The 31st International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA) takes place on November 14-25. If you are planning to go, here is a list of 5 films that you need know will be screening there. From the story of a legendary American jazz label to the unearthing of a little known dark chapter of Chinese history, here are 5 films screening at IDFA 2018 you need to know about (plus, five honorable mentions).
1 – Camorra, dir. Francesco Patierno (Italy)
Francesco Patierno aims to portray the Camorra – the Mafia-type crime syndicate from Campania in Southern Italy – via archival footage from the ’60s and the ’90s, through a film that avoids spectacularization and simplification. “Viewers can rely on their own awareness and sensitivity to tell the difference between fictional accounts … and one that is based on real material, on absolutely genuine faces and settings,” says the filmmakers in an official statement. “The simple and straightforward title reflects a desire not to play around with the subject, even in its name.”
2 – Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life, dir. Tomer Heymann (Germany, Israel)
Tomer Heymann may be regarded as Israel’s main queer documentarian, having directed the country’s most successful documentary in Mr. Gaga and the award-winning Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? His latest film chronicles Jonathan Agassi’s journey from being an effeminate young boy experiencing a tough childhood in a Tel Aviv suburb through his rise to becoming a global figure in the sex industry. The film was shot over the course of eight years.
3 – Absence of Me, dir. Melina Terribili (Argentina)
Alfredo Zitarrosa is one of the most celebrated figures of Uruguayan music. He was also a political activist, forced to flee dictatorship in the 1970s. Filmmaker Marina Terribili unearths a treasure trove of material from hundreds of boxes left behind by the artist and uncovered by his wife and daughters, 27 years after his death in 1989. Absence of Me is not only a portrait of the man and the artist, but also a depiction of the pain of living in exile.
4 – Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, dir. Sophie Huber (Switzerland)
The story of the legendary Blue Note Records jazz label told through current recording sessions, rare archive material and conversations with some of its artists – from Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter to Robert Glasper and Ambrose Akinmusire. A must-see for all jazz fans, the film is directed by Sophie Huber, who previously directed the acclaimed impressionistic feature Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction.
5 – Dead Souls, dir. Wang Bing (France, Switzerland)
Wang Bing, one of the foremost figures in documentary filmmaking today, unearths yet another little known chapter of Chinese history: the story of the hard-labor re-education camps in the Gobi Desert in Gansu, China, where many lost their lives in the late 1950s under the Communist Party’s Anti-Rightist Campaign through starvation, solitary confinement and torture. Dead Souls was shot over the course of 12 years and is told through the stories of 120 survivors of these camps.
5 honorable mentions:
American Dharma, dir. Errol Morris; The Eyes of Orson Welles, dir. Mark Cousins; Infinite Football, dir. Corneliu Porumboiu; Searching for Ingmar Bergman, dir. Margarethe von Trotte; When the War Comes, dir. Jan Gebert.