Film still: Children of the Mist, dir. Diem Ha Le

After two years of a pandemic that has left a film industry needing to reexamine old models and find answers to new problems, it is safe to say that filmmakers around the world have shown themselves to be resilient. Projects have been delayed for various reasons, finding financing has been difficult, bringing the film to an audience has been a challenge. Despite the hardships, this forced break has been put to good use by the film community—strengthening the development of projects, spending more time in the edit, and developing alternative distribution plans.

The IDFA Bertha Fund (IBF) was able to offer support and host activities without obstacles in 2021. After the first year of the pandemic, where the Fund saw a huge rise in applications, the numbers in 2021 returned to the yearly average known before the pandemic—with 600 applications for IBF Classic and 41 for the different calls of IBF Europe. Next to the financial support provided to 31 projects, the focus was above all put on our connection to the supported filmmakers, opening the door even wider to provide responses to their different needs. Bringing together and creating the Filmmaker Support Department has enhanced the offerings and guidance the Fund can provide. The new IDFA Project Space trajectory has a flexible structure that offers the selected projects more intensive individual guidance and a broader program, but also presents a range of sessions that can be made available to a much wider group of filmmakers.

One major change occurred within the IDFA Bertha Fund. For many years, the reference to the Fund’s focus regions was a mix of geographical and political terms, and the time has come to correct this and use only geographical terms. From 2021, the terminology implemented is in reference to UNSTATS, and the full description of IBF-supported regions is Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania.

Filmmakers are given the center stage of the IDFA Bertha Fund activity report 2021. They are and remain at the core of our work. At the best of times, their work is about the creative process, making space for searching and reflection, and about the creation of a visual language. In the most difficult times, their work is about survival, resilience, and continuing to make film despite everything.

In the spotlight articles tell the stories of IBF-supported filmmakers, who take us behind the scenes of the filmmaking process and dive into the contexts within which filmmakers operate. Filmmaker Lana Daher was in the middle of the production of her first feature-length documentary—Do You Love Me— when the Beirut port explosion took place. In her interview, she talks about how in the midst of all the turbulence, she persisted and continues to aim to write her country's history using material from the past. IDFA 2021 Award for Best First Feature winner Ruslan Fedetow discusses his transition from cinematographer to director, exploring different styles with each of his films and his approach in capturing reality in Where We Are Headed. Kamay filmmakers Shahrokh Bikaran and Ilyas Yourish, speak about bringing different types of stories to audiences and the filmmaker’s community they were part of before the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. As a consequence, they had to rethink all their plans for their first documentary and have luckily been able to get back on track and have started the edit of their upcoming film.

The distribution of documentaries remains uncertain and unclear in the aftermath of the pandemic. Sales agents do not see enough space for all productions that are coming into the market, while festivals are trying to find their way in the new reality. And yet, with their drive, commitment, and the right partners, filmmakers manage to rollout distribution activities.

The conversations with Iván Guarnizo and Jorge Caballero (On the Other Side) and Tony Kamau and Peter Murimi (I Am Samuel) both demonstrate how in different territories, with different target groups, their respective films managed to reach an audience and have an impact.

In many of the IBF-supported countries, filmmakers experience threats to their freedom of expression, political unrest, and in some cases violence and war. Wherever possible and within its capacity, the Fund offers support to filmmakers in urgent need of help. With the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban many civilians were trying to leave the country, among them many members of the film community. Together with the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), the IDFA Bertha Fund supported a group of Afghan filmmakers in Europe who were trying to help their colleagues in Kabul evacuate, and the Fund was able to act as a contact point with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Now in early 2022, we see a war raging in the Ukraine and are witnessing the collapse of a thriving film community. Our thoughts are with the people of the Ukraine, and we are ready to help and support Ukrainian documentary filmmaking.

The passion and perseverance of the supported filmmakers in bringing their unique, urgent, and beautiful documentary films into the world—in a time when the world order is changing and the consequences of the pandemic years and the current war have still to show their impact—is what inspires us to continue the support of independent filmmakers in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania.

We thank the Bertha Foundation, Creative Europe, Ford Foundation, Stichting De Hoorn, the Netherlands Film Fund and the IDFA Special Friends+ for making IBF’s activities possible. Our dedication to providing support is underlined by the accomplishments of IBF-supported films in 2022. Writing with Fire by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas has been nominated for an Academy Award 2022, and Alis by Nicolas van Hemelryck and Clare Weiskopf which premiered and proceeded to win awards at the Berlinale 2022. We look forward to, after 10 years, increasing the amount of financial support for IBF Classic grants in the coming year and are ready to meet new filmmakers and projects.

Isabel Arrate Fernandez, Executive Director

Main partner of the IDFA Bertha Fund

Bertha Foundation supports activists, storytellers and lawyers that are working to bring about social and economic justice, and human rights for all. Envisioning a society in which activists build collective power, stories come from many different voices, and law is used as a tool for justice.

By investing in the IDFA Bertha Fund the Foundation supports the global creative documentary field and films that make a difference. Adrian Kawaley-Lathan, Creative Director at Bertha, "We love the IDFA Bertha Fund! We love that it creates an important space for broadening the documentary sector and it empowers diverse global narratives from under-represented regions. We are happy to support the Fund and are continually impressed by the compelling content and strength of storytelling displayed year after year."

IDFA Bertha Fund lunch - IDFA 2021