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IDFA 2020: Forum and Docs for Sale

16 November 2020

Business as usual? Not quite, but life goes on...

IDFA Head of Industry Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen outlines the festival's online market offer in 2020, and articulates her determination that meaningful face to face interaction must return in the future.

The importance of IDFA Forum and Docs for Sale in ensuring ongoing supply of top quality doc content may be greater than ever, but there is no denying that 2020 has tested the resolve of Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen and her team.

Like all of us in the film world, she wants a future in which we can cherry pick best practices of the past but which allows also us to resume personal doc alliances both on and off-line. She articulates her frustrations accordingly.

"I think everybody in the industry is working tireless and with a lot of creativity finding solutions to keep productions and business going, all the time hoping for a vaccine to come soon," she says.

Despite everything, IDFA Forum has put together a compelling programme that includes 63 projects, 20 of which are new premiere pitches. DocLab Forum accounts for 15 projects, while a further three projects are in the 'Children's Pitch' category. Fifteen projects continue their journey from other co-production events (4 of which are DocLab projects).  

From a Dutch perspective, Van Nieuwenhuyzen reserves special comment for the Netherlands/France project Survival of the Richest by US director Liz Mermin, produced by Submarine Docs together with Paris-based Pumpernickel Films. The film is about "how the digital economy ate the world and how we can and must take it back - before it's too late." It is both written by and stars US media theorist, writer, columnist, lecturer, graphic novelist, and documentarian.

"I won't say that it's an easy sell, but it's the type of film that normally lands very well in the Forum," says the Industry boss. "And it is about one of the major topics of our times - and very much a Submarine topic." The company previously produced Han Pools' much-lauded Bellingcat - Truth in the Post-Truth World which world-premiered at IDFA 2018.

She also enthuses about Brazilian/Dutch Maria Ramos's Justice Under Suspicion, a Brazil/France/Netherlands production (Dutch Partner: Docmakers). The logline reads how "Brazil is flirting with fascism. Three journalists from the newspaper El País investigate this dangerous evolution and the decisive role the judiciary plays in this process."

Other Dutch projects at Forum are the kids' doc Sweeties by Natalie Bruijns and Anneke De Lind van Wijngaarden, about first love at the tender age of 13. The project is produced by Witfilm and supported by the Netherlands Film Fund.

Meanwhile, two Dutch projects are selected for DocLab Forum. Klasien van de Zandschulp and Natalie Dixon's Good Neighbours is produced by Corine Meijers of Studio Biarritz and is described as "a weirdly familiar documentary that reveals the hilarious and uncomfortable truths about what really connects neighbourhood-watch communities." Together with Marieke Nooren, Meijers is also producing Symbiosis by the interdisciplinary Dutch experience design collective Polymorf. It is intriguingly termed 'a performative, multi-sensory and multi-user VR experience inspired by Donna Haraway's book 'Staying With The Trouble', making physically tangible post-human and non-human bodily architectures within a speculative post humanistic and symbiotic social context.'

Docs for Sale 2020 includes a whopping 440 new titles (240 rightsholders) coming from 80 countries across all continents, as well as access to the IDFA Forum Rough Cut screenings. 150 of the titles are in IDFA 2020 official festival selection, 54 of which will have their world premieres.

Even though she and her team have been operating beneath a dark cloud these past months, Van Nieuwenhuyzen tells of a silver lining, the satisfying sense of professional collaboration she experienced both with fellow Dutch festivals and the international documentary community.

Since the spring, The Netherlands Film Festival, Cinekid, IFFR and IDFA have added online tools to their shared software to better organise their respective hybrid festivals (IFFR to come in 2021, running from February to June). "It felt quite natural," says Van Nieuwenhuyzen. "And of course we realised that things are pretty expensive, so it is far more cost-effective if you share all these resources, but it's also very much about sharing knowledge."

"And we have spoken as well a lot to other international markets and festivals to share experiences, such as Leipzig, Nordisk Panorama, Sheffield and the Baltic Sea Forum," she adds. "Yes, festivals and markets are competitive, but it is a whole pool where everybody has shared best practices, tips and tricks for our events. It was one of the good things about lockdown."

For further reading:
-> SEE NL Magazine Online, November 2020 / IDFA Doc issue 
-> Line-Up Dutch Docs At IDFA 2020 
-> Watch: Showreel Dutch Documentaries IDFA 2020 

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