IBF Films around the world

Film still: Aswang, dir. Alyx Ayn Arumpac (Philippines).

Festivals and Distribution

Most of the documentary films made and presented at IDFA experience many more screenings and win awards at international festivals, are broadcast on television worldwide, or are distributed in theatres and through grassroot screenings. Festival circulation and distribution of films in 2020 was, however, different and more difficult than in other years, due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, which also greatly affected the documentary film industry. Festival Circulation Film festivals were postponed, at times canceled and the majority transformed into an online edition in 2020, meaning many films were still provided a successful festival career. A selection of IBF-supported films had a successful world premiere at Sundance, before COVID-19 hit the world, and went on to have many more screenings later in the year at online festivals. These films include Once Upon a Time in Venezuela, The Mole Agent and The Earth Is Blue as an Orange, with the latter winning the Directing Award in the World Cinema Documentary Category. Another success was Downstream to Kinshasa, which received the Cannes 2020 Label and later on had its real world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Some other highlights include Sunless Shadows and Aswang, which both had their world premiere at IDFA 2019 and were very successful on the festival circuit in 2020 with respectively 32 and 37 festival screenings around the world. Another extremely remarkable accomplishment is Talking about Trees, which had its world premiere at the Berlinale in 2019, went on to have an impressive 60 festival screenings in 2019, and another 41 festival screenings in 2020.

Top 10 worldwide festival screenings in 2020 • 54 festival - Once Upon a Time in Venezuela • 46 festivals - The Earth is Blue as an Orange • 41 festivals - Talking About Trees • 37 festivals - Aswang • 33 festivals - Khartoum Offside • 32 festivals - Sunless Shadows • 20 festivals - 143 Sahara Street • 20 festivals - The Mole Agent • 20 festivals - A Tunnel • 19 festivals - Smog Town / Sumercé

Distribution in COVID-19 times

While the festival circulation remained relatively successful in 2020, the year proved almost impossible for films to be distributed through other channels. Cinemas were shut for the majority of the year, grassroots and event screenings were next to impossible due to the various global lockdowns, and undistributed films piled up with sales agents barely able to take on new films. Many planned theatrical releases were delayed for 2021. There are, however, also examples of films which dealt with the distribution restrictions due to COVID-19 in a highly creative and successful way, such as Aswang from the Philippines, by Alyx Ayn Arumpac. Read more about its outreach and impact story below.

Aswang, dir. Alyx Ayn Arumpac

Filipino director Alyx Ayn Arumpac's documentary film Aswang, which world-premiered at IDFA in 2019 and won the FIPRESCI Prize, has had an incredible journey after it received the IBF Europe - Distribution support, worth €30,000, back in February 2020. The film, which tells the harrowing story of the consequences of Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte's brutal war on drugs was set to open the first ever Manila Documentary Film Festival on 16 March 2020. With the IBF support, they planned a major theatrical tour after the festival, but then the pandemic struck. "There was a big anticipation for the film, all the TV networks were set to follow the premiere and events around it, and we knew it would create a lot of noise in the public," says the film's producer Armi Rae S. Cacanindin. Continue reading here.

Trailer Aswang, dir. Alyx Ayn Arumpac.