IDFA Announces Competition Selection

I missed the live streaming of the IDFA press conference yesterday afternoon, where artistic director Orwa Nyrabia was on stage to tell the documentary community, which films he and his programmers had chosen. But the website says it all – also that ”64% of the competition titles are by female filmmakers, with 47% in the total program”.

Having mentioned this important point for festivals around the world, let’s go to the films. I will surf a bit on the lists of selection, where it is obvious that Nyrabia’s ambition of also showing films that are not from the US or from the UK, is fulfilled:

Happy to see that Iranian Mehrdad Oskouei opens the festival. I saw his ”Starless Dreams» at the Dokufest in Prizren 3 years ago, ”an interview based observational documentary about, no with young girls in a prison, it is also called a rehabilitation centre. They are there because of drugs, robberies, even murders, and they are talked to by the director, whose soft and mild voice communicates understanding and compassion…” (

The opening film seems to pick up on a similar subject, a quote from the press release, ”Sunless Shadows steps into the enclosed world of five young Iranian women, all accomplices in the murder of their abusive husbands, fathers, or brothers-in-law…”. I have reserved a ticket!

In the Feature-Length Documentary section, I am even more happy to see Italian Valentina Pedicini with “Faith”: ““Warrior Monks” and “Guardian Mothers” they call themselves, the martial arts champions who are members of an Italian sect living together in a monastery. Led by a Kung Fu master, they are like Shaolin monks but with a Catholic twist. Utterly devoted to their faith, they train constantly so they are able to combat evil in the name of the Father. Director Valentina Pedicini was granted access to a way of life defined by discipline, and the resulting black-and-white film is surprisingly intimate…” Pedicini and her cameraperson Bastian Esser graduated from the Zelig Film School in Bolzano, super-talented theyt were and are; as teacher at the school I kept on telling Valentina, “make documentaries”; after a couple of feature films, here she is. Wow!

And it is difficult not to be emotional mentioning that my hero since I started dealing with documentary, Danish Jørgen Leth is there, in competition, with “I Walk” – have mentioned before that he will receive an award at the festival for his oeuvre.

And there are films by Sung-Jun Yi, Marlene Edoyan, Maasja Ooms, Pushpendra Singh, Hilal Baydarov, Laura Herrero Garvín, Marianne Khoury, Heidi Hassan & Patricia Pérez Fernández and Kivu Ruhorahoza…

Look at the names, this is definitely a change in IDFA selection policy. Chapeau!!!

Blogposting should not be too long, so I kindly ask you to check the website of IDFA to see the mid-length section as well as the digital DocLab as well as the “immersive non-fiction” as well as the DocLab Spotlight, not to forget the documentaries for children competition, always exciting.

Click here and you get all 321 films:[edition.year]=2019

Back to the competition “For First Appearance” – debut feature films, where the Georgian “A Tunnel” is listed. I know Nino Orjonikidze and Vano Arsenishvili very well from visits to Tbilisi, have seen their short films including the middle length “The English Teacher”. So curious to see the final result and glad to observe that good old Hans Robert Eisenhauer is helping and that arte/zdf is on board as broadcaster. The story, taken from the website, a quote:

“People are hard at work extending the railroad in a remote Georgian mountain village. When they’re done, the new Silk Road Express will run through here. But before this high-speed connection between China and Europe can go anywhere, a tunnel has to be dug—a tunnel that goes right through a mountain where villagers have their fields and pastures. In his office at the station, an old-time stationmaster prepares for his role in the future, when a lot more trains will be coming through the station…” I have high expectations, dear friends!

Again the names of the directors communicate that these are films far away from the Anglo-Saxon mainroad: Alux Ayn Arumpac, Alejandro Salgado, Ilya Povolotsky, Carol Benjamin, Malgorzata Goliszewska & Katarzyna Mateja, Tali Yankelevich, Meng Han, Lucy Parker, Marija Stojnic, Simón Uribe Martinez and then a Danish name Eva Marie Rødbro, first appearence, new also for me.

Looks indeed very promising!

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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