Matching Friends and Films for IDFA 2013

What do the following topics have in common? Music, axolotls, computers, tattoos, hormone therapy, lizards’ livers, street interviews, rape culture, Patrick Leigh Fermor, ethnomathematics, maintenance, the Mile High Club, and falling.Any idea? No? These are all topics for documentaries suggested by cyberfriends via Facebook and Twitter.

My task was to write a blog about the 26th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), which will be on at fifteen different locations in the Dutch capital from 20 November until 1 December.
While I couldn’t always find a film to perfectly match each friend’s unique taste, there was always something on the vast IDFA programme that was bound to interest them. These are the films that I would see with each of my cyberfriends, based on their suggested topics.

Judith: “About axolotls, because they magically grow back cut off limbs.”

Steve: “Lizards’ livers.”

Pick: I’d take them both to see Dinosaurs by Terra Long – The apparently innocuous drawings by the five-year-old Morgan reflect the traumas he has suffered at the hands of his monstrous father.

Mandy: “On how commercial considerations override talent and musicianship in the modern music industry.”
Picks: Rêve Kakudji by Ibbe Daniëls & Koen Vidal – Will young Congolese Serge Kakudji realise his dream of becoming an opera singer?

Christine: “Does sitting in front of a computer screen for hours enhance your wellbeing?”
Pick: InRealLife by Beeban Kidron – A crash course in internet awareness through interviews with candid teenagers and concerned experts.

Aliefka: “About why not enough research is being done as to how to give women proper hormone therapy.”
Pick: Everything is Possible by Lidia Duda – The husband tells the story while his wife travels. Elderly but full of life, a Polish couple exposes the anatomy of an unorthodox marriage.

Robert: “I’d interview people over 70 who want to discuss their regrets at having their bodies tattooed in grotesque and ridiculous ways.”
Pick: The Good Son by Shirley Berkovitz – 22-year-old Or tricks his parents into financing his sex-change operation, then returns to Tel Aviv to face her family.

Leon: “Interviews with random people on the streets of Joburg, asking them all the same question: ‘How’s life here in Joburg?’”
Pick: Jack by Emile Zile – A lone figure wanders through a nondescript, semi-industrial suburb and reacts to his environment through vocalized sound effects and bodily interventions.

Helen: “On rape culture, using hidden cameras to try and find out what men, in particular, really think about it.”
Pick: Minerita by Raúl de la Fuente – Three women in an inhospitable Bolivian mining area try to survive the ubiquitous violence with courage and dynamite.

Helen: “And then to cheer myself up, I’d retrace Patrick Leigh Fermor’s epic 1930s trip across the length of Europe.”
Pick: Land of Promise by René Roelofs & Paul Scheffer – Powerful and revealing archive footage illustrates how immigration has affected European societies of the past 60 years.

Karen: “How come so many people I know become sick from food while travelling in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt?”
Pick: Desert Runners by Jennifer Steinman – Every year, running events are organised in the most inhospitable deserts in the world.

Erika: “About ethnomathematics in various indigenous cultures.”
Pick: Ecopolis China by Anna-Karin Grönroos – A Finnish engineer and a Chinese multimillionaire share a dream of a hyper-sustainable Silicon Valley in China, but there is a clash of visions.

Willem: “Have they ever made a documentary about the life of an air hostess?”
Pick: Light Fly, Fly High by Beathe Hofseth & Susann Østigaard – A casteless Indian woman tries to box her way out of poverty, but her struggle for an independent life is hardest outside the ring.

Louis: “Maintenance. The world seems to revolve around innovation and making or buying new things, but maintenance makes up 80–90 percent of our daily duties.”
Pick: Drill Baby Drill by Lech Kowalski – The residents of a village in the fertile east of Poland oppose plans by power company Chevron to drill for shale gas in their region.

Gary: “I’d like to see a doccie about stairs and their pitfalls. Mostly because I fell down some stairs today, and I could have been better informed.”
Pick: First to Fall by Rachel Beth Anderson – Two Libyans studying in Canada return to their birth country with cameras and guns, to join the war against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime.

My advice to those of you already packing your bags for Amsterdam is to check the full IDFA programme and prepare to spend most of your visit indoors, in the dark. You can always make up for what you’ve missed by catching Niek Koppen’s Dutch Darlings, about the dwindling group of Dutch women who continue to wear traditional costumes in everyday life.