Danish Directors Discuss IDFA

IDFA. What does it mean to take part in the world's biggest documentary film festival, IDFA? Why is it so sought after? Read on for three Danish directors' thoughts on the subject.

This year's IDFA has a record-breaking 15 Danish documentaries screening at the festival. But what does it mean for a director to be part of the world's biggest documentary film festival? What can you gain from participating?

"IDFA is like a dream scenario in which you're strolling through one of the prettiest cities in the world from one amazing documentary to the next" – Elvira Lind

To find out, FILM talked to three Danish directors present at IDFA 2014: Andreas Koefoed, Phie Ambo and Elvira Lind.

Andreas Koefoed

Participating with "The Arms Drop" in the Masters programme. The film is Koefoed's seventh in as many years at IDFA.

What can you gain from participating at IDFA?

"You meet people from all over the world: directors, producers, festival programmers, etc. It's a great way of getting your work out there. The atmosphere is great, too, and the audience seems very involved."

What is your favourite IDFA memory?

"I think my greatest experience was my first time here with the short film "12 Tones Down" back in 2008. Two of my best mates were there, with whom I had made the film, and we had a blast and almost won an award, but along came this Mexican director and crushed that dream ... (Yulene Olaizola with her film 'Shakespeare and Victor Hugo's Intimacies', ed.)"

What do you expect from IDFA 2014?

"Peter Bleach, one of the protagonists in 'The Arms Drop,' is here, and I can't wait for him to meet the audience and give him the chance to tell his story."

"The Arms Drop" is produced by Miriam Nørgaard for Fridthjof Film. Read more in FILM.

Director Phie Ambo Photo: Maggie Olkuska

Phie Ambo

Participating with "Good Things Await" in the special programme The Female Gaze. Phie Ambo's IDFA debut was back in 2001 with the award-winning "Family."

What do you get out of IDFA?

"By participating here I first and foremost feel a certain acknowledgement and confirmation that there is an audience for the kind of films that I make."

How do you remember your first year at IDFA?

"I was here for the very first time in 2001 with my film 'Family,' and back then nobody wanted to watch documentaries in the cinema. Going to IDFA was pretty crazy, the screenings were almost sold out everywhere, and the audience was so into it and so dedicated. All the screenings for 'Good Things Await' are sold out this year, which is very encouraging indeed!"

In general, what does it mean to be part of a competition programme?

"In the industry people talk about the importance of participating in the competition programme, but over the years at IDFA it's been very clear to me that it really doesn't mean as much to the audience as it does for the filmmakers and the producers! The audience is very interested in all the films in the non-competitive programmes, and personally I've never felt as much attention from the press as this year – and it's worth mentioning that my film is part of a non-competitive programme called 'The Female Gaze,' far removed from the main competition."

Is it something they could change?

"It makes me wonder why it appears to be so important to structure film festivals according to competition programmes? It seems like a fairly superficial way of measuring a documentary film's quality. It would be refreshing if one of the major festivals had the courage to be off with the element of competition entirely and instead work in themes only."

"Good Things Await" is produced by Malene Flindt Pedersen for Danish Documentary Production. Read more in FILM.

Director Elvira Lind Photo: Miriam Kidde

Elvira Lind

Participating with "Songs for Alexis" in the DOC U Competition and the Panorama programme. It's her first long documentary and the first time she's at IDFA with a film she's directed herself.

What can you get out of IDFA?

"IDFA is like a dream scenario in which you're strolling through one of the prettiest cities in the world from one amazing documentary to the next. The biggest challenge is wanting to be several places at once. It's a great place to meet your heroes from documentary filmmaking. I genuinely think IDFA succeed at celebrating both the new, upcoming directors as well as the grand masters of the field. I'm overwhelmed, extremely stimulated and a little starstruck all the time."

Is there anything in particular you're looking forward to?

"This is my first IDFA with my first feature-length documentary. I'm lucky to be both in the Panorama programme and in the DOC U Competition, which makes for a great experience. I'm in the middle of creating the memories that will keep me warm for the rest of the winter. The combination of my Danish premiere at CPH:DOX and now IDFA is probably as awesome as Christmas Eve when I was five years old."

What do you expect from IDFA 2014?

"I expect a lot of great films and discussions with interesting people. I look forward to showing my film and do a Q&A with my friend and colleague Twiz Rimer who flew in from New York and has helped me find the cast. He has Tourettes and is twitching away, and I suffer from stage fright so it's going to be a blast alright!"

"Songs for Alexis" is produced by Julie Leerskov and Anne Sofie Hansen-Skovmoes for Copenhagen Bombay with support from the Danish Film Institute's New Danish Screen talent scheme. Read more in FILM.

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam IDFA 19-30 November 2014