"Russia is an authoritarian state," declared Garry Kasparov tonight in Amsterdam. A subject of director Masha Novikova's IDFA world premiere "In the Holy Fire of Revolution," former Russian chess champion Kasparov spoke at tonight's packed daily panel discussion. IDFA kicked off its signature "Talk of the Day" event at this year's fest in Amsterdam with verbal fireworks as Kasparov took to the stage to discuss his current passion - Russian politics and what he considers a crisis of the Russian state.

In "Holy Fire," which screened here tonight at the International Documentary Film Fesival Amsterdam, Kasparov's anti-Putin party, The Other Russia, is seen as a victim of Kremlin thuggery. Not only are they denied access to the general media at home, but their preaceful demonstrations face police harrassment and Kasparov is repeatedly jailed without access to a lawyer, the film asserts.

"We're not trying to 'win' elections, we're trying to 'have' elections," Kasparov said tonight, "It's misleading to tell people we've had elections. Saddam Hussein also had 'elections.'" Kasparov blasted Putin and the Kremlin for undermining (or as he would argue, eliminating) free discourse in his homeland, saying that just recently a government information minister announced a new media crackdown for journalists "spreading rumors of panic."

Kasparov also momentarily touched on the personal, saying he felt an obligation to continue his showdown with the Kremlin, despite repeated and increasing intimidation. "This process can of course make you frightened. This regime can do anything. But at the end of the day, I feel I have no choice."

The conversation turned heated during an exchange between IDFA chairman Derk Sauer, who owns a string of successful media publications in Russia. Sauer told the crowd that he was sympathetic to much of Kasparov's ideas and goals but offered a piece of 'friendly advice,' saying Kasparov should not "look down" on the masses of Russians who aspire to be a part of the middle class and are perhaps sympathetic to Putin. Kasparov reacted angrily saying that Sauer's magazines only appeal to the elite crowd of Muscovites and others who have connections.

"I have a great [hope] for my country," Kasparov said emphatically, "not just for the 3 - 4 million [connected people] but for all 140 million." [Brian Brooks]

Near the IDFA fest headquarters in Amsterdam this afternoon. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE

Greed, Globalization in Focus

The industry's leading international documentary festival, IDFA is a stalwart annual showcase for cultural and social documentaries. Festival director Ally Derks estimates that as many as 10,000 such docs are produced annually. She and her team selected 309 titles (from the more than 3,400 submitted this year) for the twenty first edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

"Greed" and "globalization" are hot topics this year, as Derks noted today here in The Netherlands alongside Dutch artist Renzo Martens, director of the fest's opening night film, "Episode 3 - Enjoy Poverty." The controversial doc, exploring poverty and the industry built around battling it, challenges Western views of the poor (along the way needling poor folks from the Congo to try to capitalize on their situation).

"I tried to make something that is truthful," Martens said today of his provocative film, "I tried to make a film that can look itself in the eye." But, he added, "I don't think the film is about Congo, I think the film is about watching Congo." Concluding the thought, he added, "It's a film about us." [Eugene Hernandez]

A complete list of feature films in competition at IDFA '09 follows:

Joris Ivens Compeition
"7915 km," directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter
"Back Home Tomorrow," directed by Fabrizio Lazzaretti & Paolo Santolini
"Burma VJ - Reporting From a Closed Country," directed by Anders Ostergaard
"Carmen Meets Borat," directed by Mercedes Stalenhoef
"Far From the Villages," directed by Olivier Zuchat
"Forgetting Dad," directed by Rick Minnicn & Matthew Sweetwood
"Hair India," directed by Raffaele Brunetti & Marco Leopardi
"King of India," directed by Arvind Sinha
"Let's Make Money," directed by Irwin Wagenhofer
"Milking the Rhino," directed by David E. Simpson
"Necrobusiness," directed by Fredrik von Krusenstjerna, Monika Sieradzka, and Richard Solarz
"On the Way to School," directed by Ozgur Dogan & Orhan Eskikoy
"Our Street - Cinema Version," directed by Marcin Latallo
"The Queen and I," directed by Nahid Persson Sarvestani
"Rough Aunties," directed by Kim Longinotto
"Sea Point Days," directed by Francois Verster
"Yodok Stories," directed by Andrzej Fidyk

First Appearance Competition
"Afghan Star," directed by Havana Marking
"The Caviar Connection," directed by Dragan Nikolik
"Comrades," directed by Poppy Simpson & Dagmar Tatarczyk
"Constantin and Elena," directed by Andrei Dascalescu
"Episode 3 - 'Enjoy Poverty'," directed by Renzo Martens
"Horsemen," directed by Nancy Muqing Wu
"In for Motion," directed by Anirdan Datta
"In My Father's Country," directed by Tom Murray
"Lost in the Fog," directed by John Corey
"Luckey," directed by Laura Longsworth
"Mostar United," directed by Claudi Tosi
"My First War," directed by Yariv Mozer
"Persona non grata," directed by Fabio Wuytack
"Project Kashmir," directed by Senain Kheshgi & Geeta V. Patel
"Trans#," directed by Jin Ly
"Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love," directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

indieWIRE's coverage of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam will continue through next week.

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