[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with IDFA’s opening film.]: “Position Among the Stars” (Stand van de sterren) by Dutch director Leonard Retel Helmrich will open the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) on November 17, kicking off the 11 – day event. The film, which follows “The Eye of the Day,” (De stand van de zon, 2002) and “Shape of the Moon” (Stand van de maan, 2004) as the concluding part of Helmrich’s portrait of Indonesia seen through the microcosm of the Christian/Islamic family Sjamsuddin.
In “Stars,” the increasing calls for Islamic Sharia law among Indonesia’s clerics come into view. Rumidjah and Bakti are hoping that Tari will be the first in their family to study and Tari herself, a typically rebellious teenager, is interested mainly in shopping and boys. Like its two predecessors, “Stars” is characterised by highly mobile, intuitive use of the camera, which darts between the members of the family, such as curt grandma Rumidjah, her son Bakti and granddaughter Tari.
One of the world’s largest non-fiction film events, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) unveiled details about its competition and other sections. The 23rd IDFA, taking place November 17 – 28, 280 titles (selected from 3,200 submissions), 84 of which are documentaries that will have their world première at the festival. The event has a history of debuting notable docs that later travel to North America at Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca, including last year’s “Last Train Home,” “Afghan Star,” “Space Tourists,” “Sisters In Law” as well as “Stranded” and “Up the Yangtze.”
Along with 15 titles screening in the Feature-Length Documentary competition, the event hosts other competition categories including First Appearance, by beginning filmmakers as well as a mid-length doc competition and sections for students, Dutch and more. New this year are titles in the “Green Screen” documentary, spotlighting work devoted to the “between man and his environment.” Finnish director Pirjo Honkasalo will receive a retrospective of her work this year and she will also select IDFA’s Top 10, films selected by the filmmaker to be screened at the fest that are his or her favorites.
The list of the 2010 IDFA Feature Length and First Appearance competitions (with descriptions and information provided by the festival):
“Arab Attraction” by Andreas Horvath (Austria)
Barbara Wally, the former director of the International Summer Academy of Fina Arts in Salzburg, has been a public figure known for her pronounced feminist views for decades. A few years before retirement she fell in love with a driver from Yemen. She has since become his second wife and a devoted Muslim, which entails praying to Allah five times a day, and wearing a headscarve on many occassions. The film explores this unusual paradigm shift.
Previous work by Andreas Horvath shown at IDFA: “Views of a Retires Night Porter” (2006).
“Blood in the Mobile” by Frank Poulsen (Denmark/Germany)
A trip to the Bisie mine in Congo, where minerals are extracted for mobile phones.
Previous work by Frank Poulsen shown at IDFA: “Guerilla Girl” (2005).
“Holy Wars” by Stephen Marshall (USA/Canada)
Stephen Marshall follows a fanatical Christian and a radical Muslim from the start of the war on terror. Their worldview becomes increasingly extreme.
“Katka” by Helena Trestikova (Czech Republic)
For 13 years, a Chechnyan girl named Katka has been fighting an uphill battle to get off heroin.
“Longing for Beauty” by Julian Benedikt (Germany)
In his documentary Julian Benedikt examines the significance outward appearance has gained in our society today. In the process, the film introduces the possibilities of modern plastic surgery beyond the well-known aesthetic surgery. It does so by telling the life stories of three people who consider themselves confronted with severe facial disfigurement or the wish for further beautification.
“Marathon Boy” by Gemma Atwal (England)
An Indian boy from the slums with an unbelievable talent for running becomes the cause of a political battle between his coach and child welfare.
“My Barefoot Friend” by Seong-Gyou Lee (South Korea)
A portrait of Shalim, one of the 10,000 rickshaw drivers in Calcutta, who works his feet to the bone in order to realize his greatest dream: a home of his own.
“My Heart of Darkness” by Staffan Julén (Sweden/Germany)
Four veterans of the Angolan War travel together along the River Cuito, in search of forgiveness and reconciliation.
“Position Among the Stars” by Leonard Retel Helmrich (Netherlands)
The concluding part of a lively trilogy on Indonesia, viewed through the microcosm of the funny and touching daily lives of the Sjamsuddin family.
Previous work by Leonard Retel Helmrich shown at IDFA: “Eye of the Day” (2001), “Shape of the Moon” (openingfilm IDFA 2004, winner of the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary), “Promised Paradise” (2006).
“The Foxhounds” by Jeff Prosserman (USA/Canada)
A juicy chronicle of the hunt for stock market swindler Bernie Madoff, recounted by the guy who found him out: Harry Markopolos, now hero of the American people.
“The Good Life” by Eva Mulvad (Denmark)
Two ladies – mother and daughter – live on the sunny Portuguese coast. All of their lives they have had enough money to live the good life: no work and lots of pleasure. But they have a problem. Their wealth has run out. Through this simple story line unfolds a complex tale about a family’s unavoidable destiny, about status and money and about a little girl who was raised to believe that money grows on trees…
Previous work by Eva Mulvad shown at IDFA: “Enemies of Happiness” (IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary 2006).
“The Green Wave” by Ali Samadi (Germany)
Millions of Iranians have been bereaved of their human rights and freedom. Young people and other Iranian protesters have been killed. And no one can see anything, because the world is simply locked out. In the beginning of June 2009 most Iranians were hoping for a change of government. All surveys predicted Hossein Mussawi, Ahmadinejad’s contender would win the elections. But in fact Ahmadinejad was declared the outstanding victor and all hope was dashed. What is the reason for so many Iranian people to support the protest continuing to march on the streets despite the [danger]?
“The Team” by Patrick Reed (Canada)
A reality soap opera about a mixed football team succeeds in its aim of sparking discussions among young Kenyans about the dangers of tribalism.
Previous work by Patrick Reed shown at IDFA: “Triage: The Dilemma of Dr. James Orbinski” (2007)
“This is My Picture When I Was Dead” by Mahmoud Al Massad (Netherlands/Germany)
Athens, 1983. The world press reports 4-year-old Bashir is killed in the assassination of his father, a top PLO-lieutenant. When they arrive at the hospital Bashir turns out to be still alive. Now, 26 years later, Bashir is a citizen of the world and one of the most important political cartoonists of Jordan. Mixing documentary style filmmaking with fiction, animation and archive material, Bashir embarks on a journey to his past. Images, memories of his father and an open-minded attitude make “This is my picture when I was Dead” a creative inevitable search for the roots of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.
“You Don’t Like the Truth – 4 Days Inside Guantánamo” by Luc Coté and Patricio Henriquez (Canada)
At 16 years old, Omar Khadr ended up in the prison at Guantánamo Bay. The recordings of his interrogation form the basis of this disconcerting film about his case.
First Appearance competition:
“Abuelos” by Carla Valencia Dávila (Ecuador/Chile, 2010, 93 min.)
“Addicted in Afghanistan” by Jawed Taiman (Afghanistan/England, 2009, 75 min.)
“Agnus Dei” by Alejandra Sánchez (Mexico/France, 2010, 87 min.)
“Almost Married” by Fatma Bucak (Turkey/Italy, 2010, 59 min.)
“Because We Are Visual” by Gerard-Jan Claes/Olivia Rochette (Belgium, 2010, 47 min.)
“Beijing 2008” by Lei Jianjun (China, 2010, 90 min.)
“Cinema Komunisto” by Mila Turajlic (Serbia and Montenegro/Serbia, 2010, 90 min.)
“An Encounter with Simone Weil” by Julia Haslett (USA/Italy/Sweden, 2010, 85 min.)
“Feathered Cocaine” by Thorkell S. Hardarson/Orn Marion Arnarson (Iceland, 2010, 84 min.)
“Guilty Pleasures” by Julie Moggan (England, 2010, 85 min.)
“Imams Go to School” by Kaouther Ben Hania (United Arab Emirates/France, 2010, 75 min.)
“iThemba” by Elinor Burkett (USA, 2010, 70 min.)
“Kano: An American and His Harem” by Monster Jimenez (Philippines, 2010, 80 min.)
“One Frontier, All Frontiers” by David Pablos (Mexico/Argentina/Brazil, 2010, 53 min.)
“The Other Chelsea – A Story from Donetsk” by Jakob Preuss (Germany, 2010, 80 min.)