IDFA presents the complete selection today, including the competitions for Feature-Length, Mid-Length, and First Appearance films, the IDFA DocLab competitions and Spotlight, the IDFA 2019 Opening Film, and this year’s jury members. On this momentous occasion, IDFA is delighted to announce that, as the festival stands today, 64% of the competition titles are by female filmmakers, with 47% in the total program. Additionally, 67% of the selected IDFA Forum projects are by women; 57% of IDFA Bertha Fund’s supported projects are by female filmmakers this year; and 70% of IDFAcademy’s talents are women this edition. Together, the numbers mark the highest percentage of female filmmakers in IDFA’s history.
“We are on track,” said IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia. “Reaching a fairer representation was much easier than it seemed to be. We only had to keep our goal in mind. The outstanding films that found their way to us this year was a humble reminder that we are in the presence of exceptional female filmmakers.”
The world premiere of Sunless Shadows (dir. Mehrdad Oskouei) will kick off the 32nd edition of IDFA. Filmed in a small juvenile detention center, Sunless Shadows steps into the enclosed world of five young Iranian women, all accomplices in the murder of their abusive husbands, fathers, or brothers-in-law. Through breathtaking monologues and whip-smart interactions, the beauty, humor, and tragedy of the characters’ daily lives confirms that a murder story is never simple. Women opting for violence is a complex decision—perhaps anywhere in the world. Sunless Shadows was realized with the support of the IDFA Bertha Fund.
IDFA’s flagship competition offers 12 world or international premieres from all over the world, with documentary films that put humanist filmmaking front and center. Several titles reconstruct personal histories through decades of filming: I Walk (dir. Jørgen Leth) offers a personal, fever dream-like story of aging; In a Whisper (dir. Heidi Hassan, Patricia Pérez Fernández) centers on two emigrated Cuban filmmakers whose passion for film, friendship, and freedom reunites them after years apart; Let’s Talk (dir. Marianne Khoury) sees a mother and daughter, both filmmakers, reckon with each other amidst interwoven images from the family’s archive. Docufiction film Europa, “Based on a True Story” (dir. Kivu Ruhorahoza) inverts the neocolonial gaze, offering a UK-based Rwandan filmmaker’s perspective on European life. La Mami (dir. Laura Herrero Garvín) enters the moving world of the Barba Azul Cabaret dressing room, where hired dancers take refuge from patriarchal violence. Pearl of the Desert (dir. Pushpendra Singh) takes the music documentary to new heights with a twelve-year-old Indian singer, the first in his village to spread his people’s spirit abroad.
The competition for debut feature films includes 12 titles, all world or international premieres, from engaged filmmakers with a remarkable creative vision. Pure cinematic energy abounds in Froth (dir. Ilia Povolotskiy), a portrait of a tiny, idiosyncratic community in an abandoned Russian town. Barzakh (dir. Alejandro Salgado), by the filmmaker known from the IDFA 2016 Mid-Length competition, explores the endless limbo of young Moroccan boys waiting to cross the water to Spain. Highly stylized concept films include My Darling Supermarket (dir. Tali Yankelevich), which peeks inside the dreams and dilemmas of supermarket employees in Brazil, and Speak So I Can See You (dir. Marija Stojnić), a poetic film on Radio Belgrade, one of Europe’s oldest radio stations, as we witness its inevitable modernization. Aswang (dir. Alyx Ayn Arumpac) gives a shocking account of the unprecedented violence and the moral bankruptcy in Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war. The IDFA Competition for First Appearance is made possible by the Friends of IDFA.
With 13 world premieres, the Mid-Length competition offers a constellation of diverse cinematic styles, defying expectations of the mid-length documentary format. Families navigate inner and outer turmoil in Sonny (dir. Pawel Chorzepa), a gripping and visually stunning father-son drama, and Anticlockwise (dir. Jalal Vafaee), a candid self-portrait of a political watchmaker’s family in Iran. Cutting-edge forensics meets investigative documentary in #387 (dir. Madeleine Leroyer), on the search for the identities of at least 800 drowned refugees off the Libyan coast. The Whale from Lorino (dir. Maciej Cuske), with a remote Siberian community that hunts endangered whales, subverts the anthropological genre while North (dir. Leslie Lagier) shifts from panoramic views and archival footage to contemporary Indigenous perspectives on the abandoned mines of northern Canada. Mother-child (dir. Andrea Testa) goes inside hospital walls where pregnant teens must make the decision of a lifetime through frank conversations before the camera.
The Digital Storytelling competition reveals 10 beautiful interactive stories and unexpected artistic applications for digital devices, including installations, games, 360 video, web docs, and more. Known from IDFA DocLab 2017, Tabita Rezaire returns with Mamelles Ancestrales, a cosmic video installation that fuses net art and West African spiritualism. 360 VR film The Inhabited House (dir. Diego Kompel) lovingly reconstructs the house of the filmmaker’s grandparents from personal home videos. Produced by the National Film Board of Canada, Far Away From Far Away (dir. Bruce Alcock, Jeremy Mendes) brings the story of one social entrepreneur to the smartphone. Puzzle-like web documentary Missing (dir. Kylie Boltin, Matt Smith) invites users to help solve the case of a missing Aboriginal girl, whereas A.I. installation In Event of Moon Disaster (dir. Francesca Panetta, Halsey Burgund) reveals Richard Nixon’s secret plan if the moon landing had failed.
The definitions of documentary are challenged in the Immersive Non-Fiction competition, with 10 site-specific projects such as audiowalks, live performances, room-scale mixed reality installations, and A.I. productions. Ali Eslami returns to DocLab with Nerd_Funk, a post-body virtual identity who draws from our collective online archives, co-created with Mamali Shafahi. From Vincent Morisset, DocLab selects Vast Body 22, an installation that sees, understands, and mirrors users’ movements. Room-scale VR piece Rozsypne (dir. Nienke Huitenga-Broeren, Lisa Weeda) offers a vivid personal exploration of the MH17 crash. Only Expansion (dir. Duncan Speakman), an audiowalk that live remixes the surrounding sounds of the city, transports users to the future climate.
Comprised of 16 titles, the non-competitive DocLab section offers a selection of documentary art across disciplines by masters and new talents, as well as special research projects. Highly anticipated titles include Artificial: Room One from theater collective Ontroerend Goed, co-commissioned by IDFA DocLab and the National Theatre Immersive Storytelling Studio; three notable Forensic Architecture installations presented in conjunction with the It Still Hurts focus program; Ayahuasca - The Shamanic Exhibition presented with Eye and Diversion Cinema; and a series of immersive works presented with ARTIS-Planetarium and the Berliner Festspiele.
Program sections Frontlight, Luminous, IDFA on Stage, Focus: It Still Hurts, Masters, and Best of Fests are now complete. Notable additions include titles by Alan Berliner, Anders Østergaard, Thomas Balmès, Yolande Zauberman, Barbara Kopple, and Ignacio Agüero.