Festivals and Distribution

Film still: Last Days at Sea, dir. Venice Atienza

IBF films around the world

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 2021 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

The year 2021 had a successful start with a couple of IBF-supported films having their World Premiere and winning awards at the prestigious film festivals of Sundance, Cannes and the Berlinale. These films included As I Want, Last Days at Sea, Taming the Garden, I’m So Sorry, A Night of Knowing Nothing and Writing with Fire, with A Night of Knowing Nothing by Payal Kapadia winning the L'Œil d'or at Cannes and Writing with Fire by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas receiving the Audience Award and Special Jury Award: Impact for Change at Sundance. Due to the ongoing Covid-19 situation, all these films had their World premiere in an online or hybrid festival and went on to have many more screenings later in the year at online and even physical festivals in summer and autumn, ending the year in the Best of Fests section of IDFA.

Film Still: I'm So Sorry, dir. Zhao Liang.

Distribution in Covid-19 times

While the festival circulation remained relatively successful in 2021, the year proved difficult 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 2022. There are, however, also examples of films which had a creative and successful distribution despite all restrictions, having screenings online and on-site in between lockdowns, such as I Am Samuel from Kenia, by Peter Murimi and On the Other Side from Colombia, by Iván Guarnizo. Read about the distribution of I Am Samuel and On the Other Side on the next page.

Film Still: A Night of Knowing Nothing, dir. Payal Kapadia.

Top 10 worldwide festival screenings in 2021

  • Writing with Fire – 121 festivals
  • Taming the Garden – 101 festivals
  • Radiograph of a Family – 62 festivals
  • Once Upon a Time in Venezuela – 61 festivals
  • This Rain Will Never Stop – 58 festivals
  • Zinder – 50 festivals
  • The Last Shelter – 48 festivals
  • Downstream to Kinshasa – 42 festivals
  • A Night of Knowing Nothing – 38 festivals
  • As I Want – 38 festivals

Film Still: Writing with Fire, dir. Sushmit Ghosh & Rintu Thomas.