After Saturday’s 6-hour marathon of self-examination and introspection, 30 Years IDFA and the Future of Documentary: The Visual Voice, IDFA doccers hit the dance floor at De Balie and shook their collective booty into the small hours. They also took time out to talk about 30 years of IDFA, and to bid farewell to former festival head and founder Ally Derks.
Derk Sauer, IDFA Chairman:
Today we had a lunch with 78 of the foremost film directors who came especially to Amsterdam to celebrate Ally’s 30-year reign over IDFA. And I must say – I am not a director and I am relatively new because I am only nine years with IDFA – but the warmth, the appreciation and the respect that these people, these legends of the documentary film world, showed for Ally was unbelievable. There were quite a few tears shed this afternoon over lunch. When people talk with such warmth, and real admiration and love for Ally, it is amazing.
Looking forward, Ally of course built the biggest documentary festival in the world here in Amsterdam, but she also helped to build an extremely talented, strong and capable team… It will not be the end of the festival. (It happens very often that the founder builds something up, hasn't surrounded himself or herself with good people, then leaves and the whole thing dies.) As people said this afternoon, IDFA is not just a film festival anymore. IDFA now is an institution. IDFA is here to stay. Maybe that is the biggest tribute to Ally: that we know now that the team is strong, the organisation is healthy and that it is an institution that will go on.
Willemien van Aalst, IDFA co-founder and former director of the Netherlands Film Festival (NFF):
I was here at the very beginning, together with Adriek and Ally. I feel happy and proud, and it is really a special day. Things are changing now because Ally is leaving … but the festival is strong enough and is loved by so many filmmakers, and they are such a good team, so it will go further and change and get stronger… IDFA is not IDFA without her of course, as she is really the soul of this festival, but I am also very confident that this huge important festival institute will have a very nice future. There are a lot of things to be happy about. It is not a sad day. It is a day to be thankful. Thankful for Ally, thankful for the team and the filmmakers all over the world who together created this important festival.
Amir Labaki, director of It’s All True Festival, Brazil:
It is amazing to think that a documentary film festival has become as important as IDFA is. When it started, the idea of a festival as a world event was unheard of. Ally and IDFA made that possible in the world. What has happened since then? What do we see? It started [a series of] very strong documentary film festivals all across the world. First we had Yamagata in Asia, then we had Hot Docs in North America. We had It’s All True in Brazil in South America. We had Nyon in Switzerland. We have Encounters in South America … What I mean is that what seemed impossible 30 years ago, IDFA made possible.
Herman de Wit (former programmer, NFF):
I remember well the first year we started here at De Balie, and that all the films were screened next door in the Alfa theatres which are gone already for many, many years. It was a very nice, small festival then, but all the famous filmmakers were already there, and I remember when Frederick Wiseman was here at the first festival. I was assistant to the jury. I was very excited to help him, to be with him in Amsterdam for more than a week. It was a pleasure. And it is a pleasure to see him here again, 30 years later, still going strong; still with his bright eyes looking around, enjoying the festival.
Niek Koppen, documentary director & producer:
Today the first question [at the marathon] was, ‘what is documentary?’ and of course it is the craziest question because it is no use, it was discussed thirty years ago and it will go on for the next thirty years. But still it was really nice. I was in the audience watching. Wiseman was there. Pennebaker was there, listening to these young people. That was great … wonderful. That’s why [IDFA] is unique.
When you are into documentary film and you are in Holland, you see how important IDFA has been, and will be. It has made a huge difference. Thirty years ago when it started, the people responsible for public television saw … that there was an audience for documentary that was much bigger than they thought … and they [the broadcasters] wanted to show what they stand for and documentary was the only thing left that they could use to do that. That was very good for us, but they [first understood] that here, at IDFA.
Doreen Boonekamp, CEO Netherlands Film Fund (speaking before the event):
With an excellent understanding of the full potential of documentary storytelling, Ally Derks and her team have managed to set the standard for documentary film festivals. IDFA contributed to making the genre strong and influential, giving autonomous filmmakers a voice and capturing audiences.
Over the past 30 years, IDFA developed into the world’s leading documentary platform, connecting global audiences with filmmakers as well as becoming a platform essential to the success of documentary film industry professionals. With a clear understanding of the importance and impact of documentary storytelling, the IDFA team developed its strong pillars for professional training, funding, co-production and sales, as well as innovation and form change. The successful DocLab programme, for example, is a testimonial to this.
IDFA has created a strong international profile for the Netherlands as a documentary country. We would like to join the world’s documentary makers, funders, broadcasters, commissioning editors and documentary lovers in paying tribute to Ally for her three decades of work and achievements as a truly connecting visionary.