IDFA, the largest documentary film festival in the world, covers Amsterdam in mid-November. It's also an industry mecca where you can not only join the High Profile Forum (the grandfather of all pitch forums) but also enter a room and find aspiring Korean filmmakers to apply, turn around and find a group of filmmakers . for their interested donors. Or you can have funIDFA DocLab,the state-of-the-art XR/immersive experimentation zone.
Since its beginnings with founder Ally Derks in 1988, IDFA has proudly celebrated the documentary's role in addressing civil and human rights issues, as well as celebrating the art form itself. With the arrival of Syrian filmmaker Orwa Nyrabia as Artistic Director in 2018, the festival is become even more international and diverse, raising big questions about how to structure a festival that values equity, inclusion and diversity. This year, for example, Nyrabia went beyond the festival's usual reverence for the individual filmmaker and chose it as the IDFA book this year.collective wisdom, a celebration of collective and participatory cinema.
And we expect more to come: Nyrabia announced that this year IDFA will be moving to a historic building in the heart of Amsterdam that will house its many projects and coordinate the year-round activities currently spread across the city .
He also celebrated the versatility of IDFA's offering: “Through the subjectivities of these filmmakers, an image emerges of a world in pain: a humanity that struggles, that is vulnerable and sincere, that is complex and persistent. . The variety of art forms is overwhelming, and there are no limits when it comes to attacking the greatest forces or inventing a new grammar."
Nyrabia did not underestimate the eclectic curation. the opening film,everything you see, directed by Dutch-based Iranian immigrant Niki Padidar, is a film that experiments with form and addresses the pressing issue of immigration. It is a semi-surreal inner meditation on the experience of being an immigrant from the perspective of five people, including the filmmaker. The film is reluctant to divulge information about any of them and invites the viewer to absorb the experience of working with the bits of information that immigrants possess. A theme in all of the stories becomes the feeling of being uprooted, unable to go back and entering a world where you are always different. The film, like the situation it portrays, can be both uncomfortable and hypnotically beautiful, especially with its slow pans across repetitive architectural surfaces. The general theme is long-term inconsolable loneliness.
The neatly constructed, fascinating and frighteningwhile we watchhe has a completely different goal and style. Vinay Shukla follows struggling Indian television journalist Ravish Kumar as his national networked news service NDTV is plagued by a financial crisis. Modi's authoritarian and chauvinist Hindu government preys on media that refuse to be servile, and many journalists have joined the fake news campaign supporting Modi's party. Kumar and NDTV are defending their ideals at an prohibitive cost, including bankruptcy and death threats. I couldn't look away.
Or get caught up in the eerily tranquil narrative ofMoney, Freedom: A History of the CFA Franc, an essay by Senegalese filmmaker Lena Ndiaye. Through expert interviews and fascinating footage from financial films, he shows how Africa's French-speaking currency, the CFA franc, was an instrument of post-colonial control of African economies, sometimes with the gleeful complicity of corrupt politicians.
You might be tempted to sing alongHello pretty, Giulia Giapponesi's fascinating historical immersion into music history that has become an anthem for civil and human rights activists around the world.
And then there was the loving but unsentimental Rea Tajiri.crazy wisdom, a verité portrait of a mother who, in her dementia, retains a sense of humour, a stubborn autonomy and sometimes a glimpse of what she used to be. The complex dynamics of an immigrant family are evident in the efforts to maintain a relationship with them.
IDFA abounded in creative uses of archival footage to tell stories. Each reuse brings its own ethical and narrative challenges.
von Alain CassandaColette and JustinRecalling her grandparents' experiences with Belgian colonialism and the struggle for Congolese independence, she once again uses Belgian colonial imagery and photography powerfully for anti-colonial purposes. Inspired by the intellectuals of the Negritude movement (like Aimé Césaire, David Diop and Frantz Fanon) and the great memorial documentary by Raoul PeckLumumba: the death of a prophet, Kassanda wanted to save the story from the perspective of the colonized. Her story is not the one Peck tells, but a necessary complement and crucial restoration of a long-suppressed history.
But Kassanda had no materials, not even her own family memories. He wore down his grandfather Justino and grandmother Colette with love and snacks, but he didn't shy away from the fact that the colonized didn't have access to cinema and photography at the time. One of his solutions was to use colonial imagery but overlay its own narrative and draw the viewer's attention to the filmmakers' position. It also allowed him to explore the complexity and ambiguity of colonial reality; For example, your grandfather was raised to be a member of the African colonial official who supported the Belgian regime, and the family's visual records from this period exist solely for that fact. Another was to use atrocity images, those unbearably brutal records of the atrocities of King Leopold and the Belgians, with economy and explanation. "I had to choose between denying the story or exposing it," he told me. “A lot of kids don't know about our story and I had to tell them. At the same time, how would I feel if I was my grandfather hung in the photo? My narrative corrected those whose imagery I used while also creating a testament to what happened."
From Aurora and Aurora, one of the most popular films with IDFA audiences (and Armenia's Oscar nominee), Inna Sahakyan faced similar problems. The wildly animated film tells the story of a young woman who became the face of the Armenian Genocide for her supporters in the United States. Millions of Armenians lost their families, their lives and their homes when they were relentlessly attacked by the regime towards the end of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. After a series of gruesome escapes from death and sexual slavery, she ended up in America and became the heroine of a spectacularly successful Hollywood fundraiser. But like modern figures like Nadia Murad or Malala Yousafzai, she too has become an unwitting victim at the altar of charitable advertising campaigns.
Sahakyan's challenge was to tell both the story of Aurora and the story of the genocide. He found a way in animation to develop a narrative from Aurora's perspective, openly reclaiming the interpretive realities of the story and creating a safe distance from the horrifying brutalities of genocide that can shock viewers. (His inspirations includedPersepolis,You are like BashirjFlee.) For example, at the beginning we see the children playing a little game, as was customary at the time, for their loving parents. Almost all of Aurora's family was killed two months after the attacks began. As everyone dies, we experience it as a replay of the play rather than seeing documentary examples of the devastation or an animated version of where another family member is missing.
But Sahakyan also felt it was important for viewers to see some documentary evidence of the horrors of the event. "I didn't want to use atrocity photos in the genocide part of the story," he told me. She didn't want viewers to flinch or stare. He also had three video interviews with Aurora to work with (each heavily edited to improve the quality of his original VHS). "But when the story got to the point where he was finally safe in America, I wanted to use it." An interviewer once asked Aurora if she thought more about the loss of her family or her people. She replies that the death of her family and her language and culture are part of the same terrible loss. "At that point, I decided to use the actual photos," Sahakyan said, "to kind of throw the audience into ice water, to the point where you almost forget what happened and bring the reality home. ”
von Mila Turajlicnot alignedis one of several films he made from footage of a 1961 summit of non-aligned/Third World nations in Yugoslavia. Most of the film is archived and viewed first without sound and then with sound. As the narrator, Turajlić relentlessly questions the footage and examines the great political gamble undertaken by Yugoslav leader Josip Bros. Tito. He used his influence as a successful leader of a nation that avoided affiliation with the USSR or the United States to bring together the leaders of newly decolonized nations around the world. In a witty nod to what he witnessed, Turajlić shows us how French and American television networks reused some of the same footage to grossly misrepresent the event. For Turajlić, who came of age with the collapse of Yugoslavia and the dream of non-aligned solidarity, there is nostalgia and sadness at the death of that dream, as well as admiration for high-stakes strategy.
Manifest, the grand prize winner in the Envision category, is filmmaker Angie Vinchito's portrayal of a Russian generation of youth brutally mistreated and abused. From the beginning, in which the students narrate their journey to school, to the grisly end in domestic terrorism, the film uses only social media videos. It's difficult to watch due to the subject matter and the choppy, snappy video, and it's deeply disturbing.
ethics in action
At a time when "decolonization" is the buzzword at festivals across Europe, IDFA filmmakers demonstrated a heightened sense of power and position. Legendary filmmaker Laura Poitras, there with her new film,All the beauty and all the bloodshed, spent an hour discussing her ethical line with Nyrabia "to uncover the myth of American exceptionalism and show how power works".
NOShangri-La, paradise under construction, Mirka Duijn, Dutch-Finnish filmmaker and professor in Sweden, discusses the way an orientalist fiction, the Shangri-La from James Hilton's popular 1950s novel, is discussed.lost horizon, which envisioned plane crash survivors discovering a forgotten idyllic world in the Himalayas, is becoming a touristic reality in Tibet today. What could easily have been a superficial and distorted look at Chinese mega-projects instead becomes a thoughtful examination of the construction of culture from multiple perspectives.
His first ethical problem, he said to me, was, “Who am I to go to Tibet and ask for a story? I didn't want to escape my position as a privileged Westerner, so I thought I should problematize my own position. It's not that, as a white man, I should never do this film, but it's how I do it."
Duijn begins by reminiscing about his childhood immersed in a fascination with another Oriental, and then follows a path to look beyond the cliche to the actual act of myth-making. Remember popular western culture spawned by Lost Horizon including trendy hairstyles. She talks to Tibetans about salvaging aircraft parts on mountain tops (where many planes were shot down during World War II). She says she has created new "traditional dances" for Tibetans to perform for tourists in the new "old town" of Shangri-La. Using evidence from 40 different sources from films, interviews and documents, he unearths stories that make people different, from their own social position, with bits of data. Each forms a piece of a historical jigsaw puzzle that never quite fits together. A pattern is emerging: Orientalism goes not only from West to East, but also from China to Tibet. The result is a film that comprehensively explores the creation of meaning from the multiple perspectives that pervade the Paradise Under Construction project, leaving the viewer with difficult questions about exoticism and power.
One of Duijn's ethical challenges was questioning Tibetans living cautiously under Chinese rule. (He received enthusiastic approval from Chinese authorities, who were hoping for a marketing boost.) Duijn didn't want to get them in trouble, so he avoided conversations that might lead to negative comments. In the end, however, the Tibetans were eager to sell him for the project, which also opens up opportunities for them. And that hasn't stopped Duijn from having his own take on Shangri-La.
Julia Jaki, creator ofDorf, on one woman's struggle to bring safety to abused South African women, is a journalist who has lived in South Africa for the past decade. Strongly moved by the story of the activist's work and angered by the sensationalist reporting of sexual abuse of women, she wanted to tell the story. But she only went ahead when encouraged by the activist, working closely with a South African creative team. The activist worked closely with the team towards the end of the cuts to ensure the faces of the women at risk were properly defaced and that some scenes were edited to protect them.
For practitioners ofBlue ID, winner of the IDFA Audience Award, continued approval was essential to deal with the ethical challenges of making a film about a Turkish soap opera actress who identified as a lesbian and underwent a gender reassignment to become a man, rüzgar. The captivating film follows Ruzgar from his first testosterone injection through the years as he has developed a different personal and public presence. The filmmakers offer an almost startling intimacy and vulnerability.
The filmmakers have known Rüzgar for over a decade as part of their LGBTQ+ friendship network. Her boyfriend asked her to go through the transition process mainly to help other people who didn't have their privileges. It wasn't until they found out that they committed to making a film since the trial was now public anyway. "We felt like we have to make the film now, so someone is ashamed of the bullying they suffered," said co-director Burcu Melekoglu.
The filmmakers turned down co-production opportunities and only hired a crew that Rüzgar was happy with. At each step, they got his approval to proceed and showed him the entire fine cut before releasing him. "We were willing not to release it if he didn't like it," said co-director Vuslat Karan. They were reluctant to cite the anti-LGBTQ+ media bullying he had experienced until he asked them to include him to show what he had endured. Still, they restricted this use for fear it might trigger others.
Oder Metaverse Anti-Metaverse
The immersive and XR showcases inIDFA DocLabSuper curated as always by Caspar Sonnen and a top team, it drove our imagination to the next corner. The twin issues of limited access and technological glitches were, as always, the mainstay of the experience and remain monumental obstacles to wider usage. But the artists don't let that stop them.
In a very mixed VR landscape was my personal favoriteplastisapiens, which won the Special Jury Prize for Creative Technology. The work was created by Miri Chekhanovich and Edith Jorisch with support from the National Film Board of Canada. The virtual reality piece looks at the proliferation of microplastics around us, including our bodies. It takes us on a telescopic journey from the origin of life on Earth to the evolution of a new plasticized reality; Our moment of evolution is just one stop on this fantastic journey that the artists suspect will happily continue on without us. Concept, message and experience were combined so elegantly that I didn't want to take my headphones off. It never happens to me
Some of the treasures were delightfully low-tech and affordable.your name is my name, by Eline Jongsma and Kel O'Neill, who also won the Special Jury Prize for Creative Technologyand instagram,or if you (like me) don't like zuck,no vimeo. It's an eight-part story, with simple but elegant animation, about Jongsma's monstrous grandfather, who was a fervent pro-Nazi officer. The play asks us to think about how we can integrate this knowledge into the story itself.
Other ethical issues for interactive and immersive artists also emerged. Tessa Ratuszynsk who created the VR workwith these handson Surviving Sexual Violence, developed a new process for obtaining consent from survivors after consulting academic ethics committees (IRBs). He dismissed the release forms as merely protecting the filmmakers and institutions, not the participants. She and the participants edited the consent forms together with the project staff and revised them as they worked, making consent an iterative process. Atlantic Studios' Raul Balai explores decolonization by bringing together artists from former Dutch colonies in the Caribbean with XR experts to use digitized records from the West India Company's National Archives for critical new work.
The DocLab Summit included projects dealing with the lack of showcases for XR work and the lack of archiving. The company Nu:reality will introduce VR in three European cinemas next year. Sandman Studios is experimenting with developing better storage techniques and creating specially designed rooms for XR.
Patricia Aufderheide ist Professorin an der American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C.