You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

IDFA: The IDFA Bertha Fund at 20 – ‘Bringing in New Voices, Other Stories’

Standfirst: After 20 years, the Fund is still looking at new ways to nurture filmmakers from developing or oppressed countries

AMSTERDAM — As IDFA turns 30, its partners at the IDFA Bertha Fund are quietly celebrating its 20th, capping this milestone year by taking the festival opening night slot – with Mohamed Siam’s “Amal” – for the first time since 2013’s critical hit “Return To Homs,” by Talal Derki. Committed to supporting documentary filmmaking in developing countries, the fund receives nearly 1,000 submissions a year, of which it can financially support around 30 projects, offering a boost to films from Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Middle East, as well as certain countries in Eastern Europe that are not part of the E.U.

“We operate like a regular fund,” says Isabel Arrate Fernandez, its managing director. “We have selection rounds, and we give grants for development, we give grants for production, which is really just cash.”

Depending on the projects and what they need, Bertha also tries to fit them into either IDFA’s Forum market, or its training programs such as the IDFAcademy.

“We’ve tailor-made a consultancy for filmmakers and their projects, and this can be development of content or story, or editing, but we can also offer help right at the end, if they’ve made the film on their own and they need help with regard to distribution or contracts with sales agents,” Fernandez adds.

Three years ago, with support from the European Union, a new funding scheme was launched, IDFA Bertha Fund Europe.

“It was very new for us, because it turned around what we were doing. We’d spent 17 years only working with filmmakers and producers that are actually living and working in these regions – we don’t do diaspora, for example,” says Fernandez,

She continues: “Then suddenly we started to give out funding to European producers who are working with these regions. This year is the second time that we have had the first results of the films coming out of these co-productions.”

As well as “Amal”, the Bertha Fund has five key films at the festival. In Competition, there’s the German-Syrian-Lebanese co-production “Of Fathers And Sons”, Derki’s follow-up to “Return To Homs”; over in Rough Cuts, there’s a work-in-progress screening of “A Comedian In A Syrian Tragedy,” a Danish-Syrian-Palestinian-Jordanian co-production directed by Rami Farah.

“This year,” adds Fernandez, “we also have three projects pitching at the Forum. Two of them are first-timers – one project is called “People’s Hospital”, from China, another one is “Riding With Fire”, from India, and the third one is “The Mole Agent”, which is by [Chile’s] Maite Alberdi. She’s a more established filmmaker – she’s pitched before at the Forum, and last year she had a film at the festival [“The Grown Ups”]. So that’s very exciting.”

In the 20 years since the Fund started, Fernandez notes that there is no typical gestation period for a project, which can be budgeted at anything from €60,000 to €200-300,000 ($70,000-$350,000).

One Bertha-funded title, Sri Lanka’s “Demons In Paradise,” which premiered in Cannes this year, from Sri Lanka, took 10 years to make., Other filmmakers complete documentaries in two years.

“Obviously people need time to find their story. Sometimes it’s just a question of subject. But it’s also a question of life – people need to earn a living,” she said.

Arrate Fernandez recalls: “15-20 years ago, we used to receive applications for money, which was 20,000 guilders [$10,700] in those days. The budget was made only for what they had to pay in cash, for equipment and so on. There were no salaries. Thankfully that has changed.”

As Bertha goes forward, there are plans to expand further, tentatively into the area of new media and certainly into the world of film festivals, encouraging a cross-pollination of ideas and talent from that world.

But the Fund has quite literally expanded this year in a quite unexpected way. “Our financing [originally] came from the Dutch ministry for foreign affairs,” explains Fernandez. “It was development aid, and, because of that funding, we were restricted to [working from] what they call the DIC List, which is a list made by the U.N. based on the income per capita of the poorest countries in the world.”

In 2013, the Fund transferred to the Bertha Foundation, and this year made plans to change the criteria once more. “We still use that list,” says Fernandez, “but not so much as a list as a guide. And this year, we also looked at the World Press Freedom Index and added a few countries from that list that aren’t on the DIC List – countries where circumstances are difficult for filmmakers.”

Countries added include Russia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. “

“There are still a few countries that we have to cover but…,” she sighs. “Maybe someday! But that’s what we’re here for: To bring in new filmmakers, new voices, other stories and other perspectives.”

More Film

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

  • Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass

    Ventana Sur Rocks with Sales, Mass Attendance, Structural Growth

    BUENOS AIRES — Celebrating its 10th anniversary with a huge hike in attendance to over 4,000 accredited delegates, the 2018 Ventana Sur will go down in history on multiple counts: Sales and pick-ups on movies which combined social comment and entertainment value, increasingly the new foreign-language movie standard; new sections, led by a Proyecta co-production [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content