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Our IDFA highlights

Friday 2 December, 2016

The 29th edition of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam took place from 16th – 27th November 2016.  The DocHouse team have picked out some of the standout moments that made it - as always - such a highlight of the year.

Elizabeth Wood - Director 

I always find going to IDFA an inspiration and highpoint in my calendar. It kind of re-fuels my commitment to docs because the films are so wide ranging and with a global focus.

So many films to mention but a few - Rodnye, Vitaly Mansky’s latest film; Radio Kobani by Reber Dosky; The War Show by Andreas Dalsgaard; Those Who Jump  by Moritiz and Estephan, ex-NFTS students. Searching through the listings I caught A Greek Winter, an observational doc by Ingeborg Jansen which gently captured the shocking state of the economy for the average Greek citizen. And quite late one evening we watched crazy, funny but frightening The Road Movie by Dmitri Kalashnikov - a compilation film which was more than the sum of its parts.

It’s also great to meet some of the film makers. I loved meeting Amit and Shirley, makers of the beautiful Cinema Travellers and hearing about their next project at the Guardian Bertha get together. I also caught up with the amazing IDFA Bertha team at their gathering and met some of the grantees - emerging filmmakers from around the world. This is such an important part of IDFA - long may it continue.  

Finally I have to mention the award-winning Nowhere to Hide and  this year’s opening-night film Strangers in Paradise, both important films that give a different and deeper insight into the current crisis in the Middle East and Europe’s migrant problem. 

Chloe Trayner - Programme Manager


I spent a bit of time this year exploring the IDFA DocLab programme which is a companion to the film programme showcasing interactive documentaries and other digital projects pushing the boundaries of documentary storytelling. Alongside some interesting Virtual Reality experiences, I really enjoyed a couple of participatory projects included in the programme.

Smell Dating is an experimental new dating app based on the idea that smell is more important than looks when it comes to attraction. Subscribers exchange worn t-shirts with no additional information and your matchmaking choices are led by your noises. As part of DocLab, you were invited to sniff a selection of samples (aka worn t-shirts) and decide whether you found the person attractive or not. After getting a whiff of all of the samples, you were given information about the people who had submitted the t-shirts to reveal what you’re really attracted to. Watch the trailer: here 

The Island of the Colorblind is an interactive installation that plays with your perception of colour and understanding of the way you see the world. The project is based on the tiny atoll of Pingelap where the isolated population carry a rare gene that causes achromatopsia, a condition characterized by extreme light sensitivity, poor vision and the inability to distinguish colour. The installation itself uses the photography of Sanne de Wilde, a paint palette and an immersive soundscape. Find out more: here

Sheffield Doc/Fest and Dogwoof Party

On my last night at the festival, we headed to the annual party presented by Dogwoof and Sheffield Doc/Fest. With everybody ready to let loose after an intense week of meetings, screenings and pitches, it was the perfect end to the festival with Guilty Pleasures keeping us all on the dance floor till late.

Josh Hughes - Press & Marketing 

In Conversation with Kirsten Johnson

My highlight from this year’s festival was an inspiring In Conversation session with Kirsten Johnson hosted by the brilliant Orwa Nyrabia (Producer of Return to Homs). Johnson is an award-winning cinematographer whose directorial debut, Cameraperson, draws on footage she’s shot throughout her varied career. The discussion was informal but incredibly enlightening with both Kirsten and Orwa exchanging stories and discussing highlights from Kirsten’s career. One of the amazing things about going to film festivals is having access to the filmmakers. This discussion felt like an especially unique window into the world of one of the great cinematographers.

Also, a special mention to the EYE Cinema. It's always a treat to take the (free) ferry across the water to see a film in this spaceship like building! 

Emily Copley - Production Manager 

The Road Movie

What could be better than a dash cam compilation of car crashes, forest fires, foul-mouthed, axe-wielding Russians? Nothing at all. That’s why The Road Movie was my top IDFA doc of 2016. Director Dmitri Kalashnikov (yup, that’s his real name) captures the frightening, absurd and relentlessly comical nature of Russia in his fascinating montage of found footage that well and truly tests your reactions. By the end of it I think I was probably as hysterical as the crazed man clinging onto a car bonnet, on the right…

Check out a teaser of the film here.


Thanks for having us IDFA, see you next year!