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IDFA: Days 2 and 3—Meet the Jurors

By Tom White

The minute I opened my hotel room door, I went right to work-on Documentary magazine-related matters back home. Working through a jet-lagged and sleep-deprived fog, I managed to get things done-and being nine hours ahead of my colleagues helped! I went out into a raw and rainy Amsterdam to catch opening night-and I got lost. Many times. After asking three people for directions, I stumbled upon the theater. But the screening had started 15 minutes earlier, and I was in a somnambulant state of mind, so I made my way back to the hotel, asking three times for directions again, navigating through the labyrinthine nexus of canals, streets and alleys, dodging bicyclists, trolley cars and taxis on the way.

I awoke the next morning to finish up my magazine tasks, then met my fellow jurors and IDFA programmers for brunch. Although not everyone in my quintet was there, our fab five included Nishtha Jain, from Mumbai, India, whose Lakshmi and Me was a nominee in the Silver Wolf category in 2007; Rik Stallaerts, a producer for Brussels, Belgium-based VRT Television; Jeanne Wikler, a New York-based consultant in arts management and cultural policy, who worked in the Dutch public broadcasting system and media arts community for 23 years; and Jess Search, chief executive of the Channel 4 British Documentary Film Foundation.

Then we plunged into the screenings, and for obvious reasons, I can't talk about what we saw, but I will share my extra-Jury Duty experiences. Like the IDFA Media Talks, a nightly program from the Escape club, hosted by distinguished Canadian docmaker Peter Wintonick and moderated this evening by Dutch journalists Sophie Hilbrand and Daphne Bunskoek and Women Make Movies executive director Deborah Zimmerman. Chess master-turned-political activist Gary Kasparov, subject of Masha Novikova's In the Holy Fire of Revolution, which tracks Kasparov's campaign for President of Russia. Kasparov engaged in a spirited debate with Derk Sauer, a Dutch publisher of over 35 magazines and newspapers in Russia, about the supposed disconnect between Sauer's readership and who the politician is reaching and Kasparov's constituency. Following that dustup, the inimitable Marina Goldovskaya, IDA's 2008 Preservation and Scholarship Award honoree, who discussed her latest film, Three Songs about Motherland, which looks at the past, present and future of Russia through three stories, set in different cities.

Next guest on Media Talks was Renzo Martens, on hand with his Opening Night film, Episode 3-‘Enjoy Poverty', in which the filmmaker calls to question the good intentions of NGOs, journalists and photojournalists who in promulgating the reality of poverty, arguably exploit it for their own gain. IDFA Festival Director Ally Dirks that she had received so many docs about Africa by Western filmmakers, and this one stood out as a provocation, in the template of a postmodern conceptual art piece cum documentary.

To view the Opening IDFA Talk of the Day in its entirety, click here.

And here's a clip from Renzo Martens' Episode 3--‘Enjoy Poverty':


Following the talk show, we jurors went out for dinner, courtesy of our gracious jury guide, Jannie Langbroeek, also an IDFA programmer.