Every year IDFA presents the best documentaries, selected from a wide topical range. This selection is made on the basis of certain clear criteria. In short, the IDFA looks for documentaries that are stylistically interesting or innovative, socially relevant and who manage to clearly communicate with their audiences.
This will be the first year we will attend IDFA as our Senior Editor currently resides in the great city of Amsterdam. The following list represents 10 films which have made noise on the festival circuit already this year, as well as a handful of releases unseen in the US up to this point.
IDFA 2014 runs November 19-30, 2014 at venues all around Amsterdam, Netherlands.
A real life thriller, unfolding by the minute, giving audiences unprecedented access to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden in Hong Kong, as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency (NSA).
Narrated by Ms Lauryn Hill, Concerning Violence is both an archive-driven documentary covering the most daring moments in the struggle for liberation in the Third World, as well as an exploration into the mechanisms of decolonization through text from Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth. Fanon’s landmark book, written over 50 years ago, is still a major tool for understanding and illuminating the neocolonialism happening today, as well as the violence and reactions against it.
Brandy Burre had a recurring role on HBO’s The Wire when she gave up her career to start a family. When she decides to reclaim her life as an actor, the domestic world she’s carefully created crumbles around her. Using elements of melodrama and cinema verité, ACTRESS is both a present tense portrait of a dying relationship and an exploration of a complicated woman, performing the role of herself, in a complex-yet-familiar story.
Tales of the Grim Sleeper
When Lonnie Franklin Jr. was arrested in South Central Los Angeles in 2010 as the suspected murderer of a string of young black women, police hailed it as the culmination of 20 years of investigations. Four years later documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield took his camera to the alleged killer’s neighborhood for another view. Aided by Pam, a former prostitute and crack addict who knows the streets and the people walking them, Broomfield reveals the journey of a serial killer, gives voice to his victims, and illuminates the racial divide that still exists between the police and African-Americans in Los Angeles.
The Look of Silence
Joshua Oppenheimer’s genre-transcending look at Indonesian genocide The Act of Killing has rightfully taken its place amongst the most formidable examples of the documentary medium (as well as having a distinct honor of unquestionable Academy Award snub). The film won International acclaim for reopening a forgotten chapter of history and caused an unprecedented wave of national re-examination within Indonesia. Now Oppenheimer delves further into the country’s dark legacy with The Look of Silence, this time focusing on the perspective of victims rather than victors.
In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a carer of orphan gorillas and a Belgian conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war in May 2012, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect.
The Case of the Three Sided Dream
Rahsaan Roland Kirk was a one of a kind musician, personality, satirist and windmill-slayer who despite being blind, becoming paralyzed, and facing America’s racial injustices – did not relent. This film by Adam Kahan takes you on a journey through Kirk’s vibrant life and career.
From Caligari to Hitler
The Weimar Republic, from 1918 to 1933, was the freest state on German soil; a wild era characterized by political disruption, economic crisis and cultural brilliance. It was also the most important period of German cinema, even to the present day. The aesthetic foundations were laid for the “seventh art”; Weimar’s directors like Murnau, Lang, Lubitsch, Pabst, Sternberg and Ruttmann are still legendary today, and its stars are unforgotten.
Finding Fela tells the story of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s life, his music, his social and political importance. He created a new musical movement, Afrobeat, using that forum to express his revolutionary political opinions against the dictatorial Nigerian government of the 1970s and 1980s. His influence helped bring a change towards democracy in Nigeria and promoted Pan Africanist politics to the world. The power and potency of Fela’s message is completely current today and is expressed in the political movements of oppressed people, embracing Fela’s music and message in their struggle for freedom. Finding Fela was directed by the Academy Award winning director, Alex Gibney.
Those Who Said No
After decades of silence survivors and relatives of the victims of a mass atrocity establish a People’s Court. They will testify against a crime carried out by the Iranian regime, a crime that has been kept secret from the public for more than 25 years. Those responsible for these crimes now hold high government office in Iran. Their secret would be safe, if it was not for the efforts of some survivors. In 2013 an international tribunal, the Iran Tribunal, is convened in The Hague Court of Justice. Now is their chance to put Iran on trial for their crimes against humanity.
– Steve Rickinson