• set 19 items

    In the Masters section, IDFA selects 19 titles from today’s auteurs of documentary cinema, whose renowned names and careers never disappoint.

    Selected for Masters

    9to5: The Story of a Movement

    • Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar
    • 2020

    Dolly Parton’s hit song “9 to 5” and the 1980 comedy film of the same title were inspired by an influential women’s movement of the early 1970s. Members of this movement look back on their resistance to the disenfranchisement of female office staff.

    Bitter Love

    • Jerzy Sladkowski
    • 2020

    An extraordinarily intimate, observational portrait of passengers on a river cruise—full of drama, poetry, vulnerability, humor, and melancholy music. As Russian landscapes peacefully glide by, both young and old struggle with love.

    City Hall

    • Frederick Wiseman
    • 2020

    In long takes that compel us to listen patiently and observe, Wiseman immerses viewers in the local government of his hometown of Boston. His portrayal of how the city is run shows what it means to live together as a society.

    Crazy, Not Insane

    • Alex Gibney
    • 2020

    U.S. forensic psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis has been studying serial killers for decades. Are they simply bad or mentally disturbed? Her controversial theory is vital in a country where the distinction can make the difference between life and death.

    David Byrne’s American Utopia

    • Spike Lee
    • 2020

    Spike Lee’s spellbinding concert film of David Byrne’s Broadway show American Utopia. The former Talking Heads front man sings, talks, and even dances, as he searches for hope and connection—with a touch of politics and activism.

    Downstream to Kinshasa

    • Dieudo Hamadi
    • 2020

    A powerful record of a desperate call for justice. The civilian victims of the six-day war in Kisangani, DR Congo, in June 2000, are still waiting for compensation. They travel to the capital Kinshasa to make their voices heard.


    • Hubert Sauper
    • 2020

    A kaleidoscopic portrait of Cuba: The former epicenter of the New World has been ravaged by repeated invasions and struggled under the yoke of dictators. Now, it’s being overrun again—this time by tourists.

    The Filmmaker’s House

    • Marc Isaacs
    • 2020

    In protest against sensationalism in the documentary industry, Marc Isaacs makes a film in his own home. Blending fact and fiction, he explores the theme of hospitality and indirectly asks questions about authorship.

    Final Account

    • Luke Holland
    • 2020

    Testimonies from ordinary people who sided with the Nazis during the Second World War, whether out of fear, complacency, or conviction. Their sedate tone of voice makes the accounts of these elderly speakers even more shocking.


    • Victor Kossakovsky
    • 2020

    Minimalist and meditative monument to a sow named Gunda and her newborn piglets—with supporting roles for ecstatic cows and a one-legged chicken. The engaging scenes in black and white amount to a powerful statement that clearly makes its case.


    • Rithy Panh
    • 2020

    Rithy Panh is unrelenting as we become witnesses to human evil in an overwhelming, three-screen meditation on the mechanisms of violence. These are the same all over the world, and they all cause the same unspeakable pain and distress.


    • Sam Pollard
    • 2020

    A revealing documentary drawing on declassified documents released by the American government and the FBI that uncovers the steps taken by the intelligence service to bug Martin Luther King and discredit him.

    Nardjes A.

    • Karim Aïnouz
    • 2020

    A spectacular record of a mass demonstration against the Algerian regime in the spring of 2019. We follow a day in the life of activist Nardjes A., who voices the discontent of Algerians young and old.

    A Night at the Opera

    • Sergei Loznitsa
    • 2020

    A dream gala evening at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, composed of archive footage expertly edited to produce a dazzling society portrait of the 1950s and 1960s. With royalty, Brigitte Bardot, and the unparalleled Maria Callas.

    Paris Calligrammes

    • Ulrike Ottinger
    • 2020

    Portrait of the cultural circles director Ulrike Ottinger moved in when she arrived in 1960s Paris as an ambitious young artist from a small German town. Archive material and black-and-white footage captures the atmosphere of a turbulent period.

    Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue

    • Jia Zhang-Ke
    • 2020

    Famous Chinese authors such as Yu Hua and Jia Pingwa talk about the role of the countryside in their lives and work. A look at 70 years of Chinese history, portrayed by the chronicler of rapidly changing provincial life, Jia Zhangke.


    • Weiwei Ai
    • 2020

    Six dead, 43 missing, no convictions: that’s the final tally of the 2014 attack on a group of buses in Mexico packed with students. Ai Weiwei’s record of the broken lives of the families they left behind is an indictment of a corrupt narco-state.


    • Kazuhiro Soda
    • 2020

    After working as a psychiatrist for more than 50 years, 82-year-old Masatomo Yamamoto is about to retire—though his care and thoughtful tenderness are undiminished. A sincere and deeply moving portrait of compassion.


    • Simone Bitton
    • 2020

    A personal pilgrimage through Morocco, once home to 300,000 Jews. Long after their departure, their traces can still be seen in Jewish shrines, synagogues, neighborhoods, and cemeteries, which today are lovingly maintained by the locals.

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