IDFA 2018: Interview with Orwa Nyrabia
14 November 2018
"To my surprise, it is much less stressful than I expected," Orwa Nyrabia says of his early experiences as artistic director of International Doc Fest Amsterdam (a position he took up at the end of January).
"It is challenging. The decision- making process is never easy. I do not take our yes's and no's lightly. It is a difficult process but it's not stressful because of our team."
Nyrabia himself has watched around 400 of the 4000 films submitted this year. The strategy is to be "more selective" and the programme has been winnowed down. (275 films in total will be screening.)
What's more he is heartened by the strength of the Dutch documentaries at IDFA 2018. "It is a very interesting period (for Dutch documentary) and we have seen quite a few very good films this year." There are several notable local titles (including new films from such respected figures as Heddy Honigmann and partners Petra LatasterCzisch and Peter Lataster) in the Dutch competition.
Meanwhile, Dutch movies are also scattered through the other sections of the festival. The opening film, Aboozar Amini's Kabul, City in the Wind ( see page 4), is a Dutch minority co-production, made through Jia Zhao's Amsterdam-based Silk Road Film Salon.
In addition, the artistic director has shaken up the programme structure with a variety of new sections (Luminous, Frontlight and IDFA On Stage) as well as thematic programmes. One of these, the Me presentation, showcases personal, autobiographical documentaries. The artistic director is keen to point out that the intention here is not to showcase self-indulgent, narcissistic work in which directors simply point their cameras at themselves. "What matters, in my opinion, is to acknowledge the utter failure of all those who try to be objective in documentary film," Nyrabia explains of the thinking behind the section. "This is a tribute and an examination of those who are subjective, whether it's autobiographical, personal or just a film in which the filmmaker's own self is in the film, as a character."
IDFA founder Ally Derks always fought to ensure that IDFA had world premieres. Nyrabia shares her philosophy. Nonetheless, he points out times when festivals have been "ridiculously competitive" and this sometimes works against the interests of audiences and filmmakers alike. A balance needs to be struck.
What is clear is that Nyrabia wants IDFA to showcase new work. One of the main goals is "to find new voices and to give them platforms" - and you don't do that by programming films already shown elsewhere.
IDFA was one of the first documentary festivals to sign the 50/50 gender parity pledge to have equal representation for women and men across the festival. Around a third of the festival's films have been by female filmmakers but Nyrabia hopes to take that number up to well over 40% this year. He also aims to ensure that every part of the festival, from the industry Forum to the IDFA Bertha Fund, also pays attention to the gender debate. "We are working on all of these fronts at the same time. We are not only working on gender. We are doing our very best to be inclusive in terms of geography - to really go that extra mile to find that African film we would like to show or Latin American film we didn't know about."
The new IDFA artistic director already has a very close connection with the IDFA Bertha Fund and the IDFA Academy and i
SEE NL Magazine #33 November 2018 / IDFA Issue
SEE NL is published four times per year by EYE International and The Netherlands Film Fund and is distributed to international film professionals.