Nothing but the Sun directed by Arami Ullón
Nothing but the Sun directed by Arami Ullón

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2020 will open with the world premiere of Nothing but the Sun by Paraguayan-Swiss director Arami Ullón. A quietly earth-shattering film, Nothing but the Sun lucidly contrasts the hot, arid atmosphere of Paraguay’s Chaco region with the devastating stories of the Ayoreo people, an Indigenous community violently uprooted from their ancestral territory by white missionaries. Between past and present, forest and desert, folk songs and church hymns, Ullón’s poetic feature lays bare the raw emotions of the human condition, seen through a culture on the brink of disappearing, but not without a voice.

With the 33rd edition of the festival around the corner, the festival announced more films including the Feature-Length, First Appearance, Mid-Length, and DocLab competitions; the non-competitive DocLab Spotlight section; and the Creative Use of competition. IDFA 2020 runs in Amsterdam venues and online from November 18 until December 6, in addition to online markets (November 16 to 20).

IDFA’s festival selection includes 48% women filmmakers, with 57% women filmmakers in the competitions. The 258 titles come from 72 different countries, including co-production countries.

“Amidst all the uncertainty and big questions of this era, the films and the new media projects we watched, discussed, and selected offered us hope and affirmed our faith in the future. The IDFA 2020 program tells us, without doubt or hesitation, that documentary art is just essential, relevant, and meaningful. Here’s a more inclusive program than ever, a program that takes us a step further from the overwhelming immediate moment and shows us a larger worldview. It protects our sanity and helps us find balance in the middle of all the chaos,” said Artistic Director Orwa Nyrabia.

IDFA’s jury members for this year’s competitions includes producers such as Marie Pierre Macia, Diana Elbaum, and Els Vandevorst; critics such as Finn Halligan; directors such as Hubert Sauper, Alice Diop, and Audrius Stonys; festival directors such as Intishal Al Timimi and Christoph Terhechte; cinematographer Edward Lachman; and novelist Abdelkader Benali.

IDFA Competition for Feature-Length Documentary

Gorbachev. Heaven

  • Vitaly Mansky
  • 2020

A fascinating interview with former Russian president Mikhail
Gorbachev, one of the most influential figures of the last century,
whose rule heralded the end of the Soviet Union. In an intimate
setting, he gives his view of Russia then and now.

The Grocer’s Son, the Mayor, the Village and the World…

  • Claire Simon
  • 2020

In a one-street village in southern France, while some are harvesting
or struggling with hail, others are creating an international
streaming platform for independent documentaries. An inspiring tale
of tenacity and idealism and their salutary effects.

Inside the Red Brick Wall

  • Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers
  • 2020

A candid account of the student protests that took place at Hong
Kong Polytechnic University in 2019, culminating in a violent police
crackdown. The journalistic reporting makes this feel like a
compelling action movie.

Morning Star

  • Nantenaina Lova
  • 2020

Fishermen in Madagascar are alarmed when an Australian company
threatens to turn their sacred beach into a harbor. Filmmaker
Nantenaina Lova follows the passionate activists and paints an
engaging portrait of the villagers who refuse to give in.

Nemesis

  • Thomas Imbach
  • 2020

Zurich’s old railway station is making way for a giant prison, soon to
be filled with rejected refugees. Their testimonies urn the spectacle of
transformation, shot entirely from the filmmaker’s window, into a
vision for our times.

The New Gospel

  • Milo Rau
  • 2020

The story of the crucifixion of Jesus gains topical relevance in this
docufictional film about alarming conditions for illegal farm workers
in southern Italy. A convincing passion play, making-of film, and
powerful statement against exploitation.

Nothing but the Sun

  • Arami Ullón
  • 2020

For years, Mateo Sobode Chiqueno has been visiting Ayoreo
communities in Paraguay with an antique cassette recorder to
register conversations, stories, and songs of his people. This heritage
contains the poignant testimonies of a disappearing culture.

Odoriko

  • Yoichiro Okutani
  • 2020

Odoriko are the dancers of the dying Japanese striptease theater. An
intimate observation of the moments backstage when, stripped of
their costumes, they chat, eat, and philosophize—until it’s time to get
ready for the next act.

Radiograph of a Family

  • Firouzeh Khosrovani
  • 2020

Director Firouzeh Khosrovani is the daughter of a secular father and
a devout Muslim mother, co-existing under one roof in Tehran. The
Islamic Revolution took place in their home, affecting every corner of
their family life.

Le temps perdu

  • Maria Alvarez
  • 2020

At a cafe in Buenos Aires, a group of aging Marcel Proust fans have
been getting together for years to read In Search of Lost Time, the
author’s seven-part classic novel. This black-and-white film
celebrates writing, reading, and bygone times.

War and Peace

  • Massimo D’Anolfi, Martina Parenti
  • 2020

Every day we can witness scenes from countless violent conflicts all
over the world, through television, news sites, social media and
newspaper images. This exciting, dreamlike film explores the
intimate relationship between war and cinema.

White Cube

  • Renzo Martens
  • 2020

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 First Appearance

5 Houses

  • Bruno Gularte Barreto
  • 2020

Twenty years after he left his hometown in the south of Brazil, a
filmmaker returns. His portraits of five local people reawaken painful
memories. A bitter yet tender look at the past.

Divinations

  • Leandro Picarella
  • 2020

A remarkable Sicilian fortune teller and tarot reader helps desperate
clients with affairs of the heart, but has his own personal problems. A
mysterious yet earthly portrait with fictional elements.

Everything Will Not Be Fine

  • Adrian Pirvu, Helena Maksyom
  • 2020

The Chernobyl disaster caused Adrian’s near blindness in one eye. To
give his life meaning, he makes a film about other people affected by
this event. Falling in love with one of them changes everything, in
this moving, candid journey of discovery.

The Fifth Story

  • Ahmed Abd
  • 2020

After decades of devastating war in Iraq, the horrors are still fresh in
the minds of different generations. Their disturbing stories are
filmed in a poetic style that also cautiously opens a door to beauty
and contemplation.

The First Woman

  • Miguel Eek
  • 2020

After six years in a psychiatric institution, Eva will soon move on to
assisted living, the next step to a “normal” life. And then she has
another dream: to reunite with the son she hasn’t been in contact
with for ten years.

The Last Hillbilly

  • Diane Sara Bouzgarrou, Thomas Jenkoe
  • 2020

All the preconceptions about his community are true, born-and-bred
hillbilly Brian Ritchie admits. But there is much more to the life of
the American mountain people, as we see in this poetic portrait
imbued with musings about nature and legacy.

Nan

  • Peng Zuqiang
  • 2020

An intimate portrait in which filmmaker Peng Zuqiang follows his
uncle Nan and his elderly parents during the last years that the three
live together. A warm and sometimes humorous ode to informal
caregiving and the strength of family ties.

The Postcard

  • Asmae El Moudir
  • 2020

Finding an old picture postcard of a mountain village marks the start
of an existential journey for director Asmae El Moudir. She explores
life in Zawia, Morocco, where her mother was born.

Showgirls of Pakistan

  • Saad Khan
  • 2020

People may regard the way Afreen, Uzma, and Reema earn their
living as vulgar, but these Pakistani dancers hold their heads high
despite the threats, censorship, and prejudice. An energy-packed,
taboo-busting record of a dynamic subculture.

The Sky Is Red

  • Francina Carbonell
  • 2020

The Santiago prison fire of 2010 left 81 inmates dead. This
reconstruction reveals the vulnerability of prisoners when penal
institutions are overfull and maladministration and corruption are
the order of the day.

This Rain Will Never Stop

  • Alina Gorlova
  • 2020

While navigating the human toll of armed conflict, war refugee and
Red Cross volunteer Andriy tries to secure a sustainable future. A
striking cinematographic account of the devastating impact of war.

A Way Home

  • Karima Saidi
  • 2020

Filmmaker Karima Saïdi’s mother has Alzheimer’s. Now, they turn
their thoughts back in time together, for one last time. A poetic
portrait of a complex mother-daughter relationship, renewed
acquaintance, and a loving farewell.

IDFA Competition for Mid-Length Documentary

Anny

  • Helena Třeštíková
  • 2020

For sixteen years Czech film veteran Helena Třeštíková followed
Anny, who at the age of 46 took up sex work alongside her job as a
restroom attendant. Always a smile, always a cigarette. In just one
hour, we watch her life slip by.

Before the Dying of the Light

  • Ali Essafi
  • 2020

This glittering collage of posters, magazine covers, archive footage,
jazz music, and cartoons takes you back to the art scene of 1970s
Morocco. It was a time of excitement about the future, but was
extinguished by repression.

The Blue House

  • Hamedine Kane
  • 2020

Alpha is an artist living in the Calais Jungle refugee encampment,
where he has transformed his self-built cabin into an artwork. He
calmly continues building and drawing, and becomes a local celebrity
in this no man’s land.

A Boy

  • Vitaly Akimov
  • 2020

23-year-old Vitaly Akimov portrays his family in the shrinking
Russian provincial town of Arsenyev. His ten-year-old nephew
Stepan acts as a guide to this grim environment, appropriately filmed
in black and white.

Diving Horses

  • Camille Grosperrin
  • 2020

A wistful portrait of a small American amusement park long past its
heyday. Despite the lack of visitors, amid all the faded glory, the staff
still pins their hope on their top attraction, the High Diving Horse
Show.

Green Bank Pastoral

  • Federico Urdaneta
  • 2020

In sleepy Green Bank there’s a huge radio telescope, which means
Wi-Fi is officially prohibited. The offline village attracts a colorful
procession of electro-hypersensitive people who hope to find the
Wi-Fi-free paradise they have been searching for.

Holy Bread

  • Rahim Zabihi
  • 2020

A stark account of the highly dangerous work carried out by Kurdish
kulbars: men who become human beasts of burden and carry
extremely heavy loads across the Iranian border to support their
families.

Mothers

  • Myriam Bakir
  • 2020

In Morocco, unmarried women who become pregnant still risk
criminal prosecution and social exclusion. The Oum El Banine
association in Agadir, headed by 62-year-old feminist Mahjouba
Edbouche, is there to support them.

Rebel Objects

  • Carolina Arias Ortiz
  • 2020

A personal film in which filmmaker Carolina Arias Ortiz returns to
Costa Rica, the land of her youth. Research into the mysterious
ancient stone spheres found here offer her a new perspective on her
cultural and personal identity, and on death.

Silent Voice

  • Reka Valerik
  • 2020

Khavaj, a young Chechnyan martial arts fighter, is hiding in Belgium
because of his sexual orientation. The traumas he’s been
through caused him to lose his voice. Cut off from his family and far
from home, his only option is to reinvent himself.

Ultimina

  • Jacopo Quadri
  • 2020

More than 80 years after her birth in Tuscany farming country,
Ultimina looks back on a tough life in which men have always been
the boss. But that hasn’t quelled her energy and rebellious nature one
bit.

The Wheel

  • Nomin Lkhagvasuren
  • 2020

In Mongolia, a third of the population lives in poverty. Is that why
the suicide rate is so high? Suicide survivors and family members of
those who took their lives relate their circumstances, far removed
from the freedoms of traditional nomadic life.

IDFA DocLab Competition for Digital Storytelling

24h Sunset/Sunrise v2

  • 2020

Two screens show a live sunrise and sunset taking place at the same
time somewhere in the world, using images from unsecured
surveillance cameras. A live soundscape underscores the beauty that
is accidentally captured by surveillance.

Azibuye — The Occupation

  • Dylan Valley
  • 2019

A thought-provoking, 360-degree view of an overgrown, dilapidated
Johannesburg house squatted as a political and artistic statement by
two Black artists. Will their attitude change when they find out who
owns the house?

[The Black Man in the Cosmos]

  • Kitoko Diva
  • 2019

This installation connects jazz musician Sun Ra’s Afrofuturist visions
and the 1974 film Space Is the Place to the 2016 protests in France
prompted by the death of Adama Traoré, following his heavy-handed
arrest.

Bridge to Sovietopia

  • Marie Alice Wolfszahn
  • 2020

Like an invisible spirit, the user of this VR glides through scientific,
industrial, and cultural structures of the former Soviet Union,
weathered monuments of a vanished utopia. A memento mori for
every worldly power.

Facework

  • Kyle McDonald
  • 2020

This website and installation literally transforms the increasingly
urgent discussions surrounding automated face analysis into a game.
Can you fool the neural network as it searches for sunglasses, your
smile, or your criminal disposition?

Forensic Landscapes

  • Pablo Martinez-Zarate, Anne Huffschmid
  • 2020

In South America, thousands of victims of state terror, civil war, and
gang violence have been exhumed in recent decades by forensic
teams. This beautifully designed interactive web documentary guides
you through their work.

Later Date

  • Lauren Lee McCarthy
  • 2020

A performance in two parts that was started during lockdown, caught
between hope and fear. In part one, Lauren Lee McCarthy chats
online with people about an encounter they could have in the future.
Part two is that encounter. Later.

Orbit Diapason

  • Tabita Rezaire
  • 2020

Scientific research conducted by NASA, an African cosmology that
assumes the existence of extraterrestrial life, and mass bee die-offs
heralding the apocalypse: these are the ingredients of a powerful
appeal for human introspection and humility.

Sylvia

  • Ziv Schneider
  • 2020

Sylvia is a virtual influencer, a digitally created Instagram model. But
unlike her “colleagues” who are deployed to promote major brands,
she doesn’t possess eternal youth. On the contrary: Sylvia is ageing
rapidly and will die during IDFA.

Under the Skin

  • João Inada
  • 2020

You find yourself ducking bullets in this immersive documentary
about life in one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas. Although
it’s a brutal place, the neighborhood also has resilient residents who
keep working for a better life.

IDFA DocLab Competition for Immersive Non-Fiction

7 Sounds

  • Sam Green
  • 2020

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.

Camp Century

  • Anrick Bregman, Nicole Paglia
  • 2020

It sounds like science fiction: a military camp with its own nuclear
power plant, deep under the ice of Greenland. But the U.S.
underground army base Camp Century really did exist. In this VR
game/podcast you explore the camp and meet its people.

Corona Voicemails

  • David OReilly
  • 2020

A series of short animations based on voicemail messages left during
the first wave of coronavirus. The hypnotic, endlessly rotating visual
layers were made using a specially developed “visual synthesizer.”

Echoes of Silence

  • Tamara Shogaolu
  • 2020

Dome projections of starlit skies and animations complement this
intense audio experience. A trip into space to explore the ways the
emptiness of the universe manifests as sound at various places
around the world.

Eclipse

  • Ali Eslami
  • 2020

Alless and Lena can’t see each other—only the trails they leave. But
these two radically different entities get to know one another by
following and analyzing these traces. A live VR performance that
gives a radical new meaning to diversity.

Symbiosis

  • Marcel van Brakel
  • 2020

This VR experience for multiple users and multiple senses transports
you to a post-human future in which Homo sapiens have been
absorbed into a biotope teeming with mixed life-forms: human,
animal, and technological hybrids.

Visitors

  • David Rosenberg, Glen Neath
  • 2020

No news, no music, and no opinions—that’s what Darkfield Radio
promises. Instead it provides an immersive two-person audio
experience that takes you into a fantastic imaginary world where
hearing is the nerve center of feeling and imagination.

Virtualis

  • Matt Romein, Lydia Jessup
  • 2020

Choose a “tourist avatar” and follow the tour guides to explore the
highlights of the social VR platform VRChat. Along the way you’ll
learn about the culture of virtual role-playing, digital identities, and
the history of online social spaces.

Where There’s Smoke

  • Lance Weiler
  • 2020

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.

IDFA DocLab Spotlight

Agence

  • Pietro Gagliano
  • 2020

Play God in a universe populated by intelligent machines. You can
nurture their peaceful coexistence or plunge them into chaos and
conflict. The story of evolution in this VR game is never the same
twice.

All Kinds of Limbo, XR Broadcast

  • Toby Coffey
  • 2020

An intimate musical journey using immersive techniques to celebrate
live performance, drawing inspiration from the Caribbean influence
on British music through genres such as reggae, grime, and calypso.

The Book of Distance

  • Randall Okita
  • 2020

Director Randall Okita’s grandfather emigrated from Hiroshima to
Canada in 1935. During the Second World War he was sent to an
internment camp. This interactive reconstruction of the life of a
taciturn man fills in the gaps in history.

Corpus Misty

  • Aubrey Heichemer
  • 2020

Wandering through a labyrinth of soft shapes, the viewer encounters
stories of genderqueers and women who fall outside the norm. This
immersive VR documentary shows that there is more that connects
us than divides us.

Ferenj: A Graphic Memoir in VR

  • Ainslee Robson
  • 2020

During a VR flight through Ethiopian-American director Ainslee
Robson’s memories of Cleveland and Addis Ababa in pointillist form,
cultural dislocation and the elusiveness of her mixed-race identity
become palpable.

The Leaked Recipes Cookbook

  • Demetria Glace
  • 2020

Author Demetria Glace presents a series of intimate events based on
The Leaked Recipes Cookbook, a cookbook of recipes she fished out
from the massive data leaks in recent years.

Life Cycle Series [AR]

  • David OReilly
  • 2019

These three narrative augmented reality filters rely on people’s
customary willingness on social media to cast themselves as the
visual subject. At the same time, they put this self-centeredness
firmly into perspective.

Missing Pictures: Birds of Prey

  • Clément Deneux
  • 2019

Award-winning director Abel Ferrara talks about his
never-completed film project from 1980, Birds of Prey. Like the VR
user, he is surrounded by that film’s vision of a dystopian New York,
where a revolutionary uprising leads to urban warfare.

Motto

  • Vincent Morisset
  • 2020

An interactive novella intertwining ancient storytelling traditions
with the contemporary language of the internet. It’s a story that is
told via thousands of ultrashort video fragments made by
anonymous users all over the world—including you.

In Order of Disappearance

  • Bart van de Woestijne
  • 2019

This immersive experience is an exercise in isolation. You start
walking, and leave everything behind. Can you be alone? Or will you
disappear into an endless vacuum?

IDFA Competition for Creative Use of Archive

24h Sunset/Sunrise v2

  • 2020

Two screens show a live sunrise and sunset taking place at the same
time somewhere in the world, using images from unsecured
surveillance cameras. A live soundscape underscores the beauty that
is accidentally captured by surveillance.

Before the Dying of the Light

  • Ali Essafi
  • 2020

This glittering collage of posters, magazine covers, archive footage,
jazz music, and cartoons takes you back to the art scene of 1970s
Morocco. It was a time of excitement about the future, but was
extinguished by repression.

Dormant

  • Natalia Labaké
  • 2020

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.

The Foundation Pit

  • Andrey Gryazev
  • 2020

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.

Irradiated

  • Rithy Panh
  • 2020

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.

MLK/FBI

  • Sam Pollard
  • 2020

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
discredit him.

Paris Calligrammes

  • Ulrike Ottinger
  • 2020

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.

Radiograph of a Family

  • Firouzeh Khosrovani
  • 2020

Director Firouzeh Khosrovani is the daughter of a secular father and
a devout Muslim mother, co-existing under one roof in Tehran. The
Islamic Revolution took place in their home, affecting every corner of
their family life.

The Sky Is Red

  • Francina Carbonell
  • 2020

The Santiago prison fire of 2010 left 81 inmates dead. This
reconstruction reveals the vulnerability of prisoners when penal
institutions are overfull and maladministration and corruption are
the order of the day.

There Will Be No More Night

  • Éléonore Weber
  • 2020

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
interpretation.

Share this article ...

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Sign up for our latest updates.

Please follow us to get updates online.