“2019 is the best programme ever,” says IDFA’s artistic director Orwa Nyrabia

by Fritz Kohle from the IDFA press conference in Amsterdam, 23/10/2019

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Orwa Nyrabia highlights the tribute to D.A. Pennebaker.

Orwa Nyrabia and his IDFA team of programmers

Orwa Nyrabia is not someone who likes to brag about his accomplishments. To the contrary. He comes across as a modest festival director with a passion for documentary filmmaking. The journalists at the press conference were not rattled by his claim that this year might be the ‘best programme ever’ because Orwa made that claim towards the end of his presentation. By then we were all suitably impressed by what IDFA has on offer this year. The IDFA team put together an outstanding programme and I for one, can’t wait to attend the festival.

320 films from 75 countries, 14 Bertha fund films.

The IDFA team selected 320 films and media projects from 75 countries for IDFA screens across Amsterdam this year. Few films are single country productions – a true reflection of the globally networked nature of documentary production today.

55% are European productions though fewer films were submitted from Eastern Europe. Orwa speculates that this may be because of ‘the stronger influence of conservative and right-wing governments’ in Eastern Europe which are less supportive of documentary filmmaking.

14 films received finance from the IDFA Bertha Fund. The fund “supports independent, critical, and artistic voices from Africa, Southeast Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe (IBF regions) with the aim of stimulating and empowering the creative documentary sector in these regions.” The 14 films in the IDFA programme are a testament to the success of the Bertha Fund.

64% of world premiere films made by women

This year 64% of films are made by women, something Orwa is proud of. At the same time Orwa and his team highlight that programmers ‘did not select films to ensure gender equality’. According to Orwa ‘this is something that is happening out there. Women are just making more documentaries. And they are very successful at it’. IDFA might very well be one of the few events where gender equality shines. Overall 55% of all IDFA films are produced or directed by women.

IDFA is the largest documentary festival with more than 3500 professional guests

IDFA is the global event where documentary filmmakers meet, discuss, pitch and screen their work. Orwa’s eyes shine when he talks about the number of guests IDFA has invited this year. The goal is to tailor the IDFA forum more flexibly to meet the needs of every single project specifically. Professionals from around the world will debate the state of documentary production at the IDFA Forum. Enthusiasts claim that documentary films have entered a ‘new golden era’, though critics point out that many documentary productions continue to struggle.

Special Highlights in 2019

Direct Cinema pioneer D.A. Pennebaker passed away this year and is survived by his wife Chris Hegedus. Their achievements are celebrated with a tribute to Pennebaker’s and Hegedus’ work.

The lifetime achievement award goes to Jørgen Leth. His film ‘I Walk’ features in the feature-length documentary competition.

The guest of honour this year is Chilean director Patricio Guzmàn. The filmmaker will join IDFA cinemas for discussion and the festival honoured him with a retrospective of his work.

IDFA Doclab, immersive VR documentaries and more ….

As usual, IDFA has more than just film screenings on offer. The IDFA Doclab continues to break new ground with exhibitions, live cinema events, interactive conferences, the IDFA DocLab R&D programme, Doclab Forum and Academy.

Immersive (VR, AR) and interactive documentaries feature strongly. IDFA is one of the few events that continues to engage with filmmakers and artists to push technological boundaries and present content in new and unusual ways.

The opening film: Sunless Shadows

We only previewed a minute or so of ‘Sunless Shadows‘ by Mehrdad Oskouei. His film is about ‘life in an Iranian juvenile detention centre where a group of adolescent girls serve their sentence for murdering a male member of the family’. But that minute was enough for me to get teary-eyed already. Watch it! If you can still get tickets …
You can view the feature-length competition programme here.

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Director Mehrdad Oskouei managed to get access to an Iranian juvenile prison to film ‘Sunless Shadows’

Filipino films at IDFA

Filipino documentary filmmaking features at IDFA almost every year. The Manila-based filmmaking collective ‘Cinematografica’ screens their film ‘Aswang‘. The term Aswang describes witches, vampires, ghosts and werewolves in Filipino. These evil spirits feature heavily in myths and popular films. But according to the filmmakers, ‘since President Rodrigo Duterte took office, they have been appearing in real life on the streets of Manila.’

aswang 300x225 2019 is the best programme ever, says IDFAs artistic director Orwa Nyrabia
‘Aswang’ is directed by Alyx Ayn Arumpac and produced by Armi Rae S. Cacanindin for Cinematografica films.

All in all, IDFA promises to deliver what the artistic director has promised: 2019 might very well turn out to be the ‘best-ever’ IDFA programme.

Cebu Street Children

This year we went back to Cebu to visit friends and find out how Cebu has changed since our last visit in 2012.

During our visit, we learned about the Albert Schweitzer Foundation in Cebu, Mactan, Cordova. The foundation looks after orphaned children.

We visited the orphanage and decided to sponsor two children through High School. If you would like to help, email me at fritz@fritzkohle.com for details.

AFFS Cebu Street Children

Arleen and I with ASFF orphans
(and their favourite cat) in Mactan.

Frankenstein! Well scary – but European!

Today Dave came to visit me in Bournemouth. We reckon that Mary Shelley was a proper European. She wrote a novel with a monster in it created by a German scientist with a well scary German name: Frankenstein! When her husband Percy drowned in Italy his heart was brought back to Mary and is now buried with her. We think Mary and Percy would have hated #Brexit.

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Aaaaand – Action!

Steinkjer is not exactly a bustling metropolis in Noway. But it is beautiful. Except maybe the huge chicken feed containers in the port area. And then there is Nord University. Every year the school organises the “& Action” conference and this time I was invited to speak on the topic of ‘Impact Producing in Documentary Filmmaking’.

I was impressed by the quality of questions from students, staff and visitors to the conference. Staff and students were welcoming, I was well looked after, the atmosphere was easy going and enjoyable. I feel honoured to have been part of a programme that featured speakers like John Thomson and Lara Acaster. I am glad I had the time to make this trip. And I hope I will find the time for another journey to Steinkjer.

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M/F/X at the Roze Filmdagen 2019

Thanks to Koen Suidgeest for the invitation to see his short documentary M/F/X at the Roze Filmdagen in Amsterdam. The film offers a rare glimpse into the struggle of “three transgenders from Vietnam, Honduras and the Netherlands”.

The film screens again as part of the festivals short docu-programme, you can see it again on Wednesday 20 March 2019, 17:45 at the Ketelhuis, Westerpark. There is also the opportunity to meet Kim Shantal, one of the films transgender individuals. If you go, you should also visit Koen’s photo exhibition of people he met during the production but who did not make it into the film.

According to the filmmaker and photographer Koen those “stories were also so compelling that we decided to make this exhibition”. Both film and exhibition are little gems you will enjoy at the Roze Filmdagen.


Why Brexit is really beginning to piss me off

tenor Why Brexit is really beginning to piss me off
Stop this madnees!

Brexit is coming closer. And today I noticed a couple of Brexit posts which contain the usual Brexit delusions and lies.

Some of my friends post this in good faith. They ask questions. That’s good. But don’t be disappointed if I call out Brexit BS when I read it. Don’t be offended when i call a post stupid when it is clearly misleading and demonstrably false.

It is time to stand up and tell Brexiteers that enough is enough. Every day for the last two years we have had to endure their xenophobic language and listen to lies and false promises. The hard reality is that nothing good comes out of Brexit.

  • There is no extra money for the NHS,
  • UK regions will get less after Brexit,
  • Border controls will cause delays,
  • UK pensioners wont get free health care in Spain,
  • Companies are moving to the continent,
  • The pound has dropped by a third in value since Brexit,
  • WTO proposals by the UK have so far been rejected
  • and the NHS lacks EU nurses and doctors who move back home.

This is not project fear. This is REALITY!

I am thoroughly fed up with the arrogance, xenophobia and ignorance in the Brexit camp. The world does not revolve around the UK and its time for this idiotic Brexit to stop.

But I am hopeful. I really really hope that the UK government begins to realise how stupid Brexit really is. I hope the people of the UK wake up to realise that the referendum was based on lies and fraud perpetuated by the Brexit camp.

I hope that the people of the UK discover that in order to have their cake, they need to rejoin their rightful seat at the EU coffetable – or else there will be no cake for the UK!

Less than 8 weeks to go with this madness. But still enough time for the UK to do the right thing.