Last stop: Amsterdam

Amsterdam is all about documentaries at the moment.

Amsterdam is all about documentaries at the moment.

The last film festival we visit before it’s time for our own is the world’s largest documentary film festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), which gathers more than 250 current documentaries and a large, large audience.

Don’t know if it’s my own focus that has changed, but this year it feels like there are a lot of movies that depict conditions in Africa in different ways. For example, films depicting the last election in Ghana (An African Election), soccer in Tanzania (Albino United), disabled musicians in Zimbabwe (IiThemba) and the Masai people of East Africa (Masai on the Move). There is also Swedish Staffan Julén’s My Heart of Darkness, which depicts the return of veterans from the civil war in Angola.

A large number of films I found in the programme address various aspects of the giant country of Congo. The films about Congo are all made with the country’s past conflicts as a backdrop. American Pushing the Elephant depicts Rose Mapendo, a Congolese who ended up in a death camp with her family in the 90s, where her husband was murdered and she was separated from one of her daughters. Danish competition film Blood In The Mobile tells about the dirty handling of minerals for cell phones. The minerals are extracted from the country’s over-exploited mines. Most of the films with stories from Africa are, unfortunately, made by filmmakers from the U.S. and Europe. An exception is Congo in Four Acts, an episode film by three Congolese directors, which is the result of a workshop for first-time filmmakers, which has been financed by, among others, the IDFA’s own film fund – the Jan Vrijmans Fund. The films are naked depictions of living conditions in today’s Congo, and give rise to thoughts about how our world has become so unfair.

Last Wednesday films were nominated for each competition class, and we can proudly announce that one of the nominees in the debut category was the Philippine film Kano: An American and His Harem by Monster Jimenez. The film has received post-production support from the GIFF Fund and had its world premiere here at IDFA. It will be screened at our festival this winter. We wish them luck in the contest!

Amsterdam, 25 November

Ulf Sigvardson

Documentary method o.d.

The winner of Dragon Award Best Swedish documentary at GIFF 2010. Mikael Wiström and Alberto Herskovits' Familia.

The winner of Dragon Award Best Swedish documentary at GIFF 2010. Mikael Wiström and Alberto Herskovits' Familia.

Real life is surely more interesting than fiction. After a year with many surprising and great Swedish documentaries I can promise that the upcoming one will be even better! How I know?  Well, I have spent the last days reading inspiring and exciting texts, about their way of working, by around 15 documentary filmmakers who at the same time are making their new films. The texts will be published in the festival’s film magazine Filmkonst well in time for GIFF 2011, in issue no 127, which will be a cooperation with the Swedish Film Institute. I so look forward to seeing the films and attending the seminar around the book, And I like to think that the fact that the filmmakers have been forced to formulate their thoughts around their work and methods will make the films even better! Who they are? We’ll tell you later.

Camilla Larsson