The world’s biggest doc bazaar International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) marked the beginning of its 25th edition last night (Wednesday) with a fiery speech from festival founder and director Ally Derks.

Likening herself to a “red haired phantom of the IDFA opera,” Derks decried the latest round of cuts in spending on the arts in the Netherlands.

Just prior to the festival, which runs Nov 14-25, the new Dutch coalition Government caused consternation in Dutch media circles with its shock decision to close the Dutch Cultural Media Fund.

This fund currently contributes around $20.4m (€16m) to the media sector.

Slap in the face

As Derks pointedly remarked, around 80% of the Dutch docs screened in IDFA were made with the fund’s backing.

“I believe that these cutbacks are a real slap in the face for the film, documentary and broadcast communities,” said Derks.

“You may recall that I stood on this stage two years ago and denounced similar cutbacks. We initiated a yellow ribbon campaign in protest. Well apparently it didn’t help that much.

“We did elicit a promise from the current coalition leader Diederik Samsom that if his Labour Party was ever elected they would restore the cuts. But, instead, today, what do we get? Not only a forgotten promise but new additional cuts.

“Millions upon millions of euros are being extracted from the public support systems for our creative industries. And all done without any consultation and with lots of confusion.”

Celebratory mood

While the cutbacks have inevitably cast a shadow over the event, IDFA is still in celebratory mood as the event marks its silver jubilee.

The festival’s opening film was Dutch director John Appel’s Wrong Time Wrong Place, about survivors of the Utoya massacre in Norway last year. A world premiere, it is sold internationally by Films Transit International.

IDFA will welcome a typically varied mix of guests over the next 10 days.

These range from Cloud Atlas director Tom Tykwer, who will be in town for the IDFA Congress on Nov 22, to former terrorist and wife of Carlos The Jackal, Magdalena Kopp, who is expected to attend the world premiere of Nadav Schirman’s In The Dark Room (sold by The Match Factory.)

On the opening day of the festival, French sales outfit Wide House confirmed it had picked up Petra Costa’s first feature-length film Elena (screening in the First Appearance Competition) for world sales and was also to represent Every Bird Needs A Nest, about the corruption and poverty in post-communist Cambodia.

British presence

There is a strong British presence in this year’s IDFA.

Among the Brits presenting new films in the main competition are Emma Davie and Morag Mackinnon with their film I Am Breathing and Havana Marking, whose BFI-backed Smash & Grab – The Story of the Pink Panthers (sold by Goldcrest Films International) tells the story of the world’s most notorious diamond robbers.

British sales agents and distributors due to attend IDFA’s various industry events (including Docs For Sale and picthing bazaar The Forum) include Dogwoof, Goldcrest, Hanway, Wavelength and Taskovski Films.