"Firstly, we would like to thank the whole IDFA team for their work, and to the legendary Rada Sesic for looking after us as a jury. We also want to express friendship to our colleague Orwa Nyrabia as Artistic Director.
As a jury we had the privilege and responsibility of debating a selection of 11 films from around the world, taking the time to discuss what the filmmakers revealed to us through their work.
Even more than usual we are asking 'What is the value of cinema in these times?'
In the International Competition, we were able to approach the world through the eyes and experiences of others. We experienced subjectivity as a tool for complexity. Difference as a starting point, not an ending point. And time as a meaning-making force. The time to make the work, the time to watch the work, the time to discuss the work. We experienced humanity in all its messiness, joy, love. And pain, so much pain. So, what is the value of art and cinema in these times? It is and must remain the space of shared humanity.
The IDFA Award for Best Cinematography:
A beautiful relationship between a vibrant community and the audience, created through the curious and patient gaze of the camera. An accomplished portrait of existence without electricity, of life without light, until a moment of transformation. With an unshowy but deeply effective sense of really being there. The IDFA Award for Best Cinematography goes to Flickering Lights by Anirban Dutta and Anupama Srinivasan.
The IDFA Award for Best Editing:
A vivid evocation of 100 years of history in less than 100 minutes of cinema. An intimate act of family portraiture whose spirited subjects are lovingly painted with humour and deep humanity. A facility with scale and whose fluidity in form beautifully reflects flow of life, death, and history. The IDFA Award for Best Editing goes to The World is Family by Anand Patwardhan.
The IDFA Award for Best Directing:
A timely cinematic expression of the universal need to be recognized in our full humanity. A compelling indictment of the bureaucratic and political structures that deny that. A directorial tone that, almost impossibly, manages to find hope and humor amid unimaginable pain. An urgent call for freedom, freedom of movement, freedom of opportunity and the freedom to pursue our dreams. The IDFA Award for Best Director goes to Life is Beautiful by Mohamed Jabaly.
IDFA Award for Best Film:
A film that acts as a piercing light that makes visible the vast hidden interior landscape of grief, and creates a tangible presence from unbearable absence. Cinema as a tool of survival—to allow us all, to look at the things we would rather not see. And ultimately, an unforgettable example of cinema as an act of love. The IDFA Award for Best Film goes to 1489 by Shoghakat Vardanyan.
"We began this festival with 5 jurors ready to watch 12 films. We close this festival with the absences of one fellow juror, Palestinian artist Basma al-Sharif and of Japanese filmmaker Kaori Oda and her film Gama.
We, the remaining jury believe that resistance to injustice and the condemnation of atrocity is urgent, essential, and must necessarily take many forms.
This week, with great thanks to the whole IDFA artistic team and our jury coordinator Janos Tedeschi we watched singular films from around the world which grapple with the extreme challenges of our times.
The IDFA Award for Outstanding Artistic Contribution:
Canuto's Transformation by Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho
For their profound sense of communitarian cinema in which every person transforms the meaning of the word “subject”.
The IDFA Award for Best Directing goes to:
Kumjana Novakova for Silence of Reason
For her rigorous presentation of forensic evidence and the incredible courage of women whose testimony meant that rape would be internationally recognized as a crime of war. Kumjana Novakova cinematically rendered these crimes unforgettable.
The IDFA Award for Best Film goes to:
Canuto's Transformation by Ariel Kuaray Ortega and Ernesto de Carvalho
With a decades long commitment to the filmmaking process within community, a sense of humor, and a quest to move between worlds. This film embodies the many meanings of transformation."
IDFA DocLab Competitions
IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling
"This year, our role as a jury proved to be no simple feat; we found ourselves running on a treadmill, using a PlayStation 1, assuming the roles of salespeople for a carbon offset company, and confronting the innermost voices within our heads.
The jury was moved by the extensive and invaluable research that went into producing each of the selected works this year. We were captivated by the array of implemented technologies and the deliberately curated installations that magnified the narratives conveyed. We were moved by the diversity of voices participating in this year’s edition. These projects illuminated the myriad ways in which personal experiences, dreams, and struggles can metamorphose into sanctuaries for generative friction, bridging the chasm between individual and collective experiences through the medium of digital storytelling.
IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling:
Anouschka by Tamara Shogaolu
Stepping through literal and animated portals, this piece beckons us on a journey that intertwines with the essence of home, skillfully navigating a tapestry of mixed cultural identity and the personal grief of losing a grandmother.
In a realm that unfolds through exquisitely crafted animation, original music, and a narration that evokes awe. As participants traverse the physical garden, they are seamlessly immersed in the augmented reality of Anouschka's firsthand experience. Following the glimmer of sparkling objects and engaging in simple yet profound mini-games, we are graciously invited to partake in the preparation of traditional meals, savor the melodies of old records in the family home, and stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement.
This piece masterfully strikes the delicate balance between a unique narrative and its chosen medium, offering inspiration to future creators. The work carries an important message that we collectively bear the responsibility to nurture an understanding of each other's stories. Much like Anouschka, we are spurred to explore our own heritage with a sensitive and inquisitive spirit.
Special Jury Award for Creative Technology:
Borderline Visible by Ant Hampton
A soothing voice is guiding us to read a book using all of our senses. We become aware slowly and unexpectedly of the weight and textures of the physical book as well as the violent themes and invisible histories it reveals. We read upside down, end to beginning, we close our eyes and move between two points in a map of a world that becomes increasingly painful to navigate.
Borderline Visible is an inspiring model for creative storytelling at large, blurring the boundaries between a traditional book and a cinematic narrative.
Despelote by Julián Cordero and Sebastian Valbuena.
The game transports the player to a time of carefree exploration in a dreamy environment filled with different characters, situations and interactions. The mundane and boring becomes an opportunity for discovery and excitement where a ball is all one needs to make connections with the world and people around them. Despelote not only engages us in the world of a child, but also connects us to a time and place showing humanity and cultural connections through subtle interactions, a football and a retro console.
IDFA DocLab Competition for Immersive Non-Fiction
IDFA DocLab marked its 17th anniversary by showcasing groundbreaking projects spanning AI-driven documentaries, interactive performances, and full-scale virtual reality experiences. The dynamic realm of new media, shaped by the intersections of politics, economy, and technology, persists as a vibrant yet delicate ecosystem. Within this fragility, a diverse community fearlessly explores emerging themes, dismantles traditional approaches, and embraces innovative formats poised to define our future narratives.
Before announcing the winners of DocLab 2023, we want to acknowledge the accomplishments of all the artists celebrated by DocLab this year. New media is awkward, challenging, and all kinds of annoying; that’s a miracle to create, let alone share. It’s risky, emotional, and leaves you vulnerable in a space that doesn’t even know itself. Trust us when we say you are in the company of a worldwide community of artists, engineers, producers, and curators who not only know your pain but are here to help you meet it. Know that the innovative work you brought to Amsterdam was worth all of it and more, and we see you.
Congratulations to all of you and thank you.
IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction:
Turbulence: Jamais Vu by Ben Joseph Andrews, Emma Roberts
Our first award goes to a mixed reality project that couldn’t be done in any other way. It uses simple techniques to drastically adjust our perception, enabling us to experience the world through someone else’s eyes. This confronts societal notions surrounding illness and questions the dependence we have on our own unique visual realities.
The IDFA DocLab Award for Immersive Non-Fiction is awarded to Turbulence: Jamais Vu by Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts.
IDFA DocLab Special Jury Award for Creative Technology: Natalie’s Trifecta by Natalie Paneng, South Africa
Our next winner is a playful virtual reality romp through levels of artistic identity. It's also completely bonkers, applying VR techniques and artistic styles that shouldn't work together—except they do.
The great philosopher and four-time Grammy winner Seal once said, "We are never going to survive unless we get a little crazy."
It is in this spirit that we award the IDFA DocLab Special Jury Award for Creative Technology to Natalie Paneng, Natalie’s Trifecta.
IDFA Competition for Short Documentary
"The jury for the IDFA Competition for Short Documentary watched 15 films. They dealt with various topics, including those faced by our confused contemporary world, and others that recall historical periods, using archival photographs and video recordings that reveal events, a painful personal past, and stories that mix the legendary with the tribal, social, and historical in various cinematic styles.
It is not easy to choose one film to give the IDFA Award for Best Short Documentary to, but it is necessary, with the possibility of giving a special mention to a second film. The jury's results are as follows:
For this filmmaker's ability to transform archival photographs and video recordings into a film that combine to form an intimate visual narrative, and restores a sensitive, realistic, and influential era—with the negative and positive that it entails—in both public and private history, the jury gives a Special Mention to My Father by Pegah Ahangarani.
For its simplicity, spontaneity, and transparency in dealing with people, things, and small details, and for the depth of the questions raised in it that are profound despite their apparent simplicity, and for its smooth and intense cinematic work, especially photography and lyrical editing, the jury awards the IDFA Award for Best Short Documentary to At That Very Moment by directors Rita Pauls and Federico Luis Tachella.
This film deftly reveals the capricious complexities of youth through the singular perspective of a young person as they physically and emotionally navigate their world through a camera that is both tempestuous and curious. It asks us to remember memories long forgotten, not on the innocence of childhood, but rather of our burgeoning awareness of the fragility of life and the vicissitudes of existence."
IDFA Competition for Youth Documentary
"After watching an eclectic selection of long and short films, the jury is convinced that redefining the concept of youth documentary films is needed, as well as exposing young audiences to films that push boundaries in storytelling and cinematic language. Ranging from animations to observational documentaries, experimental video art and other unique forms, these films stand amid the overwhelming flood of images and videos that young people encounter daily on social media. Such works have the potential to prompt reflection and encourage thinking outside of the box.
Documentary film festivals like IDFA are great platforms to host such screenings and bring relevant topics to young audiences that are not always talked about in schools or at home: like addictions, death, longing for immortality, struggles with puberty, internet abuse, artificial intelligence, identity, friendship, family bonds or believing in oneself in challenging times.
IDFA Award for Best Youth Documentary 9-12:
For its bold approach, innovative visual style, and masterful editing, engaging the audience from the beginning to the end without compromising its form, the jury has decided to award the IDFA Award for Best Youth Documentary in the 9-12 category to And a Happy New Year directed by Sebastian Mulder.
IDFA Award for Best Youth Documentary 13+:
For a subtle and emotional family portrait during which all members of the family struggle to connect but always open old wounds, unwillingly hurting each other. The filmmaker delivers a universal story of love and disappointment via an outstanding camera work and a playful way of switching to the points of view of all protagonists. The IDFA Award for Best Youth Documentary in the 13+ category goes to Sister of Mine directed by Mariusz Rusiński.
Special Jury Mention:
For a film that immerses us in the universe of young boys becoming men. With a non-intrusive look, but a great access to his protagonists, the director takes us on a discovery journey into their daily lives. The film unveils their uncertainties regarding relationships, their tenderness, and the bonds of friendship. The Special Jury Mention goes to Boyz directed by Sylvain Cruiziat."
IDFA Award for Best Dutch Film
IDFA is a space for us all. Not just for documentary filmmakers and our work, but a space for freedom of expression and the right to express it. This right should be protected and honored so that cinema can remain a place where trauma and art meet to create healing, and hopefully justice.
We salute the irony, humour, satire and above all, care in the films of the Dutch selection. These are films that look at intimate cases in the Netherlands but that also venture far beyond to tackle stories that far away from the Dutch context. Unafraid to address multiple issues with subtly and humanity.
All the films in the Dutch selection show and remind us that documentary cinema is a free cinema. With stories not only about the affectations of youth and action, the changing face of Dutch society, but with stories of love, genius, exile, longing and the human condition in flux.
IDFA Award for Best Dutch Film:
Gerlach by Aliona van der Horst and Luuk Bouwman
"We are in a world where the discussion of land and land rights, we are made to believe, is often only an issue concerning the global south and struggles of indigeneity, land grabbing, expropriation, and exploitation. When we consider our circles of influence and circles of concern, wherever we are on the earth, we have here a film that brings the land struggle home to the Netherlands, showing us that as much as you may have empathy for worlds other than yours, there are also struggles on one's own doorstep that are urgent.
This film is testament to the patience and endurance of filmmakers allowing themselves to be taken by the craft, to compassionately observe seasons passing, to attest to a moment where capitalism and climate change have drastically altered agriculture with no possible return.
The film remains human and affectionate as the lens finds tenderness in aging bodies, without nostalgia but with certainty; and as the protagonist's stoicity always, somehow, finds meaning in moments of crisis."
Gerlach reminds one of the beauty of both biodiversity, life, and the beauty of the humble potato.
Mother Suriname – Mama Sranan by Tessa Leuwsha
"Reclaiming a painful history, not as victims of it but as owners and writers of history. This is an intricate story of love, exile, and longing. An astounding archival film that is a testament to a genealogy of women who built their lives in a marginalized and complex colonial context.
Mother Suriname – Mama Sranan will for sure nourish a much needed conversation on Dutch colonialism and Surinamese diasporas."
IDFA Award for Best First Feature
"The jury of the IDFA Award for Best First Feature had a very rich international journey through a variety of spaces.
First of all, physical and geographical spaces—from the jungles of Chiapas to the contested lands in Armenia, from the disappearing forests of Paraguay to a pathologist’s lab in Kiev. Secondly, thematic spaces—from heart-breaking family dramas to inspiring tales of resilience, from the liveliness of a group of young refugees in Belgium to the dignity of aging in Denmark. And thirdly, cinematic spaces, as we deeply value and treasure the diversity of cinematic forms in the films in our competition—including first-person narratives, observational stories, and intriguing essays that play with the images and imagination, to tell compelling and moving political and human stories. Lastly, we celebrate the gender diversity of the selection in our category.
The members of this jury were greatly impressed by the filmmaker’s total command of the cinematic language, using very simple, even austere elements and a clever and insightful sense of humor to tell a complex story about exile, family loss, nostalgia, loneliness, and to do so in a self-reflective, dignified and moving way. The jury has decided to give the IDFA Award for Best First Feature to Chasing the Dazzling Light by Yaser Kassab."
Beeld & Geluid IDFA ReFrame Award
"We are grateful to IDFA for the opportunity to watch and think about such a powerful lineup. We were struck by how all the films nominated for the Reframe Award delved into the past and into memory in ways that resonate deeply with our tumultuous present. Documenting through archive what can only be described as a catalogue of atrocities born out of conflict and oppression, film after film gave a clear commentary on humanity's capacity for darkness.
Each filmmaker deployed their striking creativity and varied archive material in diverse fashions: sometimes conventionally, sometimes innovatively, sometimes in rhythmically engaging, but always in challenging ways.
We asked ourselves: What is archive? We found interesting answers in sources, interpretations, mise-en-abymes, textures. In the competent hands of these filmmakers, we examined official documents, digital accounts, opposition visuals, personal footage. In many ways, these films created new archives as they draw on preexisting material.
As a necessary and relevant testimonial to the absurdities of our destructive impulse, these films collectively urge us to look at our troubled past and present, to remember, in hope of a better future.
The Beeld & Geluid IDFA Reframe Award goes to Selling a Colonial War by In-Soo Radstake
Through an extraordinary wealth of original archive material, the film eloquently, and at times with unexpected humour, weaves together the complexities of little-known colonial history and its denial. Behind what might at first seem a classical form, it subtly peels back the layers to unpack how film propagates ideology. The winning film deconstructs and subverts dominant narratives as it addresses ongoing political concerns.”
The Beeld & Geluid Reframe IDFA Award Special Mention goes to Milisuthando by Milisuthando Bongela
The jury would like to give a special mention to a film that explores different languages and challenges archetypes by using archive images in a completely free style, unraveling the complex social paradigm its director was born into. In tying the actions of one anonymous South African woman to the director's lived experience, this story visits the country’s history, weaving together the ancestral and the political into a surprising piece of cinema."
"It is a commonly known fact that, the first casualty when war comes is truth. We believe not only documentaries themselves but filmmakers and festivals as platforms have a duty to counter the prevailing narratives and the dehumanization and othering that often accompany moments of crisis. Shining a light on overlooked stories and amplifying voices are both something that documentary can do. There are, of course, things that documentary cannot do—it cannot turn back time and rebuild what was destroyed—and in this sense there are moments when urgent, direct action is needed.
The films we’ve watched, all made by newcomers to directing feature-length documentary, are individual attempts to address personal difficulties, global events that directly affect them, and everything in between. They confirm cinema’s inherent connection to the world, all the while showing its expressive powers. The camera has been a witness, a confessor, a catalyst in all these films.
And yet, spending a week at IDFA, an epicenter of the documentary community, in a crucial historical moment, some of our revelatory experiences transcended the limits of the screen. Right now, solidarity and humanitarian aid are precious companions to documenting.
Every war is an insurmountable, inexpressible disaster, and yet the viewfinder may capture a grief process that often stays invisible.
The film we awarded reveals the voice of a generation that is at ease with the camera even in its most intimate and vulnerable moments. It organically goes from first-person perspective to silent observation of how events resonate within the filmmaker's family. We admire the autonomous, urgent effort in capturing a strong experience in Shoghakat Vardanyan's debut 1489."