The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) added 65 titles
to its festival lineup today, rolling out the non-competitive program sections Best of
Fests, Masters, and Paradocs. The 34th edition of IDFA takes place from
November 17 to 28 in Amsterdam.
This year’s Best of Fests selection celebrates a year when, despite all challenges,
festivals came back with a large slate of exceptional documentary films, and cinema
triumphantly returned to the big screen. The program section takes a decidedly
cinephile turn in 2021, honoring the year’s award winners, critics’ picks, and
The 46-film-strong selection includes highlights such as the quietly earth-
shattering A Night of Knowing Nothing by Payal Kapadia, winner of the Golden
Eye Award at Cannes, and The Velvet Queen, the lush, never-before-seen
wildlife film by debut director Marie Amiguet. Transcendent masterpieces such
as Users, the mesmerizing exploration of humanity’s future by Natalia Almada,
and Taming the Garden, the exquisite slow-cinema feature by Salomé Jashi, find a
home in this year’s selection as do buzzy audience films such as Alison Klayman’s
Alanis Morissette biopic Jagged and Bing Liu and Joshua Altman’s All These
Sons, from the filmmaking team behind Minding the Gap. The program section also
pays tribute to the surprise gems from the festival circuit, including underdog award-
winners The Silence of the Mole by Anaïs Taracena and Looking for Horses by
As today’s auteurs take the documentary canon to new heights, Masters
selects sixteen must-see titles from some of the leading filmmakers of our time.
Several entries speak to the growing crossover between filmmakers working in both
the fiction and documentary worlds, as seen in Andrea Arnold’s incredible bovine
experience Cow and Karim Aïnouz‘s Mariner of the Mountains, charting the
director’s first trip to his father’s homeland, among other titles.
The selection also presents new work by long-established documentary auteurs.
World premieres include Helena Třeštíková’s René – The Prisoner of Freedom,
the follow-up to her 2008 masterpiece on the titular protagonist; Mai Masri’s Beirut:
Eye of the Storm, in which four young women document the recent uprising and
lockdown in Beirut, leading up to the devastating port explosion;
and Laila Pakalnina’s Homes, an ode to people, their houses, and making films that
is rich with gently surrealistic tableaux vivants. Sergei Loznitsa is back with Babi
Yar. Context, exposing a blind spot in our cultural memory of World War II,
while Futura brings together Italian masters Pietro Marcello, Francesco Munzi,
and Alice Rohrwacher in a feat of collective filmmaking—a testament to the fact
that cinematic mastery need not be individual.
The non-competitive Paradocs program returns with the tightest selection seen in
years: eight films that push the limits of the documentary form, showcasing some of
the year’s best experimental documentary art.
Notable titles include Just a Movement by renowned artist Vincent Meessen, a
stunning, complex portrait of Omar Blondin Diop, the Senegalese artist, freedom
fighter, and Jean-Luc Godard actor. In The Belly of the Mountain, the abstract
essay film from cross-disciplinary artist Stephen Loye, a deliberate plane crash in
the alps gives way to an impressionistic journey into a place, its surrounding
community, and the filmmaker’s own position. Shengze Zhu’s beautifully shot A
River Runs, Turns, Erases, Replaces explores the pandemic situation in Wuhan,
subverting all expectations to deliver an atmospheric impression of a city, looking
where others do not look.
About IDFA 2021
The 34th edition of IDFA will be an in-person event, celebrating the art of
documentary film from November 17 to 28 in cinemas across Amsterdam. In
accordance with the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and
Environment (the RIVM), the festival will feature comprehensive health and safety
measures, prioritizing the wellbeing of all in attendance and updating attendees as
Tickets go on sale November 1 for Friends of IDFA and accredited guests, and
general ticket sales begin November 3. Accreditation for industry professionals is
now open. Program announcements will follow throughout the month of October.