Record crowd visits annual event

AMSTERDAM — U.S. filmmakers Steve James and Michael Moore walked away with the top prizes for feature length docs on Friday at the Intl. Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, which wrapped Sunday.

James took home the VPRO Joris Ivens prize, worth 12,500 euros ($12,400), for “Stevie,” about his relationship as a Big Brother advocate with a troubled young man.

Moore’s look at guns in U.S. society, “Bowling for Columbine,” won the audience award and picked up $4,500.

A record 97,000 visitors thronged into the Dutch capital city to see the 220 docs at the 15th edition of the fest, but the mood was more serious than in recent years.

Veteran U.S. docmaker Jonathan Stack, who chaired the Joris Ivens jury, said, “Compassion, commitment and complexity” in “Stevie” “were of the highest order,” but Stack filed a jury report critical of the 21 films in the competition. “Too often good ideas lacked passionate or cohesive storytelling, there were too few women filmmakers, and no representation from the Third World,” he lamented.

The NPS Silver Wolf Award of $10,000 in the short film category went to Chinese director and cameraman Jinchuan Duan for “Interesting Times: The Secret of My Success,” an intimate look at the politics of democracy in China.

Twelve-minute short “Barbeiros” picked up the Fipresci Intl. Critics Jury award, worth $2,500, with the jury noting that Finnish helmer Mervi Junkkonen had re-created “an entire lifetime, and the lifetime of us all, in 12 minutes.”

The new $5,000 Doen award from Amnesty Intl. was split between U.S. docmaker Eugene Jarecki’s “The Trials of Henry Kissinger” and Brit helmer Kim Longinotto’s “The Day I Will Never Forget.”

The IDFA is considered the largest docfest in the world in terms of attendance by the general public; lineup of pics and sidebars, such as Docs for Sale, also drew 15,000 professionals.

At the kickoff to the fest, a scriptwriting prize for the best documentary script was awarded to Robin Van Erven Dorens, a Dutch TV veteran new to the world of longform docmaking.

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