In support of filmmakers

Photo by Roos Trommelen.

Endorse and empower filmmakers

Faced with a tough year ahead, IDFA’s newly appointed Deputy Director and Head of the Filmmaker Support department Isabel Arrate Fernandez sought alternative ways of supporting documentary filmmakers in 2020. “We came up with a completely different setup,” she says—one that brings funding and talent development together. “In spring, we introduced the Filmmaker Support department: a new department that merged IDFA’s funding and talent development activities. The team exists for the creative support of filmmakers, with an emphasis on artistic freedom. While IDFA has developed into a yearly event not to be missed for the international industry, it’s just as important to endorse and empower filmmakers from all over the world and support them in their creative work. It’s necessary to cherish and safeguard a space where there is freedom to imagine the potential of what documentary cinema can be. “As part of the new department, we launched another talent development program: IDFA Project Space. Offering tailor-made support, the first phase of the program took place online in July, matching 10 project teams with international mentorship, one-on-one sessions, and lots of extra activities depending on the stage of the project and the teams’ individual needs. Looking ahead, IDFA Project Space will continue offering a broad array of sessions throughout the year. As long as on-site workshops remain not possible, we’ll focus on reaching mainly IDFA alumni, including filmmakers from the IDFA Competition for First Appearance, the IDFA Bertha Fund (IBF), and IDFAcademy. “We also continued with our existing activities at the IBF and IDFAcademy, but had to find new solutions to accommodate the situation. Fortunately the IBF, supported by the Bertha Foundation and Creative Europe, was able to continue grants and tailor-made support activities in 2020. Not only did we keep funding projects from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe—we actually funded more. Since many more filmmakers applied for the IBF Classic during the pandemic, we received extra support from the Ford Foundation so we could select additional projects. In the end, the IBF supported 35 projects in 2020 through our various grant programs.

“IDFA’s talent development activities, headed by Meike Statema, continued online in 2020. Like every year, we ran several support tracks throughout the year for Dutch talents, such as the IDFAcademy & NPO Fund Workshop and ZappDoc Lab, providing them with an opportunity to connect internationally. Although these workshops did follow through in 2020, we offered them in an adapted, online form.

“IDFAcademy during IDFA, one of our international talent programs usually held in four packed days during the festival, also went online. To make up for the format change, we decided to welcome a smaller group of participants. The program itinerary included an opening talk by Claire Simon, a masterclass with Gianfranco Rosi, and sessions on directing with cinematic limitations, how to start up writing your documentary, and finding your audience in a digitally overloaded world. “Of course, there was still a loss: A lot of things happen when people physically come together, and that was off the table last year. The independent documentary industry is fragile; you need a community to keep developing your own project. Documentary filmmakers invest a lot of years and money in their work, so that moment when you can show the film and feel how a theater reacts is extremely important. “It was a strange and difficult year in many aspects, but the positives were that we were able to develop and expand a lot of new ways to support filmmakers and their creative process—both now and looking beyond the pandemic.”

Isabel Arrate Fernandez, Deputy Director

The IDFA Bertha Fund is supported by Bertha Foundation, Creative Europe Media, JustFilms / Ford Foundation, Stichting de Hoorn and Special Friends+. IDFAcademy is supported by Dioraphte, VEVAM, Creative Europe Media, and Videoland. The IDFAcademy & NPO Fund Workshop and ZappDoc LAB are supported by the NPO Fund.

Project still: Nocturnes, dir. Anupama Srinivasan and Anirban Dutta.