By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire December 3, 2006 at 11:1AM
A favorite of many attendees at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) this year, Pernille Rose Gronkjaer's "The Monastery: Mr. Vig & the Nun" won the award for best documentary in the festival's Joris Ivens Competition. IDFA awarded a 12,500 euro prize to the Danish documentary, with Alexander Rastorguev, Vitaly Mansky and Susanna Baranzhieva's "Tender's Heat Wild Wild Beach" singled out for a special jury prize at the festival on Saturday night in The Netherlands. A trio of Danish documentaries were honored as the festival came to a close in Amsterdam.
Considered the most important doc festival in the world, the event is preparing to celebrate its 20th Anniversary in 2007, but is facing a number of changes, including a venue shift and key personnel departures.
Gronkjaer's "The Monastery," set for its North American debut in the international doc competition at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival next month, looks at the aging Vig, who is pursuing his dream of building a Russian Orthodox monastery in an old Danish castle (with the help of group of nuns). The film was ranked number three in audience ballotting at IDFA.
Paul Taylor's "We Are Together" ("Thina suminye") won two awards at IDFA 2006, including the 5,000 euro First Appearance competition award for a first time director and the event's audience award, which includes another 5,000 euros. The story of the Agape orphanage for children abandoned by parents who have died of AIDS, Taylor's doc delves into the sometimes tragic tales surrounding the children. But he ultimately finds an inspirational story when the children literally lift their voices to sing. Funded by the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation, it was quickly nabbed by HBO and the filmmakers told indieWIRE that they are close to concluding a final cut of the film in time for an intended Spring film festival debut in the U.S.
The festival's Silver Wolf Award, for best short doc, went to Danish filmmaker Eva Mulvad for "Enemies of Happiness," including a 10,000 euro prize and a TV broadcast. Meanwhile, the Silver Cub for a doc shorter than 30 minutes went to the Danish doc "My Eyes" by Erlend E. Mo.
An increasingly popular European festival among some U.S. insiders, particulary festival programmers, IDFA is about to undergo a number of significant changes as it plans the celebration of its 20th anniversary. The event is leaving its current Leidseplein location at The City theaters in a popular tourist area of the city. The site will be closed for renovation and organizers said they are likely to move the festival's main screenings to another movie theater complex, The Tuschinski, about a ten-minute walk away from the Leidseplein area. IDFA's Cees van 't Hullenaar told the IDFA festival daily that, for now, industry activities including Docs for Sale and The Forum will maintain their location near the popular DeBalie, the daily hub of panels, parties and industry activity. Insiders are clearly hoping that industry screenings will remain in the vicinity of the De Balie as the event shifts. Van 't Hullenaar did tell the daily that in a few years the entire festival (including the industry segments) will likely move to the Rembrandtplein area of Amsterdam.
Other changes at IDFA include the departures of both financial director Jolanda Klarenbeek (who will be replaced by Van 't Hullenaar) and Fleur Knopperts, the popular managing director of The Forum. She is leaving IDFA to start a similar event in conjunction with the Sheffield DocFest in England. Knopperts is joining former IDFA staffer David Teigeler, who became the new Sheffield programmer under the leadership of new fest head Heather Croall.
Other IDFA prize-winners included the Movies that Matter Award to Socheata Poeuv's "New Year Baby," the DOC U! Award for best youth film to Miroslaw Dembinski for "A Lesson of Belorussian," and the Dutch Cultural Broadcasting Fund Award to Catherine van Campen's project, "Eeuwige moes," as part of the IDFA Documentary Workshop.