Samira Elagoz's Craigslist Allstars and Maarit Suomi-Väänänen's Minispectacles Albuquerque Straight will world premiere this weekend in a provocative double bill organised by IDFA's Paradocs strand, aimed at works going beyond the usual frame of traditional documentary.
Craiglist Allstars follows Dutch performance artist and filmmaker Elagoz as she embarks on a series of meetings with men she connects with through the Craigslist "Man Seeks Woman" listing: including a sadist pianist; a magician; an internet exhibitionist; a recently divorced English plumber; a soft porn director and a transsexual internet stripper. Some of the encounters are quite matter of fact, some awkward, others menacing.
"It's uncomfortable to watch. People make personal films about family issues but who really dares to make a film like this, to put something really at stake and play a game with that," says Paradocs programmer Joost Daamen. "Is it a feminist film? It's perhaps a perfect example of a female gaze."
Minispectacles Albuquerque Straight is a seven-minute portrait about a strange young man living in a motel with a lynx from Finnish filmmaker Suomi-Väänänen who has built her reputation on short character-driven films. "They're completely different films, but they're both very intense films and in a weird way they come together," says Daamen.
There is no overriding theme running through the selection, he says, other than the fact that many of the films are deeply personal. "I don't make my selection along thematic lines. I select films which I think can be an interesting addition to what IDFA shows in the festival."
Other works in the line-up include dissident Chinese filmmaker Huan Ying's Welcome capturing local officials in China's Sichuan province making veiled threats to lay off investigating a lung disease afflicting workers in the region. "The screen is blacked out. I think he's left the cap on his camera lens. We just hear the conversations. It's a very brave film about oppression and censorship. It's really intimidating. The Chinese official we hear talking would never have spoken in this way if he'd known it was being captured," says Daamen. The director will come to the festival.
Daamen also highlights Italian artist Yuri Ancarani's The Challenge capturing a larger-than-life weekend in Qatar in which tradition vies with modernity against a desert backdrop. "It's a film with unique imagery and exceptional sound design and hardly any dialogue. It's something you need to experience in the cinema, on the big screen," he says.
Beyond the selection, Daamen expresses satisfaction with the strand's growing connections with other art venues in the city, including Flatland Gallery, De Balie , Amsterdam Arts Weekend and photography museum Foam.
"I like the fact Paradocs is also resonating throughout the city and is visible in other locations and not always in a direct collaboration with IDFA but because IDFA is there," he says.
Melanie Bonajo, whose Progress vs Regress in which a group of older people discuss their relationship with technology is screening in the main programme, is also showing a solo exhibition at Foam at the same time as Paradocs.