10 documentary films about identity

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    Identity is a largely elusive concept. It allows you to identify with something communal, while also shaping your own unique characteristics and role within a group. Identity is a continuous personal journey of discovery, and that provides many documentary filmmakers with limitless inspiration. This IDFA collection consists of ten documentary films that depict diverse identities.

    Explorations in gender and visual expressions

    Identity and gender are two topics that are intrinsically intertwined. These explorations can be a radical journey to self-discovery for children and young adults, as shown in Ballet Boys and I Am a Girl! Taking on the identity and inventive visuals of the ingenious Polaroid photo system, Instant Dreams is a rollercoaster ride into the iconic photographs. Dreaming Murakami revolves around the dreams of a Danish translator, working on the oeuvre of one of Japan’s most acclaimed authors—the documentary film is mixed with surreal visual effects that make the translator’s quest for capturing Murakami’s fantasy world palpable.

    From the festival screen to your home cinema

    The IDFA Collection consists of a large number of documentary films that explore the meaning and expressions of identity. Below you will find a selection of ten unique films that have screened at the festival in Amsterdam in recent years on the subject—now available online for free or for a small fee.

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    • Mohamed Siam
    • 2017

      At age 14, Amal is already taking part in protests on Tahrir Square. In the years after, she searches for her identity in a country in transition.

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      Ballet Boys

      • Kenneth Elvebakk
      • 2014

        Three Norwegian teenage boys dream of careers as professional ballet dancers. How do these young talents prepare for such an exceptional future?

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        The Book of Distance

        • Randall Okita
        • 2020

          Director Randall Okita’s grandfather emigrated from Hiroshima to Canada in 1935. During the Second World War he was sent to an internment camp. This interactive reconstruction of the life of a taciturn man fills in the gaps in history.

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          Déjà vu

          • Jon Bang Carlsen
          • 2015

            Using excerpts from his films, director Jon Bang Carlsen analyzes how personal experiences influence his work.

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            Dreaming Murakami

            • Nitesh Anjaan
            • 2017

              Not available in Japan: Surreal elements enrich this portrait of Mette Holm, who has been translating the work of Murakami into Danish for many years.

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              Ghosts from the Past

              • Cinta Forger, Walther Grotenhuis
              • 2014

                A young ex-con faces up to his past, dragging two sisters back into their painful shared youth.

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                • Jessica Beshir
                • 2017

                  An enchanting cinematic poem about the symbiotic relationship between an Ethiopian man and a pack of hyenas.

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                  I Am a Girl!

                  • Susan Koenen
                  • 2010

                    Thirteen-year-old Joppe is nervous about asking a nice boy out, and even more so about telling him she was born a boy.

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                    Instant Dreams

                    • Willem Baptist
                    • 2017

                      Inventive visuals in this rollercoaster ride into the ingenious Polaroid photo system. Chemistry like you’ve never seen it before.

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                      One of Us

                      • Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
                      • 2017

                        Three protagonists struggle for years to escape the extreme isolation of the Hasidic community for a life in the secular world.

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