As someone who appreciates attending documentary-only film festivals, I must admit that after a few days, it can become a bit of a slog. This is not due to the films, particularly at a high-end event like IDFA, the acclaimed International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, which ended its 11 day run on Sunday. If anything, it is the opposite. The films presented are so visceral, so challenging, so disturbing, so awakening, that it truly is a shock to the system to see them in the marathon fashion favored by festival goers like myself.
Among the films that both outraged and motivated me this past week were BLOOD IN THE MOBILE, Danish director Frank Piasecki Poulsen's "Roger And Me" quest to get at the bottom of "blood minerals" from the Congo that are imported by one of the world's most successful technology companies Nokia; THE GREEN WAVE, director Ali Samadhi Abadi's powerful mix of essay, animation and actual clips of the uprising in Iran following the election of 2009; the horrendously demanding and difficult lives of the rickshaw drivers of Calcutta beautifully captured by South Korean director Seong Gyou-Lee in MY BAREFOOT FRIEND; the agonies of facing the truth in the aftermath of a bloody war in Swedish director Staffan Julen's MY HEART OF DARKNESS; and the numbing monotony and excruciating boredom that sometimes erupts in violence in the wars in Afghanistan and Iran, as experienced by the combat troops in ARMADILLO by Danish director Janus Metz.
The above is only scratching the surface of the topics presented in the past week and a half. For the viewer, there can only be an initial reaction of shock, followed by a numbness and feeling of weakness in the presence of such monumental issues and problems. However, in each of the above films, the filmmakers have made a point of saying that the conditions and situations portrayed in the film ARE subject to change, if there is the will and the motivation to do so. That is the challenge of these films and the challenge that we each take home with us from IDFA.
By Sandy Mandelberger