A record-breaking haul of eleven documentaries and four docu projects from Flanders have been selected for this year’s IDFA, the international Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (16-27 November). Works from Jeremy De Ryckere and Kristof Bilsen, who recently graduated from RITS and NFTS (UK) respectively, are shown in the Student Documentary competition. The other entries feature in the Reflecting Images: Panorama, Paradocs section and IDFA pitching Forum.
Both Jeremy De Ryckere’s The Heir and Kristof Bilsen’s White Elephant compete for the IDFA Award for Best Student Documentary, worth €2,500. The Heir tells the story of a father, Raf, and a son, Dominique, and their relationship to their passion: horse racing, a long family tradition. White Elephant is a documentary about the Central Post Office and its employees in Kinshasa, DR Congo. This grandiose relic of a colonial past has trapped its employees in a frozen timewarp from which they are planning their escape. Last year the Award for Best Student Documentary went to the Flemish doc What’s in a Name by Eva Küpper.
In addition to the titles in competition, a large number of Flemish documentary titles were confirmed for other official festival programmes. In Reflecting Images: Panorama, a programme with documentaries on current social topics, there's Bram van Paesschen's look at cultural differences, Empire of Dust (producer: Savage Film). This documentary follows the Chinese Loa Yang and the Congolese Eddy, both of whom are working on a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo for the Chinese Railway Engineering Company. In 2008, van Paesschen’s previous Congo-shot doc Pale Peko Bantu was also selected for IDFA.
Lieven Corthouts' Little Heaven (producer: Off World) focuses on an extraordinary orphanage in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. On their thirteenth birthday, the children in this particular orphanage are told that they were born with HIV. It is a hard and unflinching story, but also a hopeful one thanks to the children’s and their caretakers’ zest for life. Earlier this year, Corthouts was selected for the Berlinale Talent Campus where documentary filmmakers can get one-on-one feedback sessions with renowned experts in preparation of future projects. Lone Twin (producer: Wild Heart Productions) by Anna van der Wee is a journey told from the perspective of the filmmaker who lost her twin brother in a tragic accident at age 20. Finally, War Is Not a Game by Lode Desmet (producer: Simple Production) takes the recent 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions as a starting point and considers whether the treaties have succeeded in making wars more civilised. The film, an ambitious co-production between Belgium, France, Canada and Switzerland, was already awarded in Canada with prizes at DOXA Vancouver and the Yorkton Film Festival.
The Paradocs program, in which more experimental documentaries are presented, introduces Antwerp by Peter Van Goethem (producer: Freshwater Films) which follows an elderly Russian man who is undertaking one final jouney in an attempt to put the pieces of his childhood back together. Printed Matter by Eitan Efrat and Sirah Foighel Brutmann (producer: Auguste Orts) displays the conflation of private lives and contemporary geopolitics. And finally, there is Viva Paradis by Isabelle Tollenaere (producer: Isabelle Tollenaere) in which a number of American and European pensioners enjoy life at a Tunisian holiday hotel.
Flemish documentary filmmakers and producers invited for the IDFA Forum, a platform for documentary where a number of selected projects in search of financial support are launched, are Steven Dhoedt, Pieter-Jan De Pue, Fons Feyaerts and Eva Küpper.
Steven Dhoedt is bringing a new project to Amsterdam. In his documentary project State of Play, which he worked on with producer Visualantics, he takes a closer look at four South Korean pro gamers over the span of one season. Filmmaker Pieter-Jan De Pue and producer Savage Film pitch their documentary The Land of the Enlightened on a group of Kuchi children in Afghanistan who live on a minefield near Bagram airport. Eva Küpper introduces her new project, State of the Art. The film follows a group of choreographers who want to rebuild the famous Tajik National Ballet after years of civil war in their country. Her previous film, What’s In a Name, which won last year’s Best Student Documentary Award, is also picked up again in the programming of this year's festival. Finally, Fons Feyaerts' project The King of Mont Ventoux (prod: Associate Directors) is selected for the IDFA Forum – Individual Meetings.
In addition to the record number of Flemish selections, IDFA is also planning a special screening of the minority co-production Enjoy Your Meal! together with one of its partners, the Dutch Film Fund. Walther Grotenhuis’s Smakelijk eten tops the Flemish presence at an impressive 15 films and projects, a clear indication of the vitality and energy of Flemish documentary.
IDFA was created in 1988 and quickly developed as the greatest and the most important documentary film festival.
A significant number of the projects mentioned in this article were made possible with the support of the Flanders Audiovisual Funds (VAF), among others.