First, Last and Always

    IDFA regular filmmaker John Appel looks back at the early days of IDFA.

    “I was still a film student when IDFA started, as a local festival on the Leidseplein. I saw my first American direct cinema films, by Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers, and I would hang out in De Balie until closing time. My dearest personal memory of the first years of IDFA was in 1992: my film about the virtuoso accordion player Johnny Meijer was turned down by the funds; my dream to make my first feature-length documentary was shattered. No money, no film. I found consolation by watching films at the festival. I was fascinated on one hand, but on the other hand I thought: I can do this as well, so there is no time to lose!

    “Right after IDFA that year I started shooting, supported by a crew that worked for free – even the film stock was gratis. It was the best decision I could have taken – even though after one day of shooting my hero died – but it was not the end of my film. It was the beginning of an unexpected story that resulted in the premiere of Johnny Meijer – Body and Soul at IDFA the year after, in the biggest hall of the small cinema next to De Balie: Alfa 1.  That film was the beginning of my career, in a way thanks to IDFA. Of course, my other film about a popular musician, André Hazes – She Believes in Me (the opening film in 1999 and winner of the main award), gave my career another boost. From that time on, I've seen how IDFA has gradually turned into the event it is now: such a landmark in the world of documentary. The year begins and ends at IDFA and whenever I travel and meet colleagues around the globe, there's no doubt about it – it’s always ‘See you again at IDFA!’”