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IDFA Days 4 through 6: Still Lost in Amsterdam, 'Rough Aunties,' APD Blue

By Tom White

Day 4--Still Lost in Amsterdam

Following a seven-film jury session, we repaired to the Escape club, the hub of social activities at IDFA, including the Guests Meet Guests happy hours, the TalkShow and the Dance Club. While I haven't been able to partake in any extra-Jury screening, panel or The Forum, the Escape lends a high school reunion feel; I ran into journalist/educator/2006 IDA Preservation and Scholarship honoree Pat Aufderheide, filmmaker/educator/2008 IDA Preservation and Scholarship honoree Marina Goldovskaya, filmmaker Peter Wintonick and journalist Marc Glassman, and met a host of filmmakers, programmers and journalists through them..

My dinner-mates lost me in the crowd, so they left for a Thai restaurant without me. Despite my notoriously bad sense of direction, I decided to track them down, making my way through the maze of long, unpronounceable street names that aren't conspicuously visible on the street, heading south instead of north, finding myself on the west side instead of the east side. But after an hour, I reached my destination.

Day 5--Rough Aunties

You can lose sense of what day it is at a festival like this, so let's call it Day 5. We've been sequestered at the Binger Film Institute, where they keep us happy and well fed with sumptuous lunches. We're starting to get a sense of one another's tastes and sensibilities, and we've seen three films that have risen to the top. Since we're sequestered, we're not impacted by the audience reaction or the Q&As; we have spirited discussions after each film, but when there's a film that truly captivates all of us, the energy in the room as the credits roll is palpable. One film actually inspired us to stand up and cheer.

That night, following a pleasant Indian dinner with Marc Glassman (editor of POV, the Documentary of Canada, and Montage, the DGA Magazine of Canada) and his partner, journalist Judy Wolf, I headed off to my first extra-jury screening: the world premiere of Kim Longinotto's Rough Aunties- her fourth documentary in five years! Here, Longinotto travels to South Africa to document the daily lives of the caregivers at Bobbi Bear agency, a nonprofit facility for the care and education of sexually abused children. In her trademark unobtrusive style, she captures the most intimate moments-often painful, always poignant-as the "Aunties" cope with a succession of wrenching tragedies and show a remarkable resilience and rectitude, and a deep love for their charges.

Day 6--APD Blue

One of our jurors had her wallet stolen at Escape on Night 4, so we accompanied her to the police station after our jury session. There we got a sense of the Dutch citizenry, who wander off the street to tell their stories to the desk sergeant, who patiently listens, as if she were tending bar at the local pub. There was a grandmother who wanted to show her drum that she had just bought for her grandson-and she proceeded to play it. Then there was the ponytailed gentleman who wanted to file a police report against the Dutch government-as well as The Hague, the CIA, the FBI and the UN-because, according to him, the water was poisoned with nitrogen and gas was coming out of the taps. We waited for more-perhaps a juggler, then a clown, then an anarchist carrying a very large tree. But the conspiracy theorist concluded this day's episode of The Precinct-which we juror later discussed over dinner at an Indonesian restaurant.

And while we were judging films, Senagalese superstar Youssou N'Dour was wowing the crowd at the Tuchinski Theatre, following a screening of Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love. N'Dour had to return to Senegal, but the Escape club showcased an Afro-Pop band that scorched the place with their shimmering guitare lines and propulsive rhythms.