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New Doc Fest Launches in Buenos Aires

By Richard Shpuntoff

In a field full of film festivals and forums, Argentina has just launched a new, innovative festival that aims to broaden the idea of what documentary is and can be. I asked founder Mario Durrieu, Why another festival, considering that Argentina already has BAFICl, Doc Buenos Aires, DerHumALC and Mar del Plata? "While there are a lot of festivals in Argentina that have been important in supporting documentary work," Durrieu explains, "what we don't have is a competitive festival at an international level that is dedicated exclusively to documentary work. Through FIDBA [International Festival of Documentary Film and Arts Buenos Aires], we are looking to build greater awareness and support for a broader range of documentary—not just traditional documentary narrative films, but also more experimental work, installations that are documentary based, Web docs, interactive and so on."

In fact, the first edition of FIDBA, which ran from September 18 - 24, preceded with the FIDBA Campus, a series of seminars on various forms of documentary. The seminars were in-depth and well attended. Jorge Caballero, the director of Web doc projects for the masters program in Creative Documentary at the Barcelona-based Autonomous University, ran four sessions that offered an excellent introduction to the Web doc, presenting a range of work, discussing production issues and development and even providing lists of the main funders in the field. Christopher Allen and Andre Valentim of Union Docs in Brooklyn gave an overview of interactive documentary and presented work from their collaborative Living Los Sures project, which they will be completing in 2014.

Other presentations included Live Cinema by the team of José Luis Martin Galindo, José Inerzia and Carlos Adolfo Gutiérrez Vidal; installations by Lois Patiño; and a master class presented by Bettina Perut and Ivan Osnovikoff.


From La Muerte Trajajando, an installation by Lois Patino, showcased at FIDBA.


The festival is an initiative of the Observatory School of Documentary Cine (with schools in both Buenos Aires and Barcelona), which has been developing programs and labs in Argentina over the past six years. The school held a number of screenings of diverse Latin American documentary works leading up to the festival, including El Etnógrafo, by Ulises Rosell; Las flores de mi familia, by Juan Igncio Fernández Cope; and Kristina Konrad's Nuestra América.

FIDBA is an independent festival, unlike a number of the other festivals in Argentina—Mar del Plata is run by the Argentine National Film Institute (INCAA); BAFICI is mostly funded by the Ministry of Culture of the city of Buenos Aires; and Doc Buenos Aires was created by CineOjo, a private production company. Since FIDBA was created by a documentary film school, the festival puts a very strong focus on sharing information and learning.

The festival officially opened with the Argentine premiere of Rithy Panh's very personal The Missing Picture, which won the top award at Cannes' Un Certain Regard earlier this year. Festival strands included the competitions—International, Latin American, Argentine and shorts—as well as retrospectives on Kim Longinotto and the Heymann Brothers, and a number of focuses, notably a series of films from the Women Make Movies collection that was presented by WMM director Debra Zimmerman, who also served on the jury for the international competition, alongside Bettina Perut, Lois Patiño, Rémi Bonhomme of the Cannes Film Festival, and Argentine filmmaker Santiago Loza.

Festival award winners included Joaquim Pinto's E agora? Lembra-me, which took the grand prize in the international competition; Everardo Gonzalez's Cuates de Australia, which won the Iberoamerican Award; and Alejo Hoijman's El ojo del Tiburón and Tatiana Font's Mi reino no es de este mundo, which won first place and an honorable mention, respectively, in the Argentine competition. In the short film category, El día ha conquitado la noche, by Jean Gabriel Périot, took top honors, with an honorable mention going to Puma mi bien amado, by the team of Laura Martínez Duque, Nadina Marquisio and Tom Maver.


From Joaquim Pinto's E agora? Lembra-me, the grand prize winner at FIDBA.


And while creating a festival that awards and prioritizes documentary work is an important goal for FIDBA, Durrieu stressed throughout the week that this is not just a film festival; it's a documentary arts and cinema festival. The festival team placed equal emphasis on work that is often seen as a sidebar at other fests, such as La Muerte Trabajando / Death at Work, an installation piece by Lois Patiño, and the live cinema presentation by Antropotrip (Gutiérrez Vidal, Inerzia and Galindo), entitled Sinfonía Urbana sobre Tijuana / Tijuana's Urban Symphony, about Tijuana and the US-Mexican border.

Richard Shpuntoff is a documentary filmmaker and translator who lives in Buenos Aires and New York City.