tessa boerman source screenshot of IDFA panel

Source: Screen shot/IDFA/Wendy Mitchell

Tessa Boerman

IDFA is partnering on an ongoing industry discussion about “decolonising documentary and shaping new perspectives on its cultural ethics”. 

IDFA’s Industry Talks strand has hosted a short keynote under the title Framing of Us from Tessa Boerman, a Dutch filmmaker, programmer and cultural advisor who is heading the initiative alongside Aruban–Dutch filmmaker Shamira Raphaëla.

“We still feel that in the industry, there’s a lot of talking about inclusion and diversity, and we’re also feeling that there’s a momentum, where things are accelerating. But there’s one big issue that is really hard to address, and that is the position of filmmakers themselves,” said Boerman.

“Because very often we talk about the gaze of ethnography, through which documentaries are very often made. And this is very much about the subjects in the film. But what we want to address is the issue of filmmakers themselves.

“As an industry, we have to talk about this because this is one of the hardest things to address. I’m not speaking only for myself and Shamira, but also for other filmmakers in the industry, filmmakers of colour, filmmakers of marginalised identities. Very often we share these stories amongst ourselves, but we really want to have this discussion openly in public with everyone. We want to talk about the colonial gaze through which filmmakers are looking through…that is a result and product of a colonial history. To address this on a personal basis is hard. It’s very tough, and a lot of people feel hesitant, or even feel a lack of space to do that.”

She added, “This is not only about ethnicity and colour. It’s also about sexuality. It’s about class, it’s about ability. It’s about non-gender-binary gender identity. We want to have a discussion where filmmakers of all natures and all identities, do feel welcome and included in the industry.”

IDFA head of industry Adriek van Nieuwenhuijzen welcomed the industry at wide to share stories and ideas about decolonising the documentary world, by emailing their thoughts to framingofus@idfa.nl.

Boerman encouraged not just filmmakers to share their stories but also commissioners, funders, broadcasters, programmers and all involved in the film world. She implored, “Please share your story with us in how to find the solution to change.”

Van Nieuwenhuijzen added, “I can only underline how important it is that it is up to all of us in the industry, no matter what position you have, to speak out. It’s all of us together who can make a change.”

Boerman said a “full programme” is planned in 2021 for the initiative, and after stories are collected via the email address, they will then make “an exploration of alternative practices and possible solutions”.

She and Raphaëla are also hoping to add more festival and organisational partners for Framing of Us.