Program sections

    Every year, our festival program showcases the latest work by beloved documentary filmmakers, reviews the past year's festival hits, presents focus programs with social or artistic urgency, and much more. There's lots to see and do! For IDFA's competitions, click here.

    Guest of Honor Patricio Guzmán: Retrospective & Top 10

    Patricio Guzmán's essay-style documentaries can be seen as chronicles of the Chilean resistance to the Pinochet regime. His films have been enormously influential for over half a century, and we are overjoyed to welcome this living legend as our Guest of Honor at IDFA 2019. During the festival, we will present ten of Guzmán's favorite films and screen a retrospective of his work.

    See the Retrospective
    See the Top 10

    Focus: Re-releasing History

    The focus program includes films comprised entirely of pre-existing footage such as archival material, home movies, and found footage. Marking the next installment in IDFA’s long-running series about the craft of documentary filmmaking, Re-releasing History looks to the filmmakers’ emotional, political act of re-interpreting history with a new gaze.

    See the selection

    Focus: It Still Hurts

    Pre-empting the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, IDFA presents a focus program that explores our world as a post-war world. It Still Hurts is the largest focus program of IDFA 2019, with titles that raise questions on the many ways contemporary life is still defined by WWII—from case studies about the cold war and postcolonialism to cinematic meditations on victims and perpetrators.

    See the selection

    Focus: The Villain

    Taking our cultural fascination with criminal infamy as a starting point, the focus program presents films which look evil straight in the eye. All films in The Villain capture an intimate, sometimes terrifying confrontation between filmmaker and protagonist, showcasing a wide array of personifications and various strategies for getting behind the scenes of the criminal persona. In doing so, the program explores the overlap between fascination and identification, and the subjective bias that drives both humanization and disgust.

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    In Frontlight, IDFA presents a selection of exceptional films that tell stories not covered by mainstream media, or films that explore familiar stories in greater depth. The program contains premieres only.

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    Luminous includes films that immerse the viewer in a cinematic experience. These documentaries are character-, story- or author-driven, and make the universal tangible through the individual. The program contains premieres only.

    See the selection


    Masters includes the latest films by auteurs whose work IDFA closely follows, and who have an unmistakable cinematic signature.

    See the selection

    IDFA on Stage

    IDFA on Stage presents a series of unique events that explore the space between documentary film and the performing arts.

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    Paradocs moves between film and art. Through innovative forms, the filmmakers seek freedom of the documentary genre.

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    Paradocs: Amsterdam Art Weekend at IDFA

    Paradocs moves between film and art. Through innovative forms, the filmmakers seek freedom of the documentary genre. This year, Paradocs remains part of our ongoing collaboration with Amsterdam Art and EYE, taking place during Amsterdam Art Weekend in the first weekend of IDFA.

    See the selection

    IDFA DocLab Spotlight

    Part of IDFA's new media program, IDFA DocLab Spotlight offers a selection of documentary art across disciplines by masters and new talents, as well as special research projects.

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    Spotlight: Venezuela & Spotlight: Sudan

    Diving into the urgent developments unfolding in Venezuela and Sudan, these sections include both film screenings and talks with the directors. With the Spotlights, IDFA aims to increase awareness, promote solidarity, and send a signal to the filmmakers: IDFA is standing by their side.

    See Spotlight: Venezuela
    See Spotlight: Sudan

    Best of Fests

    Striking documentary films from the international festival circuit are central to Best of Fests. The program showcases prize-winners, public favorites, and high-profile titles from the past year.

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    A Tribute to Pennebaker and Hegedus

    This honorary program section pays tribute to filmmaking legends D.A. Pennebaker (1925–2019) and Chris Hegedus, whose partnership helped define documentary film as we know it today. The program showcases touchstones of documentary cinema: Daybreak Express (1953), Dont Look Back (1967), Town Bloody Hall (1979), and The War Room (1993).

    See the selection