Doc Notes from Amsterdam

Posted on December 10, 2010

Last month, ITVS Vice President of Programming Claire Aguilar attended the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). Claire offered a roundup of this year’s festival to BTB, which included a big win for Lucy Walker’s Waste Land (airing this season on Independent Lens), which picked up the Public Broadcaster IDFA Audience Award. IDFA - International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam - is, by all accounts, the world’s largest and most influential documentary film festival. 

Since 1988, the festival has been the premiere showcase for creative documentary, starting as a small festival and expanding to an 11-day event, including film screenings of world premieres and retrospectives of many kinds of documentaries.  Supplementing the screenings are debates, forums, and workshops. I consider myself very fortunate to have attended IDFA annually since 2005. Not only is it the best festival for documentaries, it also includes the premiere co-financing forum for documentaries, 

The Forum (after which many co-financing events are modeled); Docs For Sale, an in-person and online market for 500+ films for the industry; and a staggering array of events — from cocktail parties hosted by broadcasters like Arte and documentary festivals like DocsBarcelona, to IDFA’s daily Talk Show featuring debates about the current documentary landscape; announcements for jury nominations and prizes; and panel discussions and interviews. Festival Director Ally Derks estimates that 200,000 people came to IDFA this year, and that is only the international audience, not including some 40,000 Dutch/Amsterdam spectators. Also present was the international documentary producing community, as well as the Dutch Film Fund and Dutch broadcasters. The festival takes place every year in late November in Amsterdam, and marks the end of documentary film festival season in Europe, taking place after Dok Leipzig, CPH:Dox in Copenhagen, and the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.  And although Amsterdam is always a bit rainy, cold, and dark in November, there’s always an exciting film or debate happening indoors, either in the magnificent Tuchinski Theater, Club Escape, or the packed but cozy Brasserie Schiller. 

IDFA’s highest jury award for feature-length documentary is named after the Dutch documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens, whose commitment to documentary improves lives, inspires change, and moves people to action.  He embodies the spirit of IDFA, and wrote: “So with our cameras and projection lenses we should keep our pictures in focus — sharp, clear. We should be in focus with our times, with the present, in order to reveal the future.” 

This year at IDFA, nine ITVS-funded films were featured: The Team, directed by Patrick Reed, Canada (competition for feature-length doc) This Is My Picture When I Was Dead, directed by Mahmoud Al Massad, Netherlands (competition for feature-length doc) Our Summer in Tehran, directed by Justine Shapiro, USA (competition for mid-length doc) The Boy Mir, directed by Phil Grabsky, UK (Reflecting Images: Masters) Boxing Gym, directed by Fredrick Wiseman, USA (Reflecting Images: Masters) I Was Worth 50 Sheep, directed by Nima Sarvestani, Sweden (Reflecting Images: Panorama) Pushing the Elephant, directed by Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel, USA (Reflecting Images: Panorama) The Oath, directed by Laura Poitras, USA (Reflecting Images: Best of Fests) Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker, UK (Reflecting Images: Best of Fests) 

Congratulations to all the filmmakers for their showings at IDFA, and especially to Lucy Walker, whose film Waste Land (which airs on Independent Lens in April 2011) won the Public Broadcaster IDFA Audience Award. Waste Land features art photographer Vik Muniz, who is making a series of photographs of refuse scavengers at the world’s biggest refuse dump in Rio de Janeiro.


From our blog

  1. ITVS Welcomes Brandii Rice as Head of Business and Legal Affairs

    August 10, 2023

    ITVS is pleased to welcome Brandii Rice as our new Head of Business and Legal Affairs. In her role Rice will oversee business and legal affairs across the ITVS brand portfolio. In addition, she will guide licensing and business strategies to support ITVS’ content development, production, distribution and audience development goals. She will join ITVS

  2. Carrie Lozano Will Lead ITVS as President & CEO, Succeeding Sally Jo Fifer

    June 7, 2023

    Carrie Lozano joins ITVS from the Sundance Institute, where she served as director of Documentary Film and Artist Programs, supporting boundary-breaking filmmakers across the globe. At ITVS, she will continue to protect independent artists’ voices, editorial control and copyright while elevating nonfiction storytelling as an essential strategy

  3. Lisa Tawil Joins the International Board of INPUT

    June 1, 2023

    Discover how Lisa Tawil's appointment to the International Board of INPUT strengthens worldwide collaboration in public media.