IDFA 2019: Orwa Nyrabia
In 2019 64% of IDFA competition titles are made by women and the festival will screen more films from Africa, Latin America and Asia than ever before. But things are only just getting started, Creative Director Orwa Nyrabia tells Nick Cunningham.
Yes, Nyrabia admits, the overall percentage of films made by women at IDFA stands at 47%, with sections such as Masters still "relatively stuck in the past, with many more male filmmakers than female being recognised or confirmed by the industry as ‘masters'." But the overall figures are nevertheless highly impressive and confirm the IDFA chief's desire to drag the film industry kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. "We just started, and we will continue," he underlines. "It is the reality of what's out there today. The movement of women filmmakers over the past few years is not just a theoretical movement. So much is being done and the landscape is changing."
He describes the goal of geographical diversity as a strategic challenge, but one they are on track to meet, with many more films not only "about" the world but also "from and by" the world. What's more, he suggests, IDFA is a large and elastic festival that can and will accommodate the growth in output from the furthest regions of the planet with little effect on the integrity of films selected from the established European and North American industries.
"To me, positioning, respect, visibility and prominence are as important as numbers. Europe and North America will always, or for the foreseeable future, keep the largest share," he comments. "IDFA is big enough, in terms of its offers, screenings, audience, communication and outreach, to accommodate for more from underrepresented regions, without compromising the presence and the visibility of the others."
Nyrabia believes that the documentary industry in general is delivering on gender parity and that most sectors have made it a high priority as they oversee operations. Geographical diversity needs root and branch re-appraisal however. "The industry is not finding its way around fair geographical representation yet, because it has been established on the opposite [principle]. It is a matter of accepting that the past was unjust for many populations and filmmakers out there, and that change is necessary... that even when it feels like losing some privileges, it is in everybody's benefit on the long run."
He does however highlight other major international festivals that are making "serious efforts" to redress the geo-imbalance. "Berlinale is a good example, as well as TIFF. Their worldview in both documentary and fiction film is wide and more inclusive than most."
Unsurprisingly, given the location of IDFA, selections from The Netherlands are numerous across all festival sections, and this edition of SeeNL highlights much of what is on offer from a Dutch perspective. How therefore does Nyrabia assess Holland's position within, and offer to, the international doc sector?
"Dutch documentary filmmaking comes from a long and strong tradition. Great masters like Joris Ivens, Johan van der Keuken and Heddy Honigmann influenced many and reserved their rightful places in documentary cinema history. The Dutch film output in 2019 includes a few great films, and very ambitious and imaginative new media works too. It also offers a few commercially-viable titles... films with the potential of successful theatrical release and which would make great TV internationally."
"As an international co-production country, The Netherlands is making big strides recently. We can see how the efforts of IDFA, IFFR and mainly the Netherlands Film Fund are already showing results. There's a serious will, The Netherlands can offer so much as a partner, and this is already happening," he concludes.
SEE NL Magazine #37 November 2019 / 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.