documentary films

Film still: Nocturnes, dir. Anupama Srinivasan & dir. Anirban Dutta (India).

IBF Classic Selection 2020

In 2020, 12 projects received development support of maximum €5,000 each and 16 projects received support for production and post-production of maximum €17,500 each. The total amount awarded for the IBF Classic category was €318,650: €60,000 for development support and €258,650 for production and post-production support. The IBF Classic category offers direct development, production and post-production support to filmmakers from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Contributions for the development of a project play a crucial role in starting up a project. Contributions for the production phase allows filmmakers to make a start on the actual realization of their projects. Support for the post-production phase can cover all costs to have films ready for screening on television, in cinemas, and at film festivals. The 2020 selection was made up of both established and up-and-coming filmmakers, marked by a majority of female directors and several promising entries from lower-volume production countries. Highlights include projects from established filmmakers such as Malek Bensmaïl’s The Earthquake, a poetic exploration into the untold history of Algerian farmland; Tatiana Huezo’s The Echo, an atmospheric coming-of-age story set in rural Mexico; and Mohamed Siam’s Ethel, a character-driven feature on intersectional identity.

Other highlights include the projects of up-and-coming filmmakers, with several titles from lower-volume production countries such as Baby Jackfruit Baby Guava by Vietnamese director Quang Nong, a personal account of one family’s story with mental illness; Nyandeng by Akuol De Mabior, a reflexive South Sudanese and Kenyan co-production on being vice president in the world’s youngest country; and The Tongue of Water by Cambodian director Polen Ly, an observational look at the forced removal of an Indigenous community from their land. Two projects from Brazil and Venezuela are equally noteworthy, both countries with recently increased barriers to artistic freedom. These are Regarding Memory and Neglect by Brazilian director Ricardo Martensen and the Venezuelan project Casas Muertas by Rosana Matecki. Martensen received funding from the IBF for the first time in 2020. Conversely, Matecki is well known to the IBF, having previously received funding for Los Viejos (2018) and Story of a Day (2009), among other titles. Scroll down to see the complete selection.

Year of COVID-19

The amount of applications received during the second round of IBF Classic in June 2020 clearly demonstrated the effects of COVID-19 for filmmakers from the IBF regions. Where in an average selection round the Fund reviews 260-280 applications, the committee reviewed approximately 440 projects for the June round. COVID-19 appears to have forced economies to slow down, with governments freezing or cutting all financing for local film funds for economic reasons. The Fund understood from its network that some governments appear to have made use of this global pandemic as the perfect excuse to stop all film financing and reinforce their repressive regimes.

Filmmakers not only need to find ways to do their work within these repressive circumstances, the consequences of COVID-19 have decreased their income and thus endangered their livelihood and the realization of their projects. For this reason the Fund requested and received an extra grant from the Ford Foundation to be able to support an increased amount of projects in the June 2020 selection round.

Geographical Spread:

Applications from 86 different countries Selected projects from 19 different countries

669 applications in 2020

28 projects selected in 2020

Emerging Talent

First-time filmmakers: 18 (58%)

Second-time filmmakers: 7 (23%)

Total 1st and 2nd time

filmmakers: 31 (81%)

Women directors

Women directors: 18 (56%)

Women producers: 32 (67%)

In total: 50 (63%) women directors

and producers

Press Freedom

Selection from countries with press freedom under threat: 17 projects

with press freedom under

severe threat: 4 projects

In total: 21 projects (75%)

Click here to see the 2020 World Press Freedom Index

IBF Classic Selection Committee

1st IBF Classic selection round: María Campaña Ramia - Programmer, Ambulante Documentary Film Festival; Associate programmer, IDFA; Program advisor, Encuentros del Otro Cine 'EDOC' Katja Draaijer - Producer, BALDR Film Orwa Nyrabia - Artistic Director, IDFA Alex Szalat - President, Docs Up Fund Isabel Arrate Fernandez - Deputy Director, IDFA & Managing Director, IDFA Bertha Fund 2nd IBF Classic selection round: Hicham Falah - Artistic Director, FIDADOC & International Women Film Festival of Sale Katarina Hedgren - Freelance Film Programmer and Writer Adrian Kawaley-Lathan - Creative Director, Bertha Foundation Bianca Oana - Film Producer Isabel Arrate Fernandez - Deputy Director, IDFA & Managing Director, IDFA Bertha Fund

Selection IBF Classic Development

Dir. Quang Nong Vietnam

A conservative mother, schizophrenic daughter, and gay son recount the divergence of their lives as they welcome a newborn baby to the family.

Dir. Tatiana Huezo Mexico

In a remote and solitary valley, punished by winter and drought, the children learn to gaze upon death, illness and love. A story about feeling vertigo in the face of life, about growing up.

Dir. Malek Bensmaïl Algeria

From a valley with a story, where my father lays, in all of my country, the film will meet up with all those, farmers, geographers, historians, cartographers and agronomists, who work and farm there and know the story of this land, which still holds back many of its secrets.

Dir. Ruslan Fedotow Russia, Belarus

A year-long observation of passengers of the Moscow metro that embraces momentous events in the everyday lives of contemporary Russian citizens. A melancholic kaleidoscope of scenes from the inconceivable life of Russians in the Moscow metro.

Dir. Nada Riyadh & dir. Ayman El Amir Egypt

In a conservative village in the south of Egypt, a group of Coptic teenage girls refuse the traditional roles forced upon them, through a mix of theater, performances, songs, dreams and confessions.

Dir. Erige Sehiri Tunisia, France

With Last Call, director Erige Sehiri dives into the dual life of a woman willing to do anything to save her captive brother.

Dir. Miguel Calderón Mexico

A loss adjuster attempts to escape the catastrophic and corrupt scenarios he confronts daily by acting in a play. This ends up taking a higher toll on him than his own work, forcing him to embark on a journey of self-discovery as he reflects on the parallels between real tragedy and staged drama.

Dir. Anupama Srinivasan & dir. Anirban Dutta India, Bulgaria

In the dense forests of the Eastern Himalayas, a young woman scientist studies moths. A young man rediscovers the forest he has grown up with. The film follows their fascinating journey into the secret world of moths, inviting us to witness their beauty, their fragility in the face of rising temperatures and our own hidden connection with them.

Dir. Arko Datto India, Hungary

PIK-NIK is an essay film documenting the annual boisterous chaotic and theatrical picnic phenomenon in eastern India, that takes place during winter. This coming season, social distancing norms will compete with the increasingly noxious displays of nationalistic fervour, xenophobia and patriarchy.

Dir. Ricardo Martensen Brazil, Portugal

What’s left of us after we die? Our bones? Our memories? How long do these traces of existence remain on Earth? By presenting three different stories in São Paulo, this film questions our memories. The narratives and characters force us to face issues that Brazil, in 2020, insists on forgetting.

Dir. Taisiia Kutuzova Ukraine, France

Serhiy, a shy teenager aged 16, investigates corruption in his little town near Kyiv, until one day, he gets punched by the local deputy. Three years later, Serhiy is now 19 and amidst a nation-wide wave of attacks against civil society activists, he wants to get his revenge: by running for office against the man who tried to silence him.

Dir. Simon Hernandez Estrada Colombia

This is the story of Natalia Ponce’s Acid Attack. She literally died, survived and reborn into a gender equality activist, devoting her life creating social consciousness for acid attacks. Now she is trying to find a new meaning in life, away from everything she has built. 

Selection IBF Classic - Production & Post-production

Dir. Sarvnik Kaur India

A tale of love, brotherhood and resentments against the backdrop of an adoring sea, which is turning adverse under the menacing effects of an all-pervading calamity called climate change.

Dir. Rosana Matecki Venezuela, Ecuador

Venezuela submerged and dark. The present of three peasants, trapped in an exile in their own village, submerged by the whim of the barbarians who govern it. Isabel, José and Bárbara survive resisting, desperate in a country sunken between escape and hunger.

Dir. Nina Guseva Russia

Courageous and daring lawyer comes face to face with the corrupted judicial system of Russia while fighting for freedom of young political activist in the aftermath of opposition protests of 2019.

Dir. Asmahan Bkerat Jordan, Canada, United Arab Emirates

Awad and his Bedouin family are under constant pressure to relocate their tents, as they are labeled unfit to live in the city by their new neighbors.

Dir. Mohamed Siam Egypt, Algeria, France, Denmark

A rich character-driven narrative that energetically explores a young woman’s queer identity amidst a fraught environment of many rival groups showcasing her intimate portrayal of division.

Dir. Marusya Syroechkovskaya Russia, Sweden, France

A decade in Russia as seen through the prism of the director's personal story dedicated to her first love and loss.

Dir. Farahnaz Sharifi & dir. Leyla Rouhi Iran

Two Iranian women, one generation apart, write letters to each other in which they narrate an alternative history of Iran.

Dir. Milisuthando Bongela South Africa, Colombia

In this coming-of-age personal essay documentary on childhood, intimacy, power, fear and love, Milisuthando – a black South African who didn’t know about apartheid until it was over – explores how blacks and white first lived together after 342 years of racial segregation.

Dir. José Balado Diaz Peru

Through three stories from the north shore of Peru, Mist reveals to us, as a documentary visual chronicle, the sacrifice, tenacity and human fragility, reflected in the ancient space of the fishing cycle.

Dir. Asmae El Moudir Morocco, Germany

A family’s web of lies and one young girl’s search to find the truth. Through her own voice, Asmae, daughter and filmmaker, flits between national and personal history to tell the 1981 Bread Riots in Morocco and shows how this event connects with contemporary Moroccan society.

Dir. Akuol de Mabior South Sudan, Kenya

As South Sudan hangs in the balance of a tenuous peace agreement, my mother, Nyandeng, prepares to become one of our country’s five vice presidents. Her mission is to safeguard her late husband, John Garang’s, vision for our people, our country, and our family.

Dir. Nelson Makengo Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgium

A street vendor of lights and a pastor fight against darkness in Kinshasa during a period of political transition. They arm themselves with courage in their attempt to illuminate their lives while the radio announces the construction of a hydroelectric dam that will supply electricity for the entire continent.

Dir. Keti Machavariani Georgia

Sunny is a documentary film revolving around a 60-year old woman, who is knocking door to door, conducting social research interviews. While getting to know the protagonist and the research process, we learn about Georgian society’s life, fears, hopes, and attitudes towards acute civic and political issues.

Dir. Alina Gorlova Ukraine, Latvia, Germany, Qatar

While navigating the human toll of armed conflict, war refugee and Red Cross volunteer Andriy tries to secure a sustainable future. A striking cinematographic account of the devastating impact of war.

Dir. Polen Ly Cambodia

Neang, an indigenous woman, struggles to rebuild a new life after a hydropower dam’s reservoir swallowed her entire village, broke her family and forced them to live in a new place. Her journey of resilience will show her determination to protect her family lifestyle, while holding firmly to the memories of her land, harmony and connection with nature.