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Once again this year, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) is taking over the Dutch capital for more than 10 days, focusing on the greatest documentaries worldwide. As one of the leading film festivals in the world, the IDFA is the largest panorama on documentary, showcasing more than 300 documentaries ranging from previously unseen to eternal classics, from heavyweight budget films to self-made amateur creations, spotlighting intimate and personal stories as well as politically committed topics. 

If not only because of the variety of its programme, the IDFA is also unique as it takes over the whole city in unison, making it vibrate with its many events displayed in major cinemas, theatres, concert halls and museums. Whether you are a switched-on documentary addict or just a cultural curious gazer, here is our selection of not-to-be-missed screenings, events and talks that will hopefully guide you for exploring new horizons. 

Best of Fest

This non-competitive section brings you the freshest and most noteworthy documentaries from this year’s competitions, and notably from the illustrious Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance or the Locarno International Film Festival. At the expense of being severely unfair by focalising on a bunch of these jewels and leaving out others, you can be sure the titles we point out are pure dynamite in the contemporary documentary landscape.

Communion, Anna Zamecka, Poland
The sensitive and humble point of view of filmmaker and anthropologist Anna Zamecka introduces us to the life of 14-year-old Ola, who between an autistic brother, an incautious father and an absent mother has no choice but to take on a premature responsibility role and renounce the carefreeness of adolescence. As the discrete camera seems to fade in front of the intimate and visceral interactions of the characters, a lyrical portrait of childhood is drawn with its lot of hopes and silent sufferings.

Gaza Surf Club, Philip Gnadt, Mickey Yamine, Germany
Taking place in the infamous setting of wrecked and desolated Gaza, this unique documentary brings to focus a group of Palestinian youngsters who project their hopes and wants of new horizons by surfing. The apocalyptically photogenic ambience of the beach is enhanced through mind-blowing shots and incredibly cinematic slow-motions.

, Alma Har’el, Israel/USA
Previously noticed for her magnificent first essay Bombay Beach, Alma Har’el takes us back into a magical journey that questions the foundations and impulses of love. It is an experimental and mesmerising film that blends documentary, fiction and myth on top of electronic music producer Flying Lotus’ aerial melodies and in the form of a delicate editing of poetic sequences.

In competition

The IDFA is also an opportunity to award prizes in many different categories by a renowned jury. From Feature-Length Documentary to First Appearance and Student Documentary, here are our personal favourites for this year’s coronations.
Gogita’s New Life, Levan Koguashvili, Georgian Republic/Croatia
Running for Feature-Length Documentary. Koguashvili’s feature introduces us to Gogita, a middle-aged ex-convict who seeks to get married and settle in a tranquil life just after coming out of prison. Against a backdrop of rural Georgia, family relations and droll situations, a stylish and moving tale unravels at the perfect junction of humour and gravity.

Almost There, Jacqueline Zünd, Switzerland
Running for First Appearance. Almost There is an aesthetic journey into the lives of three elder men who are seeking the purpose of their existence and to give their lives a meaning before it ends. The amazing composition of the shots, the daydream-inducing music as much as the lyricism of the protagonists’ voice-overs are what make this piece an incredibly creative documentary. This is a further exploration into the genre, which appears to be some kind of a cousin of Wes Anderson’s best works.

I Made You, I Kill You, Alexandru Petru Badelita, Romania
Running for Student Documentary. Do you wonder what would result of combining family footage videos, photographs, children’s drawings and digital editing in a surrealistic-like collage? Then you just need to check out the daring, honest and rough family portrait cinema graduate Petru Badelita unfolds in this short visual project. What seems to have been a necessary introspection into his childhood for the director appears to us as a fresh and poignant use of the documentary genre.


Not only is the IDFA an opportunity to the broadest public to view the largest range of documentaries from all over the world, its goal is also to reflect on the evolution of documentary and highlight the most contemporary questions in relation with the digital and technological era we are living in. Its special focus DocLab: Elastic Reality presents the newest interactive, virtual reality and digital related documentaries through a special selection.

White Spots, a Journey to the Edge of the Internet, Begtje van der Haak, Richard Vijgen, The Netherlands
Local filmmakers van der Haak and Vijgen lead our gaze out of our networked world towards the edged out ‘white spots’: no-connection lands cut off from any Internet or phone communications. From a gypsy slum in the outskirts of Sevilla, Spain, to an Amish county in Indiana, USA, they lead us through an exploration of virtually isolated areas and bring forth a fundamental reflection on the connected and technologically-driven world we have built. 

Conferences & Events

DocLab Live: The Art of Following. 21-11-2016, 20:00 at the Brakke Rode Zaal
An evening of focussing on the intrusive and networked world we are living in and the new kind of interactions and resistances that come out of it. Surrounded by the selected leading figures of digital documentary experimentations, you can expect a unique interactive and immersive live cinema experience in the presence of the talented filmmakers of the films White Spots, Follower, Wifi Whisperer, and I Am Not Home Video.

Liberation Day + Live: Laibach
. 19-11-16, 19:30 at Melkweg - Rabozaal
Don’t miss the opportunity to watch this very special musical documentary about ex-Yugoslavian rock band Laibach and the preparation of their show in North Korea for the celebration of the national Liberation Day. The incredible mise-en-scène brings a fictional perfume to this improbable narrative and a dogged humour to the austerity of the North Korean and Slovenian protagonists. The screening will be followed by a live performance by the band.

Olivia Lorrain

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