Acclaimed director Wang Bing, this year’s guest of honor at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, will be using his IDFA platform to highlight nonfiction cinema of his native China.
The festival, which runs from Nov. 8-19, announced the 10 films Bing has selected to be screened at IDFA – one of the perquisites of being named guest of honor. Among the documentaries he’s choosing to highlight are Old Men (1999), directed by Lina Yang; Wheat Harvest (2008), directed by Tong Xu, and IDFA Bertha Fund-supported Last Train Home (2009) by Lixin Fan, “documenting the millions of migrant factory workers that travel home for Spring Festival each year.” (Scroll to see Bing’s full top 10 list).
The documentaries chosen by Bing “and their politics are subtle in their film language,” IDFA noted in a release, “representing a wave of filmmaking rarely shown internationally.”
Today, IDFA also revealed a half dozen films directed by Bing that will be screened as part of a retrospective of his work. Those include what the festival called his masterpiece, Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks, “which heralded a new era for Chinese documentary film.” IDFA will screen his two most recent films — Man in Black, and Youth (Spring), both of which premiered earlier this year at Cannes.
“The selection demonstrates how Wang Bing’s frame underlines the human in dehumanizing systems,” IDFA observed.
IDFA also announced the films that will be part of a retrospective of work by director Peter Greenaway, who is receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award this year. “Representing his nonconformist and visually outspoken style, the selection includes cannibalism satire The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover, and Rembrandt’s J’Accuse, a fictionalized biopic revolving around the controversies of the art history masterpiece, Rembrandt’s The Night Watch.”
Also announced by IDFA today: two curated focus programs — Fabrications, and 16 Worlds on 16 – as well as Corresponding Cinemas, “a series of screenings and conversations on the invisible connections between filmmakers,” and the return of IDFA DocLab.
Focus program: Fabrications
Exploring the unique relationship of trust between documentary film and audiences, Fabrications presents ten films that test the limits of the format’s promise of truth. Rather than providing an answer, the program explores the documentary form as realism, as opposed to reality, and encourages audiences to think more deeply about how all realities are fabricated on screen. The curated selection questions to what extent our realities inform our fictions, and vice versa, and includes the late Safi Faye’s docufiction about the village she was born, Letter from my Village and Massoud Bakhshi’s kaleidoscopic city portrait Tehran Has No More Pomegranates! The first four titles in the program have been announced; the remainder will be made public in October.
Focus program: 16 Worlds on 16
Looking back on 100 years since Kodak introduced 16mm, this focus program explores how the film format influenced the history of documentary film. The less expensive and lighter alternative to 35mm cameras enabled experiment and independent filmmaking to flourish—also making it more accessible for lesser represented communities, such as Sara Gómezthe Other Island that addressed Cuba’s intersectional inequalities. The selection also includes cinema verité classics, such as Agnès Varda’s Daguerreotypes, and examples of metaphorical critique of authority to bypass censorship, such as Abbas Kiarostami’s exploration into revolutionary mindsets in First Case, Second Case.
Corresponding Cinemas: A series of films and conversations on the invisible connections between filmmakers
Placing connectivity and creative influence in the spotlight, Corresponding Cinemas will examine the ways through which the work of each filmmaker has inspired the work of the other, offering a glimpse into cinema’s endless relay of creative connections. Starting with Sky Hopinka, this program invites us to explore the work of and connections between Basma al- Sharif, Jumana Manna, Ibrahim Shaddad, and Abderrahmane Sissako. Accompanied by introductions and conversations, the program will show nine titles by the filmmakers.
The final competition titles will be announced on Wednesday, October 18, during the IDFA 2023 press conference—which will be available to stream at idfa.nl. This is the 36th edition of IDFA, which has become the largest all-documentary film festival in the world.
These are the 10 films selected by Wang Bing to play at IDFA:
Before the Flood (2005) directed by Yifan Li, Yu Yan
Bing’ai (2007) directed by Yan Feng
Born in Beijing (2011) directed by Li Ma
Last Train Home (2009) directed by Lixin Fan
The Next Life (2011) directed by Jian Fan
Old Men (1999) directed by Lina Yang
Petition (2009) directed by Liang Zhao
To Live is Better Than to Die (2003) directed by Weijun Chen
Wheat Harvest (2008) directed by Tong Xu
When the Bough Breaks (2011) directed by Dan Ji