Blurring the boundaries: a look into the IDFA on Stage program
Blurring the boundaries: a look into the IDFA on Stage program

Blurring the boundaries: a look into the IDFA on Stage program

Thursday, May 2
By Staff

Since its inception in 2018, the IDFA on Stage program has offered live productions that enrich the cinematic encounter by blurring the lines of film, digital media, new tech, and performing arts. While the first thing that might come to mind is live music scoring a film, the program section is much more than just adding a live component to a screening. It serves as an experimental space for immersive experiences, participatory rituals, virtual reality experiences, collective readings and more.

Over the years we have seen and celebrated a diverse array of projects, from experimental concert films to multimedia mash-ups. As long as the submitted projects embrace a certain fluidity of form, and the performance and the non-fiction artwork are somehow in dialogue with each other – this section is open to all projects and artists.

Here, we reflect with some previously participating projects what the artistic merit is of blurring the lines between live components, and on-screen film.

Spectral Transmissions (2021), directors Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher

Spectral Transmissions began as an audio storytelling and music project inspired by radio theater. During the pandemic lockdown we invited writers, poets, and filmmakers to contribute “ghost stories” that we would then score and curate into programs to be shared among the contributors. Our criteria for “ghost stories” included everything from classic chillers, to personal explorations of memory and grief, to abstract works of critical theory. In many ways the project was an attempt to combat the feeling that as members of an international community who could not be present together we had all become ghosts to one another. When in-person public life returned, we began to perform the project as a live show with our guest contributors.

The merit of blurring lines between these different disciplines is firstly the freedom and flexibility in making the work itself. For instance a narration for a film which feels cold or flat can become emotionally powerful when delivered live during a performance. The same can be said of music, cinema and visuals, or any other medium. When playing with combinations new structures and new strengths appear. In our case – and in the context of IDFA On Stage – live performance means we constantly engage the content of our work. We live it moment by moment with an audience. This reinvigorates our relationship to the material and we believe this can be felt by the audience.”

AGAIN – Live (2019), director Mario Pfeifer

“The performance AGAIN – Live is an immersive experience that delves into the complexities of civil courage and vigilante justice, inspired by our documentary Again | Noch einmal. Based on real events, the performance reenacts a violent encounter between German men and the Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seeker Schabas Al-Aziz, inviting audiences to reflect on their own reactions and perspectives. Combining film footage with live performances, the project prompts thought-provoking discussions about justice, racism, and civic responsibility. Audience members are actively engaged, with ‘jury members’ sharing personal testimonies that are broadcasted live, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and perspectives.”

Since our film set resembled a ‘stage’ the proposal for the IDFA on Stage program section was to merge a live experience for an audience to start a conversation about racist violence in public spaces. Staging the project in Amsterdam to an international audience allowed us to leave the ‘German context’ behind and discuss these issues more universally as the film, which screened on five continents in festivals and exhibitions alike, could already prove. With the live version we could get into close contact with the audience and provoke live reactions and see how productive a live performed art work could be.”

Funeral (2022), director Alexander Devriendt from Ontroerend Goed

Funeral came to fruition from a poignant moment during a funeral, where the realization of its inherently theatrical elements sparked inspiration. The performance evolved into a collective ritual of mourning, with the audience becoming integral participants. Throughout the creative process, we explored funeral customs from diverse cultures worldwide, seeking shared experiences such as communal drinking, eating, singing, and passing objects. These cultural elements formed the basis for a collective journey, celebrating the unique moment of connection among strangers. Funeral delves into themes of farewell, the finite nature of existence, and its fragility, while also celebrating the power of a unique collective experience.

As for the artistic value of blurring the boundaries between various disciplines, Ontroerend Goed continually seeks to push these boundaries in our productions. By incorporating different media like film, music, and emerging technologies, we want to reflect the complexities of our contemporary world. Strict disciplinary distinctions may be relevant for critics and academics, but for artists, such delineations can be creatively limiting.

Our experience with IDFA has always been positive, providing an enriching platform to engage with an international audience. Playing at such a renowned festival, and the insights offered by DocLab, have been invaluable. Funeral, initially an analogue performance centered on human connection, found an unexpected synergy with the technological and digital environment at IDFA.”

Between Nothingness and Infinity, I Began to Weep (2022), director Maxime Jean-Baptiste

"Between Nothingness and Infinity, I Began to Weep originated from an invitation from the Kunstenfestivaldesarts (Brussels, BE) in 2022 to create a theatrical adaptation of my ongoing film project, "Kouté vwa." Drawing from this film and my own role as a filmmaker, the story delves into the violent death of my cousin within my family in French Guiana. The performance served as a means to explore my personal emotions and connection to this tragic event.

I found it quite challenging to bridge these different disciplines, especially when you have been working predominantly in one medium, which, for me, is cinema. However, cinema is essentially a blend of various disciplines: photography, theater, digital media... so it made sense for me to create this piece on stage. Still, cinema and theater are distinct. Having a background in theater, it was, for instance, easier for me to embody my own character on stage, considering aspects such as body language, interpretation, silences, and the realization that there won't be any cuts—you have to perform the entire piece in one go.

IDFA on Stage provides a great platform for filmmakers to challenge the conventional screening format of a film. It offers an opportunity to expand a film or its concept, to extend the sound, voices, and narrative to a live audience, creating a hybrid experience where the spectator is actively engaged."

The deadline for entering projects for this year IDFA on Stage section, is unfortunately closed. Over the next couple of months, programmers and their advisors will carefully select all entries. We are looking forward to bringing you a new selection of IDFA on Stage projects at IDFA 2024.