Audience Award Overview

Democracy is the rule of the demos, usually translated as “the people.” At IDFA, the voice of the people is heard through the Audience Award. Juries are essential, to be sure. But many filmmakers prefer to win the hearts of the average festivalgoer.

IDFA’s very first Audience Award was presented in 1988 to the Lithuanian-Russian documentary The Last Judgement by Herz Frank. The most recent award went to the Spanish-Icelandic film La Chana by Lucija Stojevic in 2016.

Audience Award Winners, 1988-2016

La Chana by Lucija Stojevic

Starting with the very first festival in 1988, the list of all Audience Award winners reveals an interesting development. If you go from 1988 to 2016, the watershed year is 1995. The earliest winners were Lithuanian and Russian, a Frenchman and an Israeli. Starting in 1995, almost all winners came from Western countries, and by 1998 Dutch and Anglo-Saxons were dominating. This is probably due to huge increases in IDFA audiences. In recent years, fewer and fewer cinephiles have been coming to the festival, as compared to a wider audience. The rule of thumb seems to be that we have to be able to understand a film. The exceptions would seem to be the Holy Land, for which audiences have traditionally shown great interest, and of course music, the universal language.

2016 La Chana – Lucija Stojevic (Spain/Iceland)
2015 Sonita – Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (Iran/Germany/Switzerland)
2014 Naziha’s Spring – Gülsah Dogan (The Netherlands)
2013 Twin Sisters – Mona Friis Bertheussen (Norway)
2012 Searching for Sugar Man – Malik Bendjelloul (Sweden/United Kingdom)
2011 5 Broken Cameras – Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi (Palestine/Israel/The Netherlands/France)
2010 Waste Land – Lucy Walker (United Kingdom/Brazil)
2009 The Cove – Louie Psihoyos (United States)
2008 RiP - A Remix Manifesto – Brett Gaylor (Canada)
2007 To See If I’m Smiling – Tamar Yarom (Israel)
2006 We Are Together – Paul Taylor (United Kingdom)
2005 Sisters in Law – Florence Ayisi and Kim Longinotto (United Kingdom)
2004 The Yes Men – Dan Ollman, Sarah Price and Chris Smith (United States)
2003 My Flesh and Blood – Jonathan Karsh (United States)
2002 Bowling for Columbine – Michael Moore (United States)
2001 Offspring – Barry Stevens (Canada)
2000 Desi – Maria Ramos (The Netherlands)
1999 Crazy – Heddy Honigmann (The Netherlands)
1998 Twee vaders – Ko van Reenen (The Netherlands)
1997 Vision Man – William Long (Sweden)
1996 Blue Eyed – Bertram Verhaag (Germany/United States)
1995 Anne Frank Remembered – Jon Blair (United Kingdom)
1994 Choice and Destiny – Tsipi Reibenbach (Israel)
1993 The Belovs – Victor Kossakovsky (Russia)
1992 Black Harvest – Robin Anderson en Bob Conolly (Australia)
1991 Djembéfola – Laurent Chevalier (France)
1990 In Memory of the Day Passed By – Sharunas Bartas (Soviet Union)
1989 Skierskala – Ivars Seleckis (Latvia)
1988 The Last Judgement – Herz Frank (Latvia)

The Audience Award Top 20 (2001-2014)

We Are Together by Paul Taylor

Now we come to the films’ concrete audience scores (on a 10-point scale) from 2001-2014 (earlier data were unavailable). Regular festivalgoers will certainly recognize some titles. What’s most striking is how the scores gradually increase. Either the films got better, the audiences got kinder, or a bit of both. One film from 2002 made the Top 20, Michael Moore’s seminal Bowling for Columbine. The oldest one after that is from 2005.

2006 was a record year, with three titles in the Top 20, including the all-round best documentary of the 21st century (up until 2014) according to IDFA audiences: Paul Taylor’s AIDS documentary We Are Together.

If you look at the rest of the distribution, recent years are far more successful than the more distant past. 2014 has five titles that score higher than 9 – a very high score.

If you look at the countries of production (which really only means that the country put money into the documentary), the West (including New Zealand and Israel/Palestine) scores best. Look carefully and you’ll find one Brazilian and one Indonesian production. In this sense, the “I” in IDFA doesn’t seem international enough.

1. We Are Together (2006) – Paul Taylor (United Kingdom) 9.35
2. 5 Broken Cameras (2011) – Emad Burnat, Guy Davidi (Palestine/France/Israel/The Netherlands) 9.34
3. Naziha’s Spring (2014) – Gülsah Dogan (The Netherlands) 9.32
4. Searching for Sugar Man (2012) – Malik Bendjelloul (Sweden/United Kingdom) 9.20
5. The Look of Silence (2014) – Joshua Oppenheimer (Denmark/United Kingdom/Indonesia/Norway/Finland) 9.19
6. In the Shadow of the Sun (2012) – Harry Freeland (United Kingdom) 9,19
7. Waste Land (2010) – Lucy Walker (United Kingdom/Brazil) 9.18
8. Autumn Gold (2010) – Jan Tenhaven (Germany/Austria) 9.17
9. Alive Inside (2014) – Michael Rossato-Bennett (United States) 9.15
10. Bowling for Columbine (2002) – Michael Moore (United States) 9.12
11. The Cove (2009) – Louie Psihoyos (United States) 9.10
12. Twin Sisters (2013) – Mona Friis Bertheussen (Norway) 9.02
13. Sisters in Law (2005) – Florence Ayisi and Kim Longinotto (United Kingdom) 9.02
14. Virunga (2014) – Orlando von Einsiedel (United Kingdom) 9.01
15. Hip Hop-eration (2014) – Bryn Evans (New Zealand) 9.01
16. Souvenirs (2006) – Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat (Israel/The Netherlands) 9.00
17. The Monastery - Mr. Vig & the Nun (2006) – Pernille Rose Gronkjaer (Denmark) 9.00
18. RIP - A Remix Manifesto (2008) – Brett Gaylor (Canada) 9.00
19. The World According to Ion B. (2010) – Alexander Nanau (Romania) 8.98
20. Awake in a Bad Dream (2013) – Peter Lataster and Petra Lataster-Czisch (The Netherlands) 8.97

2007 | The Top 20 according to online audiences

Darwin's Nightmare by Hubert Sauper

As an extra, in 2007 the online audience chose 20 favorites from the first 20 years of IDFA. Memory is fickle: most of them were recent films, and the only repetition of an actual Audience Award winner was Bowling for Columbine.

1. Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) – Hubert Sauper
2. Nömadak Tx (2006) – Raúl de la Fuente
3. O amor natural (1996) – Heddy Honigmann
4. Checkpoint (2003) – Yoav Shamir
5. Bowling for Columbine (2002) – Michael Moore
6. Grizzly Man (2005) – Werner Herzog
7. City of Photos (2004) – Nishtha Jain
8. We Are Together (2006) – Paul Taylor
9. Balseros (2002) – Carlos Bosch
10. The 3 Rooms of Melancholia (2004) – Pirjo Honkasalo
11. The Boy Who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan (2003) – Phil Grabsky
12. Wheels of Fortune (2001) – Wilko Bello
13. 9 Star Hotel (2006) – Ido Haar
14. First Kill (2001) – Coco Schrijber
15. The Monastery - Mr. Vig & the Nun (2006) – Pernille Rose Gronkjaer
16. Schoffies (2006) – Marc van Fucht
17. Ghosts of Cité Soleil (2006) – Asger Leth
18. Cuba, valeur d'une Utopie (2006) – Yanara Guayasamin
19. Zigeuners van de Cauberg (2003) – Patrick Bisschops
20. The Kidnapping of Ingrid Betancourt (2003) – Victoria Bruce & Karen Hayes

Deaf Child wins VPRO Audience Award

  • Festival
  • November 24, 2017