10 documentaries about politics

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    To say that politics connects to everything is a well-worn cliché. But themes of power, governance, and democracy—or the lack thereof—occupy a central role in countless documentaries. In this IDFA selection, you'll find ten documentary films that look, each in their own way, at the influence of politics on society and on people's personal lives.

    From destructive forces to lighthearted overtones

    A recurring theme in the selected films is the destructive power that politics can hold. In The Chinese Mayor, for example, you witness a mayor driving his residents to despair when large parts of the city are razed to the ground in order to build tourist attractions. In the film In the Absence, on the other hand, it becomes painfully clear what the role of politics was in a major disaster with a Korean ferry.

    But there are also hopeful films. Checks and Balances shows how an Algerian newspaper tries to use knowledge and humor to maintain an adversarial approach in a difficult political climate. And a lighthearted note is provided by Ukrainian Sheriffs, a tragicomic portrait of a Ukrainian sheriff duo that, among other things, has to solve the problem of the theft of two ducks.

    From the festival to your home cinema

    The IDFA Collection includes plenty of documentaries about politics. To help you get started, this selection presents ten exceptional films on the subject that were screened at the festival in recent years. All of them can now be watched online for free or a small contribution.

    Watch online

    Checks and Balances

    • Malek Bensmaïl
    • 2015

      A nice observation of daily life in an Algerian newsroom, where the country’s political reality is conveyed with talent, intellect and humor.

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      The Chinese Mayor

      • Hao Zhou
      • 2015

        The mayor of the Chinese city of Datong embarks on an immense demolition and building project to transform his city into a tourist attraction.

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        Crocodile Gennadiy

        • Steve Hoover
        • 2015

          The modern superhero Gennadiy Mokhnenko takes the law into his own hands to save homeless child addicts in Mariupol, Ukraine.

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          Flint Is a Place

          • Zackary Canepari
          • 2016

            A powerful, stylized portrayal of the pride, hope and pent-up anger felt by the people of Flint, Michigan, a symbol of all that can go wrong with the American Dream.

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            Hissein Habré, a Chadian Tragedy

            • Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
            • 2016

              An emotional encounter with victims of the Chadian dictator Hissein Habré and his reign of terror that lasted from 1982 to 1990 – with American and French support.

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              In the Absence

              • Seung-Jun Yi
              • 2018

                A powerful and meticulous reconstruction using authentic footage of the sinking of the Korean ferry Sewol, in which more than 300 passengers and crew members died.

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                An Insignificant Man

                • Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla
                • 2016

                  The spectacular rise of the Common Man’s Party. The party logo, a broom, symbolizes their battle against the political establishment in India.

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                  Skulls, of My People

                  • Vincent Moloi
                  • 2016

                    Descendants of Namibian tribes that were deeply affected by German colonial rule fight for the return of their ancestors’ skulls.

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                    Ukrainian Sheriffs

                    • Roman Bondarchuk
                    • 2015

                      A tragicomic portrait of a two-man team of sheriffs in a remote Ukrainian village disturbed by everyday incidents and political developments.

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                      White Soldier

                      • Danielle Zini
                      • 2013

                        Palestinians, conscripts and colonists are confronted by an artist dressed as a soldier all in white, who turns deadly seriousness, humor and discipline upside down.

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