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7 Free IDFA Docs To Watch

Friday 27 March, 2020

The world’s largest documentary film festival, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), are currently giving viewers the chance to access over 300 docs on their website, free of charge! 

But that’s a whole lot of docs, so the Bertha DocHouse team decided to do all the hard work for you, and cherry pick seven of our personal favourites for you to watch online. 

For more online recommendations from us, join our weekly newsletter here.


A group of young boys are standing against a brick wall wearing black tops and holding pink cheerleading pom poms. This is a still from the documentary Boy Cheerleaders.

          1. Boy Cheerleaders / James Newton / 2010 / England / 60mins 

Director James Newton follows England’s first all-boy cheerleading team in the run-up to the national championships. On a South Leeds estate in the heart of rugby league territory, a group of nine boys are preparing for competition, this is a compelling documentary about the ‘DAZL Diamonds’ and their coach Ian Rodley. 

Follow the team and their families as the boys prepare for the National Championships in Coventry. Cheerleading is not just an after-school activity, coach Ian teaches the boys to fail and learn from their mistakes, inspiring them to achieve their goals.

For most the DAZL Diamond boys growing up has been tough, being bullied and told to grow up as a man. Boy Cheerleaders is an uplifting story about creativity and determination. 

Watch Boy Cheerleaders here.

A large concrete building with jutting out edges stands in Los Angeles. This is a still from the documentary Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream.


           2. Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream / Alex Gibney / 2012 / 58min 

Oscar winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney looks at inequality in the US to ask if America is still the land of opportunity. 740 Park Avenue, Manhattan, is one the most exclusive addresses in the world, home to some of the richest Americans.

Ten minutes to the north, across the Harlem River, is the other Park Avenue. Here, unemployment runs at 19% and half of the population need food stamps. 

By focusing on the residents of 740 Park, Gibney poses questions about the influence of CEOs in Washington in return for tax policies that favour the ultra-rich. Through archives and interviews with academics, psychologists, and former lobbyists, Gibney takes a polemical look at the socio-economic political landscape of contemporary USA.

Watch our Q&A with Nick Fraser, the commissioner of Park Avenue, here.

Watch Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream here.


          3. Rafear: Solar Mama / Jehane Noujam & Mona Eldaief / 2012 / 75min

Rafea is a Bedouin woman who lives with her daughters in one of Jordan’s poorest desert villages on the Iraqi border. She is given the chance to travel to India to attend the Barefoot College, where illiterate women from around the world are trained in six months to be solar engineers.

If Rafea succeeds, she will be able to train more engineers in her village, and provide for her daughters. But, when she returns as the first female solar engineer in the country, her real challenge will have just begun. 

Rafea: Solar Mama is a powerful story following a strong-minded Bedouin woman as she struggles against tradition and society, seeking to be the first female solar engineer in Jordan. Eladaief’s intimate camerawork creates beautiful shots which capture the Jordianian desert and the Indian village where Barefoot College is located. 

Watch the Rafea: Solar Mama here.


          4. La Ciudad De Los Fotografos / Sebastián Moreno / 2006 / 80min 

During Pinochet’s long regime, a crew of photojournalists framed Chile’s people and turmoil. In the streets, in the middle of riots and protests, these fearless photographers created their own language.

For them, the act of taking pictures was a way to be free, a way to be more than spectators, an alternative to keep on living. Pinochet had the authoritative power and military force, but these photographers had the people’s weapon, a camera lense. 

The film footage in the documentary gives life to the photographic moments, creating a rich archive of history. We see the photographers running for their lives or saving their companions from corrupt police. Starting with the coup in 1973, these photographers manage to poetically capture the true character of state-sponsored terror.

Watch the trailer here.


          5. Runaway / Kim Longinotto & Ziba Mir-Hosseini / 2001 / 87min 

Runaway is a heart-breaking and powerful documentary about a group of young runaway girls who are taken to a women’s shelter in Tehran, Iran. These girls, in leaving a situation that has become intolerable, show resourcefulness and incredible strength as they long for respect and freedom.

The centre is run by the charismatic Mrs Shirazi, who protects the girls from their families and helps them renegotiate their relationships. The film explores their experience of male authority, their abusive fathers, stepfathers and brothers.

The sisterly and courageous spirit of the girls is shown with great empathy, Longinotto and Mir-Hosseini have poignantly criticised the patriarchal system of family and the destructive power of male family members over the lives of their daughters and sisters. 

Hear Kim Longinotto discuss editing techniques in our masterclass here.

Watch Runaway here.


6. Ukrainian Sheriffs / Roman Bondarchuk / 2015 / 80min 

Ukrainian Sheriffs follows Viktor and Volodya, two men who have been appointed local sheriffs by the mayor of the town Stara Zburyevka in Ukraine. While dealing with crimes such as stolen ducks and drunken neighbours, the news about war is slowly creeping in on them from invitations to join the army and televised announcements.

This is a kind-hearted documentary that soon becomes intertwined in politics as the Ukranian Sheriffs transition from dealing with neighbourhood nuisances to tracking down draft-dodgers. 

Bondarchuk offers a portrait of a remote village of Southern Ukraine, disturbed by everyday, mundane incidents and foreshadowing of political developments. What starts as an empathetic small-town story develops into a depiction of the effects of war in a micro perspective. 

Watch the trailer for Ukrainian Sheriffs here



          7. 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time / Kira Pollack & Paul Moakley / 2016

This fascinating multimedia project by Time Magazine celebrates the hundred photos that have shaped our world. From the Beatles having a pillow fight in 1964, to the controversial picture of an 18-week-old fetus that stirred up heated discussion about abortion.

All these photographs document iconic moments in history, spanning a diverse history of photography and its powerful nature. This engrossing multi-disciplinary project consists of compelling essays, short films and personal stories. 

The photographs represent pinnacle moments in history. Many are political, some controversial even sparking debate today, decades after they were taken. This online exhibition delves deep into each image to explore why and how it changed the course of history. 

Watch 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time here.


You can access DFA’s full catalogue of free documentaries here.

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