp and captures the familiar moments of three adolescents on their way to adulthood.
What does it feel like to be alive today? The 20 films selected for the non-competitive section Luminous answer this question from a kaleidoscope of perspectives and shifting certainties. All of them give cause to pause and reflect, prompting audiences to consider lives that aren’t their own.
- Rodrigo Reyes
499 years after the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, a conquistador washes ashore on the coast of Mexico and sets out on a journey of discovery. An original magical-realistic road movie that puts the violence of modern-day Mexico in a historical context.
- Dan Wei
Observation of a crisis in restrained black-and-white, at micro and macro level. With the Covid-19 pandemic unfolding across the globe, an elderly woman fights for her life in a hospital in China. The family refuses to budge from her side, no matter what.
Atardi — The Life of Curaçao’s Musical Genius Rudy Plaate
- Selwyn de Wind
A chronological homage to singer-songwriter Rudy Plaate, who was born in his beloved Curaçao in 1937. Now that the “singing greengrocer” has dementia, his family and friends tell the story of his colorful life with the help of archive material.
Between Fire and Water
- Viviana Gómez Echeverry
Camilo was adopted by a Quillasinga couple in southwest Colombia. Now he’s the only Black member of this indigenous community. He has been lovingly assimilated into society, but he struggles with himself and wants to find out more about his origins.
- Alicia Cano Menoni
Over 13 years, Alicia Cano filmed both her elderly grandfather in Uruguay and his distant relatives in the tiny Italian village of Bosco. A compassionate observation about dealing with impermanence and loss.
The Case You
- Alison Kuhn
Five young women who were subjected to sexual harassment and abuse of power during a film audition refuse to be victimized and instead aim for testimony and indictment in the spirit of #MeToo. On camera.
- Natalia Labaké
The granddaughter of Argentinian lawyer and politician Juan Labaké makes subtle use of old and new home videos to shed light on the subordinate role of women in politics and society, against the backdrop of the politician’s rise in the 1990s.
- Marta Romero
Distinctly untypical portrait of an elderly Spanish woman who calmly does what the director, her grandniece, tells her to do. In between all the instructions, disarming and true-to-life moments arise that are beyond anyone’s control.
Far from You I Grew
- Marie Dumora
Thirteen-year-old Nicolas was placed in a children’s home as a toddler. He has to find his way to adulthood on his own, without the help of parents, but is supported by the Odyssey and his best friend Saef.
The Hidden Shadow
- Francisco Álvarez Ríos
The annual Diablada is a colorful festival in the Ecuadorian town of Píllaro. When he puts on his mask, Ángel becomes the devil himself. “Immerse yourself,” he says, “and feel the adrenaline.”
Let My Body Speak
- Madonna Adib
This personal short film by Madonna Adib centers on her body—a body which was attracted to girls when she was growing up in Damascus, was punished for failing to follow the government’s rules, and which she now cherishes as her only real possession.
Love, It Was Not
- Maya Sarfaty
A reconstruction of the extraordinary history of a Jewish prisoner in Auschwitz and the SS officer who fell in love with her. Interviews, diary excerpts, and archive footage tell the story from multiple perspectives.
- Loïc Hobi
Told from the perspective of an algorithm and accompanied by fitting imagery, we hear the story of LonerWolf58, a member of the incel movement. The algorithm is tasked with detecting and removing his violent content.
The Night Flowers
- Omar Robles, Eduardo Esquivel
A warm and casually composed portrait of a group of queer young people in Mexico who are trying to feel at home in their conservative environment while preserving their often hard-won identities.
O arrais do mar
- Elisa Celda
A poetic portrait of nighttime activities on the Portuguese coast. A fishing net is hauled in, while further along people search out sexual encounters. The images are dark, with brief flashes of activity—like a nocturnal radiography of a territory.
- Marcel Beltrán
A lesser known Cuban escape route to the United States runs via the rainforests of Guyana and Colombia to Central America. This poignant portrait follows a group of Cubans for whom living in their native country is no longer an option.
Rumba Rules, New Genealogies
- Sammy Baloji , David Nadeau-Bernatchez
Enjoyably rough-edged glimpse into the music scene of Kinshasa, where dancers and singers alike work up a sweat so every show’s a blast. Here, music is a connecting force generated by creativity and raw energy.
- Mohamed Said Ouma
Three women on the Comoros Islands train with the national women’s basketball team for a major international tournament. Despite poverty and unemployment, the former French archipelago is proud of its independence.
Socks on Fire
- Bo McGuire
The death of director Bo McGuire’s much-loved grandmother brings to light family issues that engender melancholy, strife, and intimacy. Why did his favorite aunt become homophobic and reject her queer brother?
- Patricia Wiesse Risso
Many young Peruvian women were raped by army soldiers in the 1980s during the internal war against the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso. Decades later, they are taking the perpetrators to court to demand justice and regain their dignity.
- Lars Edman, William Johansson Kalén
After the Swedish company Boliden dumped toxic waste in the Chilean desert town of Arica in 1984, thousands of local residents fell ill. In this sequel to Toxic Playground (2009), the filmmakers follow the lawsuit against the mining company.
Brazil Is Thee Haiti Is (T)here
- Carlos Adriano
This unsettling, associative film poem uses material that includes shocking archive footage to expose the links between the current Brazilian government and bloody incidents in Haiti involving the UN peace mission in 2005 and 2006.
- Mania Akbari
Elnaz died in an air disaster on January 8, 2020, when the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran shot down the passenger plane she was in. Her husband gives full vent to his grief and rage in this fittingly unpolished film.
In My Skin
- Toni Venturi
A powerful impression of deep-rooted everyday racism in Brazil. The film is a superbly composed blend of interview clips, poetry, music, historical material, and reflections of the white filmmaker.
- Cecilia Aldarondo
When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017, the island was devastated. Residents’ initiatives to rebuild their lives are often at odds with the plans of American investors, exposing a relationship still rooted in colonization.
- Jill LI
People living in the coastal village of Wukan, South China, spend years combating corruption among local administrators. But even after a new village council is elected, democracy remains a fragile process.
The Magnitude of All Things
- Jennifer A. Abbott
In a deeply personal film journey, director Jennifer Abbott (The Corporation) draws parallels between grief for the loss of a loved one and grief for what we are losing due to the climate crisis, and explores the relationship between sorrow and hope.
- Rona Segal
A revealing account by young Israeli ex-soldiers of their mission in Hebron. Their rare, candid testimonies paint a shocking picture of the oppression of Palestinian civilians, humiliation, and needless violence. How do they feel about it now?
- Sébastien Desrosiers
Sébastien Desrosiers knows hardly anything about Rwanda, where his father was born. In this intimate and personal film, he goes in search of his roots, exactly 25 years after the genocide against the Tutsis.
The Okrestin Sisters
- Kolya Kuprich for Belarus Free Theatre
The Belarus Free Theatre exposes the abuses at the Okrestin prison in Minsk, where detainees await their appearance in court. A disturbing chapter in the long campaign to remove Europe’s last dictator.
The Rebellion of Memory
- Daniel Yépez Brito
A large number of smartphone videos, punctuated by cinematic shots and news footage, offer a dynamic perspective on both the unrest and the solidarity during mass demonstrations in Ecuador in 2019.
She Had a Dream
- Raja Amari
Ghofrane Binous is a charismatic figure who became politically active during the Tunisian national elections. In a class-based society with mostly men at the helm, this young, Black, working-class woman has plenty of obstacles to overcome.
Taking Back the Legislature
- Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers
In Hong Kong, protesters filmed the storming of the Legislative Council Complex in 2019, resulting in this turbulent and compelling visual account. Their emotional discussions reveal what is at stake for these young people.
A Thousand Cuts
- Ramona Diaz
A vivid portrait of intrepid journalist and CEO Maria Ressa. Despite slander and threats, she continues to deploy her steely yet modest personality in the fight against the populist Filipino leader Duterte.
We are the Thousand
- Anita Rivaroli
An uplifting, inspiring, and emotional music documentary about a seemingly impossible plan to record a song by the Foo Fighters with a thousand musicians. This feelgood film celebrates pipe-dreams, pluck, and perseverance.
- Daniel Lombroso
A glimpse into the extreme right-wing world of alt-right activist Richard Spencer, influencer Lauren Southern and anti-feminist Mike Cernovich. Even they had little idea of what effect their “white noise” would have.
- Yung Chang, Gong Cheng
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan, we follow several people under pressure: a driver and his pregnant wife, an infected mother and son, an emergency room doctor, an ICU nurse, and a psychologist.
IDFA on Stage
- Sam Green
Filmmaker Sam Green and musician JD Samson create a live audio performance based on seven specific sounds, producing an intimate listening experience and a mini-masterclass on the meaning of sound.
- Eliane Esther Bots
Interpreters at the Yugoslavia Tribunal lived through the war in the Balkans themselves, but to be able to do their work they had to shut out their own feelings. This voice-focused performance places their experiences center stage.
Cooking Workshops to Prepare for the End of the World #6: Tea
- Sien Vanmaele
In this small-scale workshop, Sien Vanmaele will take you in search of tranquility and solutions for troubling times, starting from your own kitchen. Can tea help to ease our apocalyptic thoughts?
- Vincent Rietveld
A radical attempt to make a climate-neutral theater play. De Warme Winkel theater collective embarks on an ascetic tour of the Netherlands by bicycle. And of course the thermostat in the auditorium will be set to freezing, so keep your coat on.
Little Ethiopia: Chez nous
- Joe Bini, Maya Daisy Hawke
Two film editors in a long-term romantic relationship engage in a filmic dialogue to unravel a mystery from their past. Life and art commingle into a form-defying performance.
- Vincent Morisset
A performance inspired by the interactive experience Motto, intertwining ancient storytelling traditions with the contemporary language of the internet. This unique live experience will be broadcast from Vincent Morisset’s studio.
Where There’s Smoke
- Lance Weiler
An intimate story unfolds during a Zoom group chat and on the online notebook Miro, about two fires that took place during artist Lance Weiler’s childhood, and how they are connected with the recent death of his father.