Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home carried off the main prize at the 22nd International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), which closed on Saturday (November 28).
The film, which scooped the VPRO IDFA Award for best feature documentary, is about the gruelling journey undertaken each year by migrant Chinese workers returning to their family homes in remote and impoverished rural villages. The documentary is being tipped for further exposure at festivals early in the New Year.
Meanwhile, Dutch director John Appel’s The Player, which examines the director’s father and his obsession with gambling, won the inaugural IDFA Award for best Dutch documentary.
A special jury award went to US documentary, The Most Dangerous Man In America, by Judith Ehlrich and Rick Goldsmith. The doc, sold by Films Transit, is set in the early 70s and tells the story of Daniel Ellsberg, a young analyst in the US Department of Defence, who turned against the Vietnam War and leaked top secret 7000 page document The Pentagon Papers to The New York Times.
Other winners included Louie Psihoyos’ The Cove, which looks at the dolphin capture industry in Japan, and Ross McDonnell and Carter Gunn’s Colony (sold by E1 Entertainment), which won The First Appearance Award. Veteran US documentary maker Fred Wiseman picked up the festival’s first Living Legend award.
Festival organisers were in upbeat mood at the end of an event as admission rose to 165,000 (up from 157,500 last year) and there was also a spike in net income to $1.1m (€750,000) Euros, from $1m (€700,000) last year. IDFA director Ally Derks described this year’s festival programme as “the strongest of the century so far”.
The presence in Amsterdam of Canadian Iranian filmmaker Maziar Bahari was a coup for the festival. He came to the event just weeks after being freed from an Iranian prison. He was arrested in the wake of Iran’s disputed elections and he paid tribute to IDFA for its parts in organising a petition calling for his release.
IDFA also offered an exclusive preview of UK film-maker Julien Temple’s Requiem For Detroit, which covers the decay of the city that was once at the heart of the US car industry.
Temple, who was in town to give the inaugural IDFA Media Fund Lecture, also revealed that Oil City Confidential, his new film about pub rock group Dr Feelgood, is set to be launched in the UK with a 120 cinema “live” screening in early February. Audience members will be able to put questions to Temple during the event while musicians such as original Dr Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson will play live. Arts Alliance Media is behind the innovative launch.