The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) added 65 titles to its lineup Tuesday, unveiling the non-competitive program sections Best of Fests, Masters and Paradocs. The 34th edition of IDFA takes place from Nov. 17-28 in Amsterdam.
Best of Fests honors award winners, critics’ picks and audience favorites from the year’s festivals. The 46 strong selection includes India-set story about estranged lovers “A Night of Knowing Nothing” by Payal Kapadia, documentary award winner at Cannes, wildlife film “The Velvet Queen,” by debut director Marie Amiguet, “Users,” an exploration of humanity’s future by Natalia Almada, and “Taming the Garden,” the slow-cinema feature by Salomé Jashi.
These are joined by buzzy audience films such as Alison Klayman’s Alanis Morissette biopic “Jagged,” and Bing Liu and Joshua Altman’s “All These Sons,” from the filmmaking team behind “Minding the Gap.” The section also pays tribute to the surprise gems from the festival circuit, including underdog award-winners “The Silence of the Mole” by Anaïs Taracena, and “Looking for Horses” by Stefan Pavlović.
Masters selects 16 titles from some of the world’s leading filmmakers. Several entries speak to the growing crossover between filmmakers working in both the fiction and documentary worlds, as seen in Andrea Arnold’s bovine experience “Cow,” and Karim Aïnouz’s “Mariner of the Mountains,” charting the director’s first trip to his father’s homeland, among other titles.
The selection also presents new work by documentary auteurs. World premieres include Helena Třeštíková’s “René – The Prisoner of Freedom,” the follow-up to her 2008 masterpiece on the titular protagonist; Mai Masri’s “Beirut: Eye of the Storm,” in which four young women document the recent uprising and lockdown in Beirut, leading up to the devastating port explosion; and Laila Pakalnina’s “Homes,” an ode to people and their houses.
Sergei Loznitsa is back with “Babi Yar. Context,” about a World War II massacre, while “Futura” brings together Italian masters Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi, and Alice Rohrwacher in a feat of collective filmmaking.
The Paradocs program showcases some of the year’s best experimental documentary art. The eight films include “Just a Movement” by renowned artist Vincent Meessen, a portrait of Omar Blondin Diop, the Senegalese artist, freedom fighter, and Jean-Luc Godard actor; “In the Belly of the Mountain,” the abstract essay film from cross-disciplinary artist Stephen Loye; and Shengze Zhu’s beautifully shot “A River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces,” which explores the pandemic situation in Wuhan, delivering an atmospheric impression of the city.
Last week, IDFA unveiled the two focus programs of its upcoming edition: The Future Tense and unConscious Bias. The festival also announced plans for the 15th edition of IDFA DocLab, and the corresponding theme program Liminal Reality. Nineteen titles were added to the selection.
The Future Tense presents “a mosaic of cinematic reflections and contemplations of the future,” through 10 titles, both old and new.
Highlights include the international premiere of “I’m So Sorry” by Zhao Liang, a slow, meditative reflection on nuclear disaster. Yael Bartana’s “Two Minutes to Midnight” explores the performative side of nuclear threats, with real-life experts staged in a fictitious setting, while “Homo Sapiens,” the acclaimed 2016 film by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, basks in the aura of abandoned ruins, imagining a time when humans no longer exist.
Other films look to imagined futures that are already past, as in Kidlat Tahimik’s “Perfumed Nightmare,” the 1970s postcolonial classic that playfully dreams of the idealized West—subverting the notion of “progress” as place. Still other films look smaller in scale, such as Peter Brosens and Dorjkhandyn Turmunkh’s 1998 gem “State of Dogs,” a mystical docu-fable of interspecies reincarnation.
Consisting of 11 new and previously released titles, unConscious Bias explores today’s discourse on the meaning of the colonial past, and the many ways that this past continues to leave its mark on the present.
At the center of the program is the 25th anniversary of Johan van der Keuken’s iconic “Amsterdam Global Village,” a journey through the city and its many intertwined cultures and inhabitants.
Other films shift the gaze to other European cities, investigating how the colonial past is hidden in their social fabric: Hito Steyerl’s early essay film “The Empty Center” considers the new walls that went up after German reunification; Senegalese-French filmmaker Alice Diop’s new film “We” travels the Paris RER B train route to encounter the diverse city dwellers who make up a collective whole.
Several new films look at the systemic nature of colonialism and its lasting grip on economic and social spheres. Jean-Gabriel Périot’s “Returning to Reims (Fragments)” delves into the archives to tell a more inclusive story of the French working class in which marginalized communities also get a say.
Other titles take a personal approach, looking to generational shifts in perspective within the filmmakers’ own families: “Now Is the Past” by Shin-ichi Ise considers how colonial propaganda lives on; and “In the Billowing Night” by Erika Etangsalé brings together myth and memory to tell a deeply personal story of slavery, uprooting, and intergenerational pain from Réunion.
In celebration of IDFA DocLab’s 15th anniversary, the festival presents the special theme program Liminal Reality: a celebration of ambiguity in life, tech, and art. Referring to an in-between state that is both familiar and unknown, Liminal Reality reflects on the collective ambiguity we now find ourselves in.
The 15th edition will see IDFA DocLab return to physical locations in Amsterdam, including Tolhuistuin, Eye, Vlaams Cultuurhuis de Brakke Grond, and ARTISPlanetarium, in addition to events and performances online and inside virtual worlds. The Interactive Conference will be spread over five days, filled with talks and live performances and presented in collaboration with leading immersive artists and thinkers Rahima Gambo, Lauren Lee McCarthy, Polymorf, Anagram, and many other special guests.