IDFA Undergoes Revamp in Response to ‘Transformation’ in Documentary Filmmaking

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, one of the world’s leading non-fiction cinema events, has revamped its program structure, with two main competition sections at its center. The festival said the move was intended to respond to a historic “transformation” in documentary filmmaking.

As well as introducing the International Competition and the Envision Competition sections, the fest has brought in a slew of new awards that celebrate the art of documentary filmmaking. Submissions are now open for the 34th edition of IDFA, which runs Nov. 17-28.

The International Competition presents around 15 world, international, or European premieres of films that are more than 60 minutes in length. In a statement, the festival said: “Artistically confident, well-rounded, and universally relevant films form the backbone of this competition, showcasing the work of filmmakers who have mastered all the sophistication and refinement of documentary cinema — the best of the art.”

The Envision Competition presents about 15 world, international, or European premieres of films that are more than 40 minutes in length. “With stylistic integrity and courage, films in this competition boldly seek their own cinematic language, traversing our current reality to propose visions of a documentary art form to come,” the festival said.

Orwa Nyrabia, IDFA’s artistic director, said: “Documentary film is going through a phase of historical transformation. New waves of filmmakers are continuously challenging the art form, investigating its limits, and sharpening its edges as they search for artistic liberty. IDFA is changing along with documentary film, moving into a new program structure that departs from its solid and proven past into a more flexible curatorial vision that is open to experimentation.”

He added: “We are adopting an open structure for an era of transformation — a structure that is carefully crafted to resonate with the documentary visions of the world’s filmmakers while creating equally important space for all the artistic diversity of the documentary art form.”

Both competitions include a main juried award for best film in addition to other awards that “acknowledge the craft and innovation of documentary filmmaking.”

In addition, IDFA has introduced two awards that draw on films playing in different sections: films in the main competition sections, Luminous, and Frontlight can be nominated for Best First Feature, and films in all program sections can be nominated for Best Dutch Film.

In lieu of their respective competitions, the festival now will select Dutch, mid-length, student, and debut feature films for sections across the whole program, “taking into consideration only the films’ artistic contributions.” IDFA’s competitions for shorts and youth films will remain unchanged.

The festival’s new media strand, IDFA DocLab, celebrates its 15th edition this year, and is taking its anniversary as a point of departure to “explore how the field has evolved across immersive art, digital art, and interdisciplinary installations and performances.” The new DocLab competitions presented this year will “reflect these developments in the field in tandem with a focus on artistic excellence,” the festival said.

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