Documentary festival to include a Q&A with CitizenFour director Laura Poitras and a strand dedicated to women in docs.

The 27th edition of International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) (Nov 19-30) opened last night with the world premiere of Heddy Honigmann’s Around the World in 50 Concerts - made to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.

With guests ranging from Naomi Klein and British director Nick Broomfield to Star Trek’s George Takei, Jay Jay French from Twisted Sister and documentary legend D.A. Pennebaker, this year’s edition is shaping up to be a typically lively affair.

IDFA is also a key industry event. Over 300 distributors, sales agents and festival programmers are registered for the annual “Docs For Sales” bazaar.

Meanwhile, the Forum, IDFA’s co-financing and coproduction market, will kickstart a number of new projects, among them Heddy Honigmann’s latest doc 100UP, a film about people from around the world who are 100 years or older, and 66 Days, Brendan Byrne’s hard-hitting new portrait of IRA hunger striker, Bobby Sands.

This year, the festival is placing a very strong emphasis on the role of women in the documentary world.

Among the festival’s main strands this year is The Female Gaze, a series of screenings and debates (including a special conference) that will explore the role of women in documentary. IDFA has done its own research, which will be presented during the festival, into the representation of women at the festival. 

Approximately 38% of films submitted to IDFA over the last 10 years have been made made by women. That compares favourably with figures for fiction festivals.

“There is still a huge difference between men and women and the opportunities they have,” said festival director Ally Derks. “At Sundance, it was shocking by how few female directors they were.”

Derks said that “a lot of women from the industry and also filmmakers asked me to organise something like this”.

IDFA’s focus on the role of women in the documentary is partly inspired by the Bechdel Test in Sweden which rates films on the basis of whether they have at least two named female characters who speak to each other about something other than a man.

As part of the sidebar, 15 leading international female directors, including Pirjo Honkasalo, Barbara Kopple, Honigmann and Kim Longinotto, have put together a programme of old and new documentaries by themselves and other female directors, renowned and less well-known

Takei will be in town for To Be Takei, a new doc screening as part of IDFA’s Queer Day. 

Jay Jay French will be attending the premiere of Andrew Horn’s Twisted F*cking Sister and Naomi Klein will be in discussion with Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk Naomi Klein about her latest book.

Meanwhile, Laura Poitras will be atttending a special screening of her Edward Snowden doc CitizenFour, after which there will be an extended Q&A.

Underlining its stability and new-found strength, IDFA’s production fund The IDFA Bertha Fund has now launched a new scheme, IDFA Bertha Fund – Europe, designed to promote collaboration between independent European producers and directors from developing countries. Supported by Creative Europe – MEDIA programme of the European Union, iBF Europe will invest in both production and distribution.