Documentaries that move you
The 31st International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) was officially opened in a packed Carré theater on November 14, 2018 by Minister Sigrid Kaag for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation. Minister Kaag spoke about the great importance of filmmakers who are able to present to us the ideas, images, and emotions of others:
“Creative documentaries can make us think, see, and experience, so that we as an audience are prepared to stand up for others and build better societies, with more democracy, openness, and humanity.”
The opening film which screened that evening, Aboozar Amini’s Kabul, City in the Wind, brings together much of what is important to IDFA: the cinematic depiction of reality within a personal story, made by a new, up-and-coming talent. It’s also a story that contributes to mutual understanding and empathy: one of the powers of documentary referred to by the minister.
In 31 years of existence, IDFA has become the most significant international documentary festival in the world. The popularity of the genre has also grown exponentially during the past ten years. Documentaries are increasingly screening at the major festivals, as well as being produced and programmed by commercial super-platforms. The documentary genre is flourishing. At the same time, however, increasing commercialization is leading to documentaries being judged more and more against criteria dictated by viewing, audience, and sales figures. This can lead to uniformity and restricted scope for cinematic experimentation. The socially critical role of the documentary can also be jeopardized.
For these reasons, IDFA sees it as our task – now more than ever – to focus on a pluriform range of high-quality, creative documentaries, to offer a place for films that use unconventional visual language or complex narrative structures, and to present documentaries made from a non-Western perspective. IDFA wishes to be both an accessible festival for large audiences and a platform for cinema that exceeds expectations and stimulates a critical attitude.
IDFA 2018 was the first festival under new artistic director Orwa Nyrabia. Through a number of highly significant modifications, in his first year he took steps towards what he describes as the ‘rejuvenation’ of IDFA. In his closing speech, Nyrabia argued for an open and inclusive festival, with a greater focus on artistic authenticity, freedom of expression, gender, and pluralism within documentary. To develop the genre as an art form and to capture the times in which we live in a selection of documentaries: this is IDFA’s mission.
Cees van ‘t Hullenaar
Aboozar Amini at the IDFA 2018 Award Ceremony on November 21, 2018 in the Internationaal Theater Amsterdam.