IDFA is somehow Le Grande Finale of the year. People rush around all year until everyone finally gets together in Amsterdam to finalise business, see the final selections of top docs, attend the final seminars, talk shows, masterclasses, take the final decisions at dozens of meetings, drink at countless receptions and parties and celebrate the documentary.

Like every festival, IDFA also tries to keep up with the latest technology and integrated it quite successfully in several ways.

One new invention was DocAgora, a one-day conference “on new forms, new platforms and new models of funding creative, socially-engaged documentaries”, featuring filmmakers, distributors and other pioneers in these areas including representatives from MySpace, Fourdocs and BBC online. DocAgora is intended to serve as a network of sorts that organises conferences throughout the year but also plans other activities (

Another new initiative was Victor Kossakovsky’s workshop with young filmmakers. Under his guidance and following ten rules laid down by him, a different filmmaker made a little film every day which was uploaded to the Net. The IDFA website generally presented highly integrated transmitting from some of the talk shows, offering the chance to watch film trailers, follow the daily update of audience favourites, etc.

Another new format was the “State of Documentary: The First Annual IDFA UnDebate”, which was an attempt to examine the state of documentary on all continents and to focus on new inspirational initiatives rather than talk about issues like lack of funding, etc.

For many people, the IDFA days are crammed with business, business and more business. For the lucky ones with time to go the cinema, however, there were plenty of choices. On the evening of the awards ceremony, the Danish camp was bubbling with enthusiasm since all three main awards-in the Joris Ivens, Silver Wolf and Silver Cub competitions-went to Danish films. As a Dane I have to mention this, although IDFA is not a sports event. The films do not represent countries but individual filmmakers regardless of nationality. Below are a number of short reviews of a selection of interesting films from IDFA’s varied programmes.

Four Elements

4_4elements039The Netherlands 2006, 89 min.
Director: Jiska Rickels
Production: Fu Works
World Sales: Fu Works

The film depicts humankind’s relation to the four elements, both our dependence on them and the danger they constitute. “Fire” deals with Siberian woodsmen; “Water” with fishermen; “Earth” with miners and “Air” with astronauts. The idea is banal but the film is ambitious and serious. The filmmaker has a strong visual sense, the film features some highly original shots, and she expresses a clear idea. She does include some repetitive passages, however, and the film’s solemn tone makes it a bit hard to digest at times.

Prirechnyy – The Town that no Longer Exists
prirechnyjNorway 2006, 53 min.
Director: Tone Grøttjord
Production: Motlys
World Sales: Deckert Distribution

Prirechnyy is a once flourishing Siberian city that officially no longer exists. But its elderly inhabitants try to keep up some old traditions of the city and live their rough isolated lives without telephones or bus lines. We follow their daily life in a classic observational style. The film has its funny moments, such as when some women badmouth each other, and sad moments, such as when an old woman loses her son to cancer. A chapter of Russian history and the present situation are told through these people, using skilled filmmaking, not least featuring an original opening scene.

9 Star Hotel
51q5xjz5yylIsrael 2006, 78 min.
Director: Ido Haar
Production: Eden Productions
World Sales: Cinephil

A touching film about a group of young Palestinian men working illegally in Israel to feed their families. They live in a homemade shelter and are constantly hunted by the police. The filmmaker is at the centre of their lives, observing their intimate conversations and filming them as they run away from the police and sometimes get caught. The film provides a rare insight, depicting sympathetic people with the best intentions but who are constantly mocked by the Israeli authorities. The film does not judge Israel as such, it merely shows the hopeless situation the country creates for ordinary Palestinians.

Enemies of Happiness
enemies_of_happiness_posterDenmark 2006, 59 min.
Director: Eva Mulvad
Production: Bastard Film
World Sales: TV2 World

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