Academy Award-winning director Laura Poitras will be honored at IDFA this November with the Retrospective and Top 10 programs, the festival announced today. Two curated focus programs, Around Masculinity and Playing Reality, were also announced, in addition to the IDFA DocLab theme of Nervous Systems. The 35th edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam takes place in person from November 9 to 20, 2022.
Long prolific in the spheres of documentary and journalism, Poitras’ fearless filmmaking has changed the world as we know it. Her unflinching examination of oppression, representation, and resistance, well-known from her own body of work, finds new affinity in her Top 10 program, in which Poitras curates ten films key to the human condition. The program includes reflections on political imprisonment (Hunger by Steve McQueen; This is Not a Film by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb), incarceration and psychiatry (Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies), and genocide (Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah), among other interventions so influential on Poitras’ own view of the world, and film’s place in it. As part of the Top 10, Poitras will be in conversation with several of her selected filmmakers during the festival’s public talks program.
In the Retrospective section, IDFA presents all seven films directed by Poitras from 2003 to today. Alongside titles that made Poitras a household name, the program includes lesser-screened films such as Risk, the years-in-the-making portrait of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and her first feature Flag Wars, made in collaboration with artist Linda Goode Bryant, a cinéma vérité film co-directed with Linda Goode Bryant on the gentrification of a working-class African American neighborhood by white gays and lesbians. In celebration of the filmmaker, the festival will hold a public master talk with Poitras and IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia in Amsterdam’s historic Pathé Tuschinski cinema.
From the alpha male to toxic masculinity, the focus program interrogates the problematic social construct that is masculinity from a variety of perspectives. The curated section homes in on a blind spot in film history, inviting audiences to take a hard look at their heroes by re-reading classics such as Les Blank’s Burden of Dreams and the Maysles Brothers’ Meet Marlon Brando. Fragility comes to the fore in Heddy Honigmann’s Crazy, as do the inherent paradoxes of masculinity in Pirjo Honkasalo’s The 3 Rooms of Melancholia. Elsewhere in the program, Anand Patwardan’s Father, Son and Holy War takes up the subject through its relation to religion and nationalism, while lesser-seen titles such as Bitch Academy by Alina Rudnitskaya turn to the institutional domination of women by men. The first nine titles in the program have been announced; the remainder will be made public in October.
Bringing the drama of documentary film center stage, the titles in this focus program creatively reimagine the concept of theatricality. Clio Bernard’s The Arbor, on renowned playwright Andrea Dunbar, foregrounds the performativity of language and voice. Werner Herzog’s Little Dieter Needs to Fly iconically uses re-enactment as a documentary film instrument, while Lola Arias’ Theatre of War experiments with mise-en-scène as its protagonists revisit memories of the Falklands War. Eduardo Coutinho’s Moscow, on the other hand, deals directly with the physical space of the theater. Playing Reality is the result of a special collaboration between IDFA and Internationaal Theater Amsterdam (ITA), with more details to be announced. The first eight titles in this focus program have been made public; the remainder will be made public in October.
With the theme Nervous Systems, IDFA’s new media section returns to the heart of Amsterdam for 10 days of in-person digital and XR programming. Referring playfully to our nervous systems—both inside the body and in the reality that surrounds us—the program focuses on immersive art and experiential storytelling through different senses, art forms, and technologies. Expect digital art installations, multisensory experiences, live events, motion capture performances, and the ever-expanding metaverse, as we collectively ask: How does it feel to be alive? How can we experience the world? These questions are posed against the backdrop of the nervous times we live in, in which the biggest challenges we face today are systemic in nature, from capitalism to the climate crisis. The full list of selected projects is forthcoming.
IDFA's audience program is supported by VriendenLoterij, Deloitte, VPRO, Fonds 21, de Volkskrant, Gieskes-Strijbis Fonds, WePresent by WeTransfer, Ammodo, NPO, Oxfam Novib, IDFA Friends/Special Friends, Creative Europe Media, Netherlands Film Fund, European Cultural Foundation, VSB fonds, and Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds.
DocLab research collaboration partners include MIT Open Documentary Lab, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, ARTIS-Planetarium, Cie Gilles Jobin, Diversion cinema, National Film Board of Canada, POPKRAFT, The Immersive Storytelling Studio (National Theatre), and Flemish Cultural Center de Brakke Grond.
Photo by Jan Stürmann.