If you are an industry professional who works in the world of documentaries, it is a pretty sure bet that you are spending this week in Amsterdam at the IDFA International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Aside from the hundreds of completed films on display, the Festival sponsors a co-production market for filmmakers to network with potential financiers and distributors for new projects (that will most probably come to IDFA next year as completed films).
IDFA’s annual co-financing market, the FORUM, kicked of today with 43 projects from a host of Dutch, European and American producers. Among the projects that have generated advance buzz are films as diverse as a profile of the British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, a survey of pop and heavy metal music in the Muslim world, the aftermath of the earthquake in the Italian region of Abruzzi and India’s new obsession with beauty pageants.
“We try to have a variety of topics”, Industry Office head Adriek Van Nieuwenhuyzen opined. “Although we’re looking for variety, in terms of content and style, quality is also important.” Van Nieuwenhuyzen notes attendance and submissions to the FORUM have remained steady, although there are signs projects are taking longer to get green-lit financially. “Projects seem to be taking longer to get off the ground”, she says. “We see a lot of projects which have been around for a year, 18 months, perhaps even pitched at other festivals a couple of years back. Sometimes it’s because the projects don’t have international appeal, but I think it’s also a sign that there is less money – it’s hard at the moment to find finance. ”
This year, 27 feature projects will be pitched in the morning Central Pitches sessions. Monday’s selection included Cairo-based Ismail Mokadem’s Pop Goes Islam, about the world’s first Islamic pop channel 4shbab, Soweto filmmaker Dumisani Phakathi’s To Marry Money, which has already secured the backing of the BBC’s Nick Fraser, and Israeli Sagi Borenshtein’s Kafkaesque Story, following the search for lost letters and manuscripts of writer Franz Kafka.
In spite of the drop in available finance, Van Nieuwenhuyzen insists that the FORUM remains a key event for distributors, television networks and new internet sources of documentary distribution. “Someone said to me yesterday that they would still rather come to the FORUM to listen to the pitches, to see how the directors and producers present themselves and their visual material than sift through a pile of projects on their desk”, she stated. “The FORUM remains an important fixture for networking and finding great projects.”