The 31st edition of IDFA – International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, the world’s leading documentary festival, takes place from 14-25 November. A unique event which stretches over 10 days with more than 300 documentaries exploring new trends and new talents. The program comprises twenty section, nine competition and the Amsterdam Human Rights Award given to the documentary which portrays the theme of human rights with impressive cinematographic force.
HUNGARY 2018 by Eszter Hajdú – Twenty-eight years after the fall of communism and on the eve of a new presidential election, Hungary is about to embark on another four years of right-wing populism, with Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party remaining in power. Hungary 2018 follows the political campaign of former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and his pro-European left-wing party courageously involved in fighting Hungary’s dangerous shift to illiberal democracy.
ME – Autobiographical documentary film by both a new generation of filmmakers as well as established auteurs
HAPPY BIRTHADAY, MR. MOGRABI by Avi Mograbi – Avi Mograbi has been hired to make a film about the celebrations of Israel’s 50th anniversary. A Palestinian producer asks him to shoot footage of former Palestinian villages that were destroyed by colonists half a century ago. What’s more, the date celebrated by Israeli Jews and commemorated as the “Day of the Catastrophe” by Palestinians happens to coincide with his own 42nd birthday. A sharp analysis of the state of an entire nation and its contrasting realities.
THE MISSING PICTURE by Rithy Panh – Memories of filmmaker’s life between the ages of 13 and 17 when he and his family were driven out of Phnom Penh and deported to the countryside to the new working fields. Within four years, his parents, sister and cousin had perished. Like tens of thousands of other Cambodians whose urban origins or “intellectual” profession didn’t suit the Communist Party’s vision of a rural utopia. Clay figures give voice to people missing from the archives, which hold only propaganda and no memories of living, suffering and dying under an inhuman regime.
FRONTLIGHT – Stories not covered by mainstream media
BELLINGCAT – TRUTH IN A POST TRUTH WORLD by Hans Pool – Where is the truth? Who can we still believe in an age when governments spread fake news? Clever internet users are discovering that there are smart and accurate ways to check the facts. The film follows an international team of citizen investigative journalists who are using their knowledge of social media, reconstruction techniques and audio analysis to conduct in-depth research on hot issues.
CAUSE OF DEATH by Ramy A. Katz – On March 5, 2002, an armed terrorist opened fire on patrons at a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Police officer Salim Barakat, a member of the Druze community, was one of the first to arrive on the scene. He died a hero that night, murdered by a terrorist. Each year his family and coworkers commemorate his life. Salim’s brother Jamal has heard a rumor that lies were told about the circumstances of Salim death and starts his own investigation into the events, he digs up old documents and talks with family members, eyewitnesses and a coroner. In a desperate attempts to get to the facts, Jamal uncover uncomfortable truths about the position of his religious minority in Israel.
THE CORPORATE COUP D’ÉTAT by Fred Peabody – An investigative documentary about democracy in the United States, increasingly failing to protect its citizens, particularly the most vulnerable among them. The Corporate Coup d’État focuses on the experiences of citizens of the Rust Belt in the U.S. Midwest, where the steel industry once flourished, but where closures and outsourcing have left urban areas desolate and hopeless. It’s here that Donald Trump finds some of his most fervent supporters.
EVERYTHING MUST FALL by Rehad Desai – Student peaceful protests in South Africa. A battle cry for those struggling against universities fee increase to prevent the poorer black population from being excluded from a decent education and more widely to eradicate traditional power relationships and fundamental inequality among the genders and races. The documentary shows testimonies of who partecipated in the events a deep desire to eradicate traditional power relationships and fundamental inequality among the genders and races. The call for freely accessible, decolonized education rings louder and louder.
THE PATRIOT by Katja Fedulova – At the age of 21, Vasily Vlasov became the youngest parliamentarian in the Russian Duma. His ideals are dangerously rooted in the past. Vasily is the protégé of the ultra-nationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Strikingly, his deeply conservative party LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia), which is viewed by some as fascistic, is particularly popular among young people. The Patriot follows him during the presidential election in 2018 while campaigning out on the street, calling to mind events in 1930s Germany.
THE TRIAL OF RATKO MLADIC by Henry Singer and Rob Miller –The Bosnian War cost the lives of around 100,000 innocent people. In 2012, almost exactly 20 years after the bloody Bosnian War, whose death toll was 100,000 innocent people, the trial began of the Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladić at the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague accused of leading the siege of Sarajevo and murdering 7,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica. The documentary sheds light on the war from two angles, by on the one hand speaking to the public prosecutors and visiting victims and witnesses, and on the other interviewing Mladić’s lawyers, supporters and family members, who consider him a patriotic hero. Shocking, potent images in archive and news footage remind us of the cruelty of this dirty war.
RAILWAY MEN by Erige Sehiri – An uncompromising view behind the scenes of one of the most important Tunisian companies, the National Railway Company, reveals that little has changed in Tunisia after the euphoria of the Jasmine Revolution.The National Railway Company is one of the country’s oldest and wealthiest state-run companies. Five employees reveal a darker side of life on the railways. After the euphoria of the Jasmine Revolution, little has changed. Broken-down locomotives, hours of delays, narrowly avoided accidents, hours of overtime, the safety of railway workers and passengers at risk.
POLICE KILLING by Natasha Neri and Lula Carvalho – In Brazil over the past 20 years, more than 16,000 people have been killed in police operations. On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, a car is riddled with bullet holes. It was not a gangland shooting, but these bullets were fired by the police, and the passengers were unarmed teenagers. The stories of the mourning families contrasted with those of the military police. The footages show bleeding children plead for help, police put a pistol in the hand of a boy they have shot to death. The perpetrators claim they were merely following orders, or say government policy is to blame. They usually succeed.
ALEPPO: THE SILENCE OF THE WAR by Amir Osanlou – The many years of war have left large parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo completely devastated. The government has taken back control of the city. All that remains are silent ruins. Aleppo: The Silence of the War shows us a ghost town. There’s no human life to be seen in this film, only rusty swings, car wrecks in the courtyard, collapsed buildings everywhere.
AMERICAN DHARMA by Errol Morris – A documentary on a controversial political figure, the portrait of Steve Bannon, Trump campaign manager and former presidential strategist. Unexpectedly outsted from his post, Steve Bannon is now forming a Europe-wide far-right campaign group.
MEETING GORBACHEV by Werner Herzog and André Singer – Across a six-month period, Werner Herzog conducted three interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev. Now 87, Gorbachev speaks like a man with nothing to lose. He is respected more outside Russia than inside his country. The interviews trace Gorbachev’s rise in the Communist party, being named President of the USSR, the negotiations with Ronald Reagan to reduce nuclear weapons, the tumultuous years of glasnost.
PUTIN’S WITNESS by Vitaly Mansky – “The state is like a garden,” says Putin’s old form teacher’s husband, “you have to destroy the weed so that something worthwhile grows.” “We’ll do just that,” the lifetime president-to-be answers almost shyly and leaves his teacher’s flat, which he visited to shoot an advertising clip directed by Vitaly Mansky who, as the country’s leading documentary filmmaker, was allowed to follow and record the campaign. Documentary testimonies of the true causes and consequences of the operation “Successor” that began the Putin’s era December 31, 1999. Based on unique testimonies, the documentary features, among others, Mikhail Gorbachev e Boris Yeltsin.
BEST OF FESTS – Striking documentary films awarded and acclaimed at international festivals
FREEDOM FIELDS by Naziha Arebi – Emboldened by the Arab Spring, the Libyan women’s soccer team is dreaming of playing their first international game. However, their sport faces huge opposition in Libya, not only from conservative forces but even from more moderate circles. Three players coming from different social and political backgrounds are being followed on and off the field. Over the course of several years Freedom Fields witnesses their rattempts at getting support to be able to play while the country is descending into civil war.
ANNI by Rikun Zhu – As a campaigner for democracy, Zhang Lin is under surveillance by the totalitarian Chinese government. When he moves to another city without official permission, they punish him by banning his daughter Anni from attending school. On a square by the school, protestors mount a small but persistent demonstration. The participants hold banners explaining the circumstances, post messages on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. Anni is a testimony of the courage of the father and of a few dozen protestors. What comes out is that perhaps a modest protest is the only resistance possible.
CHAOS by Sara Fattahi – The war in Syria remains in the news and on the human spirit. Through the stories of three Syrian women, the film bears witness to the scarred existence of the survivors. One of them lives in Damascus, spending her days in silence as she grieves for her teenage son, another has fled the country to a Swedish village, where she’s coping with her traumas by painting. The third woman is the film’s director herself, who now lives in Vienna. The profound grief and inner disengagement of the three survivors depicted with close-up and zooming in a face or a hand, in their immediate surroundings.
THE SAMOUNI ROAD by Stefano Savona – Among the victims of the operation “Cast Lead”, a small community of farmers, the Samouni, Amal, Fuad, their brothers and their cousins have lost their parents, their houses and their olive trees. The neighborhood where they live is being rebuilt. As they replant trees and plow fields, they face their most difficult task: piecing together their own memory.
A THOUSAND GIRLS LIKE ME by Sahra Mani – Sexual violence against women became a punishable offense in Afghanistan in 2009, but women fear the possible consequences of bringing charges. Not Khatera, an Afghan woman in her early twenties. Her father abused her throughout her childhood, he got her pregnant several times and had a number of abortions and eventually gave birth to a daughter. With immense courage she told her story on a TV program and brought charges against her father. When the film begins, Khatera is pregnant again. Her father raped her again.
WHEN WAR COMES by Jan Gebert – Petercomes from a middle-class family, he just finished his studies, and he has a nice girlfriend. Peter is concerned about the future of Slovakia and the arrival of immigrants. He thinks it will be a war and wants to be prepared for it. He sets up a paramilitary group of dozens of men. They wear fake uniforms, use dummy weapons and give talks at high schools. The group even wants to enter politics to protect Slovakia for the Slovakians. And as long as Peter and his helpers don’t break any laws, the government won’t intervene. On the contrary, the authorities turn a blind eye to their activities clearly inspired by fascist ideology.
BACKSTAGE POLITICS – Filmmakers take us beyond the political, into the perspectives of the politicians themselves
CITIZEN HAVEL by Miroslav Janek and Pavel Koutecky – Following the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, Václav Havel became the first freely elected president of the Czech Republic in 1993. Citizen Havel follows Havel from up close, during campaign meetings, party deliberations, state visits and private matters. The portrait of the man and the statesman, of his high moralty and commitment.
PARADOCS – Films & Art
EXTINCTION by Salomé Lamas – Transnistria is a microstate on the eastern border of Moldavia. The country declared its independence in 1990, during the collapse of the Soviet Union, but it’s only recognized by three other countries, which themselves are unrecognized by the international community. Half-million inhabitants live in a political limbo. Kolja is one of the them. He’s a staunch nationalist, a Russian supporter with Moldavian passport. Extinction follows his daily life as he travels through a country where monuments keep the communist past alive.
LUMINOUS – Author-driven cinematographic experience
FREEDOM IS A BIG WORD by Guillermo Rocamora – After 13 years, a 38-year-old Palestinian named Muhammad is released from the notorious detention camp of Guantanamo, where he was starved, tortured and humiliated. He gets the chance to start a new life in Uruguay, where he’ll get a home and welfare money. He has two years, then he’ll be on his own. Freedom is a big word follows Muhammad’s daily life until the end of the two years. He studies Spanish, learns to drive, takes courses, gets married with a Uruguayan wife. At well-timed moments he speaks about his traumatic experiences in Guantánamo. He looks for work, but who will take him on?