Revered British documentary director Kim Longinotto has been coming to IDFA for almost as long as the festival has been running. Many of her films have screened here – from Sisters in Law to Love Is All, Rough Aunties to Divorce Iranian Style and The Day I Will Never Forget – and the British director has often attended with her subjects in tow.
When Longinotto brought Rough Aunties – her film about a South African woman’s organisation that looks after abused kids – to IDFA, eleven of the women featured in the film travelled to the festival. “It was an amazing experience because most of them hadn’t been out of Durban, let alone South Africa.”
“I remember them being absolutely gripped,” Longinotto says of a trip they made to the Anne Frank house. “They had all lived through apartheid and grown up with signs saying ‘no blacks, no coloureds,’ so for them it was an extraordinary experience to go to a museum and see signs saying ‘no Jews’ and realise they had this real link with people who had had the same experience.”
As for herself, Longinotto relishes her trips to IDFA. “What makes it stand out is there are always lots of films you want to see. Sometimes I get daunted by the bigness of it, as I’m not very good at finding things,” she says. “But Amsterdam is the perfect place to have a film festival. It feels very safe. You can walk around at night.” She enthuses, too, about the packed cinemas and the “very attentive” audiences who are passionate about documentary.
As a non-drinker, she’ll generally take the chance during IDFA to visit Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops. “It’s a wonderful treat to be able to go and buy a spliff and smoke it without feeling you’re going to get arrested.”
Longinotto has always been an admirer of the “enormous energy” festival founder Ally Derks (who recently stood down as artistic director) brought to IDFA. “People will really only understand what Ally’s personality did for IDFA when they see the difference this year,” she says.
She is currently completing an archive-based film on the Sicilian mafia. The film will debunk the myths perpetrated by movies like The Godfather and show the grief and devastation the Mafia leave in their wake. “It is really wrecking us”, she says of the exhaustive editing process.