The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) 2022 unveiled the selections for Luminous and Frontlight, two premiere-only cornerstones of the program, in addition to the lineups for live cinema section IDFA on Stage and experimental section Paradocs. The 35th edition of IDFA takes place in person from November 9 to 20, 2022.
Several films in the premiere-only section Luminous tell powerful stories of families across generations. Dear Mother, I Meant to Write about Death by Siyi Chen delicately evokes the shifting dynamics of a mother-daughter relationship in the world of cancer and caregiving. Transactions by Rumbi Katedza tells the intimate story of Zimbabwean migration through one family separated across circumstances of differing economic opportunity who, filled with longing and sacrifice, attempts to sustain each other through remittances. In Loving Martha, debut director Daniela López explores first-hand her grandmother’s fight to end the family’s cycle of abuse, as illustrated by the raw pain embedded in her tapes and diaries.
Within the premiere-only section Frontlight, a number of titles shine a light on shocking global developments in the media industry. Urgent newsroom drama While We Watched by Vinay Shukla follows a tormented Indian journalist in a landslide of fake news, budget cutbacks, and populist rhetoric. In A History of the World According to Getty Images, filmmaker Richard Misek mines the world’s largest commercial archives to examine the questionable ethics behind owning archival footage that would otherwise be public property. The Etilaat Roz by Abbas Rezaie spotlights the dedicated team behind Kabul’s best-read newspaper as their city is recaptured by the Taliban, and they face an onslaught of censorship and abuse.
Nine live cinema projects make the IDFA on Stage selection, chief among them is the international premiere of Arcadia Live, a live cinema concert of Paul Wright’s 2017 archival film with the much-anticipated score written and performed live by Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp), along with seven other musicians on stage.
Ten films are selected for Paradocs, showcasing the year’s leading experimental documentary art. Acclaimed VR artist Ali Eslami turns to film in A Stretch in Time, a surrealist work that travels to subterranean spaces to fulfill a mission at the limits of the documentary form. Hybridity remains a central concern of genre-bending films such as A Little Love Package, Gastón Solnicki’s nostalgic homage to Vienna that brings actors and non-actors together in a blend of fiction and documentary, and in Europe, in which director Philip Scheffner draws on fiction to convey the violence and absurdity of an Algerian woman on the brink of deportation in small-town France. Observational gems such as The Unstable Object II have a place in the selection as well, in which director Daniel Eisenberg applies the durational observation method to consider mass production in the 21st century.
16 films have been added to previously announced sections: seven to Masters, seven to Best of Fests, and two to Around Masculinity. New films added to Masters include the world premiere of Nishtha Jain’s The Golden Thread, the world premiere of Jos de Putter and Clara van Gool’s A Way to B, and the international premiere of Jacopo Quadri and Greta De Lazzaris’ We’re Here to Try.
Inside My Heart
- Saskia Boddeke
The boundaries between the rehearsal process and the performance of a piece are blurred in this colorful and elaborate film about the Kamak theater group, a professional ensemble for actors with intellectual disabilities.
From the Other Shore
- Maher Abi Samra
Sylvana and Mohammed, both from Lebanon, like to go for walks together. She is in a wheelchair, he is blind; as he pushes her, she guides the way. They discuss the obstacles they face on a daily basis, which are physical, but above all societal.
- Rumbi Katedza
Frank, Miles and Portia have left Zimbabwe, but often send money to the families they have left behind. They discuss the financial support via group chats and video calls because they are short of money themselves.
- Hanka Nobis
As a traditional Catholic, the young Antek holds deeply conservative views: homosexuality can be cured, Poland is for the Poles, abortion is evil, and sex before marriage is forbidden. Until he falls in love, and doubt begins to set in.
- Mohamed James Sessy Kamara
A vibrant and richly emotional portrait of spirited twin sisters Husai and Hassi. They have decided to leave Sierra Leone to seek work in the Middle East. But how can they persuade their mother that’s a good idea?
Dear Mother, I Meant to Write About Death
- Siyi Chen
Why did her mother not reveal that she had cancer? This is just the first of many questions the filmmaker has in this tender feature-length debut where mother and child explore their relationships—with illness, death and each other.
All You See
- Niki Padidar
What if you suddenly end up in a world where you’re no longer seen but stared at? This film shows the alienation this evokes for four protagonists who are new to the Netherlands. If no one knows who you used to be, are you still yourself?
Walls That Scream
- Evi Cats
Two years after the death of a resident of the disadvantaged Cureghem quarter in Brussels, the graffiti still cries out for justice. The district is changing, but the improvements aren’t intended for the current residents.
The Northeast Winds
- Nikoloz Bezhanishvili
- Jean-Marc Lacaze
On Mayotte, the only French island in the Comoros, a group of outlawed young men lead their lives in the shadows, with nothing to rely on but their dogs. An empathetic portrait of a lost existence, both rough and tender.
Art Talent Show
- Adéla Komrzý, Tomas Bojar
An award-winning documentary taking a humorous look at the entrance exams at the Prague art academy, held under the watchful eye of the receptionist. How do you apply a selection procedure to something as subjective as art?
- Sofia Paoli Thorne
Celsa looks back on her time as a political prisoner during the brutal regime of Alfredo Stroessner in Paraguay (1954-1989). Traumatic memories are reawakened when what may be the remains of her murdered husband are found.
- Xun Sero
- Samy Sidali
A documentary view of taxi driver Oussama as he crisscrosses Casablanca in his compact cab taking passengers to their destinations. His lively conversations with his customers reveal a potpourri of the city.
Shangri-La, Paradise Under Construction
- Mirka Duijn
The earthly paradise of Shangri-La was invented by James Hilton for his 1933 novel Lost Horizon. But it was rediscovered around 20 years ago—that’s what China claims, in any case. This playful investigative film unpacks all the myths and tales.
When Spring Came to Bucha
- Mila Teshaieva, Marcus Lenz
A touching documentary on the personal impact of the Russian occupation of the Bucha region in March 2022. Traumatized locals and volunteers try to restore life from the ruins, while the war is still present in cities that have suffered heavy attacks.
- Daniela López
Daniela López aims her camera at members of her own family—at her grandmother Martha, who escaped a violent marriage after 39 years, and at the rest of the family, who is struggling not only with that trauma but also with the film project itself.
- Elena Avdija
Stuntwomen Virginie, Petra and Estelle are regularly thrown down stairs, hit by cars or beaten up on film sets. Usually they play the victim, while men are the heroes. Where are the roles for action heroines?
- Katharina Pethke
Photo model Lale creates the illusion of perfection, but there’s almost no space left for the real Lale. Should she risk having a digital copy of herself made? Documentary meets science fiction in a mirror of our times.
- Burcu Melekoglu, Vuslat Karan
The Soiled Doves of Tijuana
- Jean-Charles Hue
Whether they’re all dressed up and in full make-up, or looking like the Virgin Mary, the inhabitants of the red light district of Tijuana, Mexico, live in a world of their own. Zona Norte is their home, but their minds are always elsewhere.
Between Father and Son
- Ronin Hsu
A patient family portrait in black-and-white, featuring an elderly father, who lives with his wife in the Chinese countryside, and their alcoholic son, who lives in the city. At his parents’ home, his isolation becomes tangible.
- Samereh Rezaei, Hossein Hosseini
For the second time in his life, rabab maker Gholam Nabi experiences the Taliban’s occupation of Afghanistan. Will he once again choose to only hear the sound of this musical instrument so linked to his country’s soul—in secret, or is it time to leave?
Kam Loo Tsui
- Pang-Chuan HUANG, Chunni Lin
The life-size nude statue “Kam-lōo-tsuí” survived the war and the White Terror period in a factory warehouse belonging to the family of an art-loving clinician. His sons now reminisce about their lives with the artwork, as at last it is restored.
- Lauren DeFilippo, Sam Soko
- Ander Iriarte
More than 4,000 citizens were tortured in the context of the Basque Conflict in Spain between 1960 and 2014. One of them was the filmmaker’s father. He and experts discuss the past, what torture is and how it affects the victims.
- Roopa Gogineni
Using a cardboard replica of a camera and a plastic bottle “microphone,” young revolutionaries interview demonstrators at the 2019 mass protests against Sudan’s military regime. A creative and hopeful take on a bleak situation.
The Etilaat Roz
- Abbas Rezaie
The Last Dolphin King
- Luis Ansorena Hervés, Ernest Riera
The story of the rise and fall of the controversial Spanish dolphin trainer Jose Luis Barbero. A blurry 99-second video showing him allegedly mistreating animals goes viral, opening the door to a world of deeply questionable practices.
While We Watched
- Vinay Shukla
Does independent journalism still have a future? In India, the serious news channel NDTV, with Ravish Kumar at its centre, is forced to navigate a world that’s falling prey to increasing disinformation and polarization.
- Santiago Zermeño
A group of deaf people demonstrate just how powerful sign language can be as a means of expression. Following a poetry workshop, they perform poems in a unique way, showing that imagination knows no boundaries.
My Name is Happy
- Nick Read, Ayse Toprak
An urgent portrait of Mutlu Kaya, a rising star in Turkey who survived an attack in 2015. After her sister is subsequently murdered, Kaya decides to fight against femicide and the normalization of violence against women.
Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence
- Ali Kazimi
A richly documented, vivid panorama of the bizarre history of the Sinixt, an indigenous Canadian people legally declared extinct in 1956. Sinixt activist Marilyn James and others have been fighting this injustice for decades.
Freedom, Money, a Story of CFA Franc
- Katy Lena Ndiaye
The former French colonies in Central and West Africa have been independent since 1960, but many of these countries still use the currency of the former oppressor: the CFA franc. A new generation wants to complete the process of decolonization.
The Night My Brother Disappeared
- Anna Blom
The personal quest of human rights activist Adal Neguse shows how a collective human tragedy impacts on individual lives. Survivors of a refugee boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa in 2013 tell their story.
- Giulia Giapponesi
Did the Italian partisans really sing “Bella ciao” during their struggle against fascism? The focus here is on the magic of a song that has captured the imagination of the world, with archive footage, interviews and music.
Trained to See – Three Women and the War
- Luzia Schmid
- Nirit Peled
Four Amsterdam mothers explain how their sons got in trouble with the law and were subjected to a stigmatizing crime prevention program. Despite their powerlessness and frustration, they keep fighting for their children.
- Eva Weber
Thanks to her unique palette of knowledge and experience, Angela Merkel served as the forceful and influential chancellor of Germany for 16 years. Merkel looks back on her childhood and career with vivid archive footage and a range of interviews.
- Julia Jaki
A sensitive character study of Lana, a woman who is showing herself to be a grassroots leader in a South African town where femicide is commonplace. Will she manage to get the government on board before there’s another victim?
White Balls on Walls
- Sarah Vos
Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art wants to become more diverse and inclusive. But how to go about that? An honest look behind the scenes into the sometimes-fraught process taking place in many public institutions.
A History of the World According to Getty Images
- Richard Misek
A thought-provoking examination of the term “public domain” and deconstruction of the practice that allows historical footage to be placed behind the paywalls of companies such as Getty Images after their copyrights have expired.
A Symphony for a Common Man
- José Joffily
A shocking documentary about the sabotage of a potential agreement on weapons of mass destruction between the US and Iraq in 2002. Diplomat José Bustani and others look back, condemning the US abuse of power.
The Lost Souls of Syria
- Stéphane Malterre
A calmly composed, probing account of attempts in various European countries to chart the crimes of the Syrian regime and bring the perpetrators to justice, based on thousands of smuggled photos of tortured and murdered victims.
- Sara Newens, Mina T. Son
Can a tree be racist? Residents of Crossley Tract, a historically Black neighborhood in Palm Springs, wrestled with this curious question for decades, culminating in heated discussions on national TV. The dispute is peeled away like the layers of an onion.
- Gisela Delgadillo
Raw and frank portrait of Kenya, a trans woman who lives in Mexico City. She witnessed her friend, a fellow transgender sex worker, being murdered by a client. In her long battle for justice, she can’t avoid having to face her own fears.
- Sara Suliman
The story of the development of women’s rights in Sudan is told through unique archive material and interviews with activists. We see and hear how women have been oppressed, ignored and abused for centuries, and what has changed.
IDFA on Stage
- Paul Wright
This startling collage of archival footage of the British countryside is a cross between a historical document and a psychedelic trip. The pulsating soundtrack is performed live by Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Will Gregory (Goldfrapp) plus band.
Between Nothingness and Infinity, I Began to Weep
- Maxime Jean-Baptiste
A multimedia performance about the murder of 18-year-old Lucas, the nephew of filmmaker Maxime Jean-Baptiste, reflecting on the tragedy through a combination of video footage, interviews, readings, music, dance and lighting effects.
The Eagle & the Tortoise
- Sister Sylvester
Storyteller Sister Sylvester has made a book for collective reading. The audience participates in this film-concert by reading, following directions and listening to a remarkable story about recent events in Turkey and the history of the aerial view.
- Tom Struyf
In this intimate live performance, Belgian theater director Tom Struyf tells the story of the footage he shot over several years in Willard, a tiny American hamlet, where the ruin of a psychiatric institution led him unexpectedly back to Belgium.
- Alexander Devriendt
A performance about the funeral process, the perfect occasion for combining ritual, emotion-sharing and religion. Belgian performance group Ontroerend Goed explores our relationship with life’s end in a staged ceremony.
Granma. Trombones from Havana
- Stefan Kaegi
Documentary theater in which four young Cubans reconstruct the lives of their grandparents and rewrite the history of their country. These stories are interwoven with the contemporary socio-political issues of a fast-changing Cuba.
- Joeri Heegstra
- Emma Bexell Stanisic, Stefan Bexell Stanisic
In our “attention economy”, where money is to be made from every second we spend looking at a screen, more and more people are suffering from insomnia. In this live guided group experience in VR, theater collective Bombina Bombast leads you to sleep.
- Lluís Galter
A couple at a campground in Spain are behaving very strangely, and the imaginations of three teenage girls are running wild. This playful film-about-film moves effortlessly between documentary, thriller, detective story and fairytale.
- Thunska Pansittivorakul, Phassarawin Kulsomboon
A wild collage of scenes of state oppression and suspicious deaths that have taken place in Thailand over the last 90 years. Archive footage of violence and pornography is interspersed with dance scenes and video clips, creating an audacious blend.
- Philip Scheffner
From one day to the next, an Algerian woman is driven into illegality. The life Zohra planned in France becomes an imaginary existence. Her isolation is made palpable as she literally vanishes from view.
A Little Love Package
- Gastón Solnicki
A meandering ode to Vienna and its disappearing café culture. Angeliki’s search for the perfect apartment provides the springboard for this film part fiction, part documentary in travels from Vienna to Andalusia.
Maria Schneider, 1983
- Elisabeth Subrin
Actor Maria Schneider (The Passenger, Last Tango in Paris) talks about abusive practices in the film industry, in an interview recorded in 1983. Elisabeth Subrin’s ingenious interventions in the archive material bring it into the here and now.
- Janaína Nagata
A Stretch of Time
- Ali Eslami
Underground, a disembodied figure performs a Sisyphean task in the service of a living network archive that stores fragments of memories. This production, shot in a virtual world, blends cinema, video games and virtual reality.
- Raul Domingues
A beautiful observation of the Portuguese countryside, where the land and forests are worked with attention and respect. The film shows the intimate and reciprocal relationship between people and nature as a harmonious balance of give and take.
The United States of America
- James Benning
The Unstable Object II
- Daniel Eisenberg
Prosthetics, leather gloves, and vintage jeans are all produced in factories, but in each case the relationship between product, producer and customer is very different.