The 24th edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam is in full swing (and Indiewire editors Brian Brooks and Peter Knegt are there), with plenty of titles buzzing as the fest goes into the weekend. Everything from a pair of twin prostitutes to a man who has been blind and deaf since childhood are the subjects of this year’s batch of docs.
Here are 10 receiving a lot of attention, some with the remaining screenings already completely sold out.
[Synopses courtesy of the festival]
Director: Tony Asimakopoulos
A retrospective examination of a drug-fueled period in the filmmaker’s life that almost resulted in self-destruction.
Why it’s buzzworthy: Asimakopoulos “uses the lens to examine not only his past and present, but also his parents and friends, and his relationships with them.” He “gains new and painful insights that transport him to a less illustrious time in his life.”
Directors: Alix Lambert, David McMahon
A critical look at a poverty-stricken area of southeastern Louisiana, where 23 men were murdered between 1997 and 2006, and the inefficiency with which the case was dealt.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “Additional footage from local news programs as well as confrontational sound recordings of interrogations of the killer make for a film that offers a grim picture of an often hidden side of Western society.”
“I Am a Woman Now”
Director: Michiel van Erp
Explores the choices of various women, who are now older, to undergo a sex change operation in their youth without having to undergo any psychological assessment at the time.
Why it’s buzzworthy: Provides an interesting glimpse into both the upsides and downsides of these women’s eventful lives: “I found myself looking in a shop window, wondering what I’d look like in that dress. Then I realized: this is never going to go away.”
Directors: Andreas Koefoed, Christian Bonke (Check out our profile on the filmmakers here.)
Follows the Ukrainian dancer Slavik, winner of the World Latin American Dance Champion in 2000, and his partner in dance and life, Anna, around the world to international dance competitions and rehearsals.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “There were apparently no restrictions to what the filmmaker recorded, and he gets incredibly close to his characters. This makes for a moving and tragic portrait of a man whose hunger for success knows no boundaries.”
“Letters From Iran”
Director: Manon Loizeau
A reconstruction of the student protests in Iran in 2009 and profile on a group of Iranians living outside their homeland, commenting on the resulting fallout of the precarious political situation.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “We see jerky images of emotional protest meetings, harrowing interviews with dissidents who have fled the country after the torture they suffered, and unique material showing the nerve-wracking cat-and-mouse game with the regime.
“Meet The Fokkens“
Director: Gabrielle Provaas, Rob Schroder
Examines the lives of twin sisters Louise and Martine Fokkens who have worked in the red-light district of Amsterdam for 50 years.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “Their stories are full of spicy details about their clientele, some of whom come from unexpected walks of life. One such client was a chaplain: ‘Don’t you remember, we even had a little confessional!'”
“Pink Ribbons, Inc.”
Director: Lea Pool
A platform for various scientists and activists to talk about the origins and mechanisms behind the Pink Ribbon movement against breast cancer.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “Patients and feminists also cast a light on this pink power movement, which turns out to have powerful marketing potential. Breast cancer, it seems, is a “dream cause” with a huge, homogeneous group of potential customers: all women.”
Director: Seung-Jun Yi
A look at the life of Young-Chan, who has been deaf and blind since childhood, and his relationship with his wife Soon-Ho, through whom he learned to communicated with the outside world.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “These everyday scenes are accompanied by a poetic voice-over by Young-Chan, in which he reflects on his existence without sight and hearing. He feels like an astronaut, but that doesn’t mean he is without a sense of beauty in the world.”
Director: Lise Birk Pedersen
An examination of the Russian patriotic youth movement Nashi, whose members revere Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as a father figure, and the the critical comparisons of the group to the Hitler Youth movement.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “Marsha finds herself on the horns of a moral dilemma: does Nashi allow enough scope for her own opinions, or must she give herself completely to the will of “the party”? What follows is a coming-of-age documentary that also paints a grim picture of the Russian political climate.”
“They Call It Myanmar – Lifting The Curtain”
Director: Robert H. Lieberman
Secret footage of the lives of Myanmar citizens over the course of two years, characterized by food shortages, power cuts, a lack of health care and education, child labor and trafficking.
Why it’s buzzworthy: “This film is a portrait of a land where beauty and decay, and fear and courage, closely coexist.”