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IDFA International Documentary Festival Amsterdam

The 23rd edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the world's largest and most prestigious film event devoted exclusively to non-fiction film and media, will run from 17 - 28 November in the city of Amsterdam.


IDFA Opener Is Festival's Big Prize Winner


POSITION AMONG THE STARS (Stand van de Sterren) by Dutch/Indonesian filmmaker Leonard Retel Helmrich was the big winner at the awards ceremony of IDFA: International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. The film won both the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary (the Festival’s top honor and winner of a cash prize of 12,500 euros) and the Dioraphte IDFA Award for Best Dutch Documentary. The director won the same top prize at the 2004 IDFA for the second film in his trilogy THE SHAPE OF THE MOON.  POSITION AMONG THE STARS, which opened the Festival last week, is the third film in the trilogy of a contemporary Indonesian family, as they experience the changes in society brought on by technology, new attitudes and economic opportunities. The film looks at modern through the eyes of the grandmother. Through her vantage point in the slums of Jakarta, the changing rhythms of life and the effects of economic growth and globalization are most keenly reflected in the life of her granddaughters and her sons. The film has been picked up by Canadian sales agent Films Transit International and will also have a theatrical release in Holland starting in March 2011. “We are truly touched by this honor”, the filmmaker gushed at the awards ceremony, held in the historic art deco movie palace Tushinski.    


Winning a Special Jury Prize in the Feature Length Competition was the bracing YOU DON’T LIKE THE  TRUTH: 4 DAYS INSIDE GUANTANAMO by Canadian director Luc Coté and Patricio Henriquez. The film tells the story of Omar Khadr, who was incarcerated in Guantánamo Bay at the age of sixteen. His dramatic re-telling of his capture and incarceration are based on recordings of his lengthy interrogations. The film makes clear that many who are languishing in the jails of the American base on the island of Cuba have never had actual charges brought against them and live in a kind of legal limbo that can last for years. Other winners included Dutch director Boris Gerrets for his perceptive profile PEOPLE I COULD HAVE BEEN AND MAYBE AM, which won the top prize in the Best Mid-Length Documentary competition (and a cash prize of €10,000). The filmmaker attempts to break through the anonymity of the big city by filming conversations with strangers on the streets of London with his mobile phone. A film from the Phillipines became the first from that nation to ever win an award at IDFA. KANO: AN AMERICAN AND HIS HAREM by Monster Jiminez won the IDFA First Appearance Award for a debut feature (along with a cash prize of €5,000). The film tells the shocking story of an American man who assembled a harem of underage girls for himself in the Philippines and is now in prison for rape, though his many wives loyally sticky by him, for economic necessity if not for love. The film walks a fine line between empathy and disgust of the complex connections between East and West. 



WASTE LAND, a UK/Brazilian co-production that looks at the work of Brazilian art photographer Vik Muniz won the Publieke Omroep IDFA Audience Award (which includes a cash prize of €5,000. Director Lucy Walker brings a visceral thrill to the story about the making of a series of photographs of refuse scavengers at the world’s biggest garbage dump in Rio de Janeiro. Taking garbage (and the exceptionally difficult lives of the people who must live in it) and turning it into high-priced art pieces reveals a project that is equal parts exploitation and opportunity. Other award winners included INTO ETERNITY, Danish director Michael Madsen’s poetic look at nuclear waste, which won the Festival’s top prize in the inaugural Green Screen Documentary section; AUTUMN GOLD, an audience-pleasing look at five senior athletes as they prepare for an athletic competition in Finland, which won the Youth Jury Prize; HIGHRISE/Out My Window, an interactive video that utilized 360-degree image technology to portray the lives of the inhabitants of soulless housing projects around the world, won for Canadian director Katerina Cizek the Festival’s inaugural DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling; and WHAT’S IN A NAME, Belgian director Eva Küpper’s compassionate portrait of New York transsexual body art performer Jon Cory and his explicit performances of  “gender terrorism.”  IDFA Director Ally Derks greeted the capacity crowd, thanking her staff, the army of volunteers and the enthusiastic audiences for what she deemed “the best IDFA ever”. She announced that this year’s audience figures will exceed 180,000, a full 15,000 more than last year. The number of Dutch and international guests also increased, with a record 2500 in town this year. In terms of quality and enthusiasm, the Festival is THE place to be to appreciate the diversity, strength and complexity of the genre of non-fiction film.   Sandy Mandelberger, IDFA Dailies Editor


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