Notes from Amsterdam: A Wrap Up of IDFA

Posted on November 29, 2011

More than a dozen ITVS docs screened at last week’s IDFA festival in Amsterdam. Senior Series producer of Independent Lens Lois Vossen participated in the special FORUM event and offered BTB this wrap up report.

The 19th FORUM took place in Amsterdam on November 21-23 as part of 25th annual International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA). The current economic crisis unfolding around us as the EU debt crisis mounts, public financing under pressure, and a dangerous decrease in airtime allocated to social issue documentaries provided an urgency to this year's FORUM. The IDFA's FORUM is the longest-standing gathering that brings together documentary filmmakers, TV stations, funds, distributors, and other financiers to support high-level documentary projects and help partner joint ventures.

I joined my fellow commissioning editors from more than 20 countries around the world including Korea, Latin America, and across Europe to learn about new documentary projects seeking support. A clear sign that technology is quickly transforming the genre and the dissemination of nonfiction content, the FORUM again offered commissioning editors access to traditional long-form projects and a wide array of cross-media and linear projects.

A total of 49 projects from around the world pitched during the three-day FORUM. Their wide-ranging topics were as diverse as the filmmakers nurturing them. Subjects included corruption in Guatemala explored through a murder mystery that plays like a crime thriller; an Iranian female teenager who hopes to overcome societal constraints and become an astronaut; and the daily lives of Afghan women imprisoned for committing “moral crimes” against the husbands who beat and abused them. ITVS also presented a Women & Girls Lead panel that was moderated by our VP of Programming Claire Aguilar, and featured Deepa Dhanraj (Director of Invoking Justice, which premiered at IDFA), Mona Eldaief (Producer of Solar Momas), Jo Lapping (BBC Storyville producer), and myself.

The panel highlighted programming that has been selected to be a part of the Women and Girls Lead campaign and served as a call to arms, encouraging both female and male filmmakers to produce more films that explore the complex rolls of women and girls changing the world. I arrived in Amsterdam in fog so thick that some flights were delayed six hours. After four days of pitching and managing to screen five films at the festival, the sun came out, just as I had to leave the city of canals. Here’s hoping that signals the birth of many new, important documentaries that will come to light in the months and years ahead. 

Read American University Professor Patricia Aufderheide's post on the school's Center for Social Media site on the importance of public funding for social-issue documentaries. Aufderheide goes on to highlight several of the ITVS-funded films that were on display at the event in Amsterdam.


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