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Sixteen pics chase IDFA prize

Fest dwells on man's relationship with nature

BRUSSELS — Sixteen feature-length documentaries compete for this year’s Joris Ivens award, top prize of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, which opens Thursday.

The winner, announced Dec. 1, takes home Euros 12,500 ($17,700).

Competition includes fest’s opening film “Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience.” Richard Robbins’ doc is built around letters, poems, essays and diary fragments of American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Other U.S. competitors are Ted Braun’s “Darfur Now” and Werner Herzog’s “Encounters at the End of the World,” a Discovery Channel production about people working in Antarctica.

Mankind’s relationship with nature is a strong theme. Swiss helmer Felix Tissi looks at why people go to live in deserts in “Desert — Who Is the Man?,” while survivors of a plane crash in the Andes feature in “Stranded” by Uruguay’s Gonzalo Arijon.

Chinese-Canadian Yung Chang takes a cruise in “Up the Yangtze!,” looking at the impact of the flooding caused by the Three Gorges Dam.

In “Night,” Lawrence Johnston examines Australia after dark from every angle.

Fest welcomes more than 300 docus in 20 sections. The 57 competition films, including short and medium docus, are all European premieres.

Iranian helmer Maziar Bahari is guest of honor, presenting a retrospective and his top 10 films.

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