Mission statement

Every year, IDFA presents the best documentaries, selected from a huge field. This selection is made on the basis of clear criteria. In short, IDFA looks for documentaries that are interesting from a stylistic point of view, or are particularly innovative, relevant to social issues and successfully manage to communicate with their audiences.

Creative documentaries
IDFA has always focused on creative documentaries. This means that IDFA chooses films that have been painstakingly designed and that express the personal vision of the maker. The creative documentary is an art form. The documentary-maker is therefore an artist - not a journalist. Where the journalist attempts with his or her reports to present reality as objectively as possible, the artist follows his or her own idea. The laws of journalism therefore do not apply to the creative documentary; the documentary has its own quality criteria. Like reportage, documentaries provide insights into the world around us; but they are also characterised primarily by artistic qualities: innovation, originality, professional skill, expressiveness and cultural/historical value.


In a good documentary, the form is no less important than the content. IDFA is most interested in films that reveal the documentary tradition in a new light. In filmmakers that forge their own path, or give a new twist to an existing movement, such as direct cinema.

Whether this cinematographic renewal ensues from technical changes - such as the advent of the digital camera - or a highly personal concept of style, interest in form is a crucial characteristic of auteur cinema. For many years, IDFA has devoted attention to filmmakers with a consistent oeuvre, a clear vision of their own and recognisable signature.

Little wonder then that renowned directors such as Werner Herzog, Kazuo Hara, Robert Kramer, Michael Moore and Ulrich Seidl have all received special attention at IDFA in the past. In addition, every year brings new discoveries of interesting young innovative filmmakers; recent examples include Victor Kossakovksy, Sergei Dvortsevoy and Yoav Shamir.


A good documentary is urgent. In the same way that art is by definition critical and cannot be seen separately from the society that produces it, creative documentaries also offer a probing, surprising window on the world. This is not simply a question of collating the most up-to-date images and the latest soundbites, such as those which constantly bombard us via the media.

Documentary-makers do not spend their time chasing after the latest story. Documentaries are not fleeting, but hold a mirror up to our times. They are able to stimulate the viewer and provoke thought, by approaching the news from a different angle; by placing different accents, applying a slower rhythm, an original point of view.

The social relevance of a documentary is of great importance to IDFA. A documentary festival is the place to identify and analyse the changes taking place in our society, far from the daily media storm and protected from the superficial circus of pundits and soundbites, but nevertheless firmly rooted in the world.

Good documentaries appeal to us. Documentaries stimulate the viewer to think further, to discuss, to ask questions. The best documentaries make maximum use of the opportunity to communicate with the audience, whether through a wake-up call, teasing, shocking or even pleasing.

The latter is not always necessary. The films that finish highest in audience polls - the crowd favourites - are not necessarily those most appreciated by authorities, fellow filmmakers and critics. Sometimes, it is precisely the films that fail to unite the audience in appreciation - but rather divide opinions - that are most interesting in terms of both content and style.

Not every film IDFA selects will score well in relation to all of the above-mentioned criteria. After all, not every documentary is an obvious masterpiece. Selecting films for a festival like IDFA is all about striking the right balance. IDFA does not show only films that are guaranteed to be hits with audiences, nor does the festival select films purely on the grounds of their social relevance.

It is only when form, content and communication are each sufficiently represented that the basis can be laid for a successful festival. A festival that stimulates and offers new perspectives.
Opening film: Stranger in Paradise October 18, 2016 | IDFA 2016 will open at the Royal Theatre Carré on November 16 with Stranger in Paradise by Dutch director Guido Hendrikx, exploring the relationship between Europe and refugees in a film on the boundary between documentary and drama.
Three films selected for IBF Europe distribution support October 18, 2016 | The IDFA Bertha Fund has concluded the final selection round of 2016. Three documentaries will receive grants through the IBF Europe scheme for distribution support.
IDFA Forum Selection 2016 October 17, 2016 | The selection for IDFA Forum 2016 has been announced. This year's Forum welcomes 60 pitch teams from 25 different countries.
Film List 2016 October 10, 2016 | The full line-up for IDFA 2016 is now online. Full details on all films and programme information will be announced November 3.
IDFA Spotlight in Ramallah October 4, 2016 | IDFA will present a documentary programme during the upcoming ‘Days of Cinema’, taking place October 15-21 in Ramallah.
Special focus program: Assembling Reality October 4, 2016 | In the IDFA 2016 special focus program Assembling Reality, leading international editors - including director/editor Frederick Wiseman - will discuss the role of editing in constructing documentary narratives.
Special focus program: Shifting Perspectives September 27, 2016 | The special focus program Shifting Perspectives will investigate the role of opinion-shaping in terms of the way we see and think about race and identity, as well as the perspectives from which we do so.
Special focus program: The Quiet Eye September 20, 2016 | IDFA’s special focus program The Quiet Eye will investigate ‘slow documentary’, presenting documentary projects that take the experience of time in real life as their starting point.
Sergei Loznitsa to present Top 10 August 30, 2016 | This year’s IDFA Top 10 will be compiled by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa. His latest documentary, Austerlitz, will have its world premiere at the Venice film festival and will screen at IDFA as part of a retrospective of Loznitsa's work.
IDFA Award at Docu Rough Cut Boutique August 19, 2016 | At last night's closing ceremony of the Docu Rough Cut Boutique of the Sarajevo Film Festival, the IDFA Award was given to City of the Sun by Rati Oneli.
The Vice Documentary Pitch at IDFA July 25, 2016 | VICE returns to IDFA to launch The VICE Documentary Pitch at IDFA, offering filmmakers a chance to win a commission from the VICE documentary team. 
IDFA Bertha Fund Concludes May 2016 Selection July 12, 2016 | Eleven documentary projects from countries including Sudan, Chile, Syria, Cuba, Afghanistan and Ukraine will be supported through IDFA Bertha Fund - Classic. The selection includes new projects by Maite Alberdi, Alisa Kovalenko and Manolo Sarmiento.


IDFAindustry @IDFAindustry 2 days ago
RT @sheffdocfest: We're heading back to Amsterdam with our legendary Sheffield Doc/Fest & @Dogwoof Party at @idfa - Tue 22 Nov! RSVP: https…
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On November 16, IDFA 2016 will open at @theatercarre with Stranger in Paradise by Guido Hendrikx:… https://t.co/nOrOB9oxj1
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