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DocGeeks » News » International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) announces award winners

International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) announces award winners

IDFA, the world’s largest documentary film festival, has tonight announced the documentaries that were granted awards at a lovely ceremony in the Dutch capital’s Compagnie Theatre. Find out here which films won the prestigious prizes.


The festival’s director said it was “the best festival yet” with even more people in the audience than last year, when the festival reached its record high figure of 200.000 people attending screenings.

Ally Derks said: “It was a diverse programme of documentaries and without all of you there would be less reflection, dialogue and connection.”

Also, this year two documentaries have been complimented with winning two awards each, a real unique event at IDFA.

So, let’s move on to the winners!

IDFA Competition for Feature-Length Documentary

The winner of the most prestigious prize of the festival, the IDFA Competition for Feature-Length Documentary (which only looks at films longer than 60 minutes), is First Cousin Once Removed (USA) by Alan Berliner.

First Cousin Once Removed is an intimate portrait of the director’s own distant cousin, friend and former mentor Edwin Honig, who is living out the last years of his life with Alzheimer’s. Honig was once a prominent and highly successful poet, translator, literary critic and university lecturer. In the final stage of his disease, however, he has lost almost all connection with his own past, his family and his personal identity.

The other nominees were:

Bad Boy High Security Cell (France/Poland) by Janusz Mrozowski
Mrozowski presents us the diary of a 28-year-old Polish bank robber named Damian, who’s been in solitary confinement at Tarnow Prison in southeast Poland for two years now – without any privacy or even a window, and no human contact other than with his guards. Struggling to ward off insanity, he analyzes his past and dreams about the outside world.

The Gatekeepers (France/Israel/Germany/Belgium) by Dror Moreh
In this much-discussed and currently very relevant documentary film, six former heads of the Israeli internal security service Shin Bet explain in a very frank way what they say is happening with Israel’s war on terror. At times their honesty is surprising, especially when they reflect on their own dealings and the erstwhile and current security policy in their country.

The jury for this category consisted of Susan Froemke (USA), Michael Glawogger (Austria), Maria Goos (the Netherlands), Jørgen Leth (Denmark) and Kenneth Turan (USA). The film will receive a money prize of € 12,500.

IDFA Competition for Mid-Length Documentary

Red Wedding (Cambodia/France) by Lida Chan and Guillaume Suon has won the IDFA Best Mid-Length Documentary Award which looks at films up to 60 minutes.

The exact numbers are unclear, but it is believed that the Khmer Rouge’s regime of terror (1975-1979) caused the death of at least 1.7 million Cambodians – almost one-third of the country’s population. After almost thirthy years 48-year-old Sochan Pen gets her courage together to go to a tribunal and tells them of her forced marriages to a soldier.

The other nominees were:

Camera/Woman (Morocco) by Karima Zoubir
Moroccan divorcee Khadija works as a camerawoman at weddings in Casablanca. She has a son and works incredibly long hours. Although she is the only breadwinner in her family, her father, mother and brothers strongly disagree with her choice of occupation and want her to quit. Zoubir beautifully captures this highly unfair and almost impossible struggle for survival.

The Successor of Kakiemon (the Netherlands) by Suzanne Raes.
Kakiemon is a type of 17th-century Japanese porcelain, known for the extremely sophisticated painting and the almost translucent quality of the ceramics. In Japan, this is such a serious business that the original inventor has been honored with the title “Living National Treasure.” Raes’ film is an ode to the craft and the story of the family which produces it.

The NTR IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary consists of €10,000. The jury was made up of Nicolas Entel (Argentina), Peter Friedman (USA), Hedda van Gennep (the Netherlands), Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran) and Farah Nayeri (Iran/France).

IDFA 2012 Audience Award

The winner of the IDFA 2012 Audience Award, worth € 5,000, has been announced at the same time. The jury of peers and documentary lovers who visited the capital over the past ten days has chosen Searching for Sugar Man by Malik Bendjelloul as their big favourite.

The story: Ever heard of the American singer-songwriter Rodriguez? Probably not, though in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s Rodriguez was a huge celebrity with his socially critical songs that brought the progressive classes in contact with anti-establishment sentiments for the first time. But although he sold an estimated 500,000 records in this nation isolated by boycotts, Rodriguez himself remained a mystery. In his first feature documentary Bendjelloul tries to find out what happened to this man who could sing like Dylan and inspired like Mandela.

IDFA Competition for First Appearance

The jury for the IDFA Competition for First Appearance has awarded Soldier on the Roof (the Netherlands) by Esther Hertog with the award.

There’s a small Jewish enclave at the center of Hebron’s oldest neighborhood, where countless Israeli soldiers are posted on the rooftops to protect 800 settlers from their 120,000 Palestinian neighbors. The filmmaker regularly lived among the orthodox Jewish families for three years, and paints a picture of their daily lives – lives that are marked by constant conflicts.

The IDFA Award for Best First Appearance is given to the director with the best first or second film. The director will receive € 5,000. The jury in this category consisted of Maria Luz Climent (Spain), Maria Lourdes Cortès (Costa Rica), Renzo Martens (the Netherlands), Djo Munga (Congo) and Sara Rüster (Sweden).

The other nominees were:

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear (Georgia/Germany) by Tinatin Gurchiani
When Gurchiani returns to her home country of Georgia she wants to make a documentary about the lives of young people there. By announcing through a variety of channels that she’s going to organize a casting call looking for the perfect protagonist she establishes a way to get in touch with youngsters from every social background and part of the country.

Mercy Mercy (Denmark) by Katrine Riis Kjær
At first sight, adoption seems like a win-win situation: a poor orphan gets some loving parents and a good life. But the world of adoption is a question of supply and demand, with Ethiopia as a chief supplier of thousands of needy children. The fact that the well-being of the child is not always top priority becomes painfully clear in this tragic story about Masho and her little brother Roba. Far from being orphans, their sick parents give them up for adoption in the hope they’ll have a better life. Katrine Riis Kjær follows the boys in their first years with their new Danish parents.

IDFA Melkweg Competition for Music Documentary

The best music documentary from the programme has been announced by the jury to be Searching for Sugar Man (Sweden/UK) by Malik Bendjelloul.

The director can call himself the proud winner of the new IDFA Melkweg Award for Best Music Documentary and will receive a prize of € 2,500.

The other nominees were:

This Band Is So Gorgeous! Sham 69 in China (UK) by Dunstan Bruce
Back in the heyday of punk, the members of the band Sham 69 had a number of hits. Nowadays, they’re all middle-aged and hoping to revive their past success. Then an e-mail arrives from Ray, a punk singer and tour manager from China and suddenly the punk rockers are getting the chance to write history as the first British punk band to ever tour China.

The Ghost of Piramida (Denmark) by Andreas Koefoed
Last century, the Soviet Union built the mining town of Pyramiden, not far from the North Pole, on the island Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Svelbard archipelago. The Russians who went to work there were dreaming of a better life, but that dream didn’t last long. The settlement has long since been abandoned. Three members of the Danish band Efterklang travel there to sample the atmosphere and make field recordings for a new album.

The jury consisted of Kaleem Aftab (UK); Jeroen Berkvens (the Netherlands); Safinez Bousbia (Algeria); Erik Gandini (Sweden) and Ondi Timoner (USA).

Below a list of all the other awards handed out during tonight’s ceremony. Please check back soon for more reviews and news from IDFA coming up over the next couple of days.

IDFA DOC U Award
The jury, made up entirely of young people aged 15 to 18 years (Linnet Deen, Roos Higler, Anouk Knoflook, David Langkamp and Yasmine Teszler), has presented the IDFA DOC U Award worth €1,500 to Little World (Spain) by Marcel Barrena

The other nominees were:

Alexandra (the Netherlands) by Sarah Harkink
Charles Bradley: Soul of America (USA) by Poull Brien

IDFA Competition for Student Documentary
The IDFA competition for international student films has been won by Pablo’s Winter (Scotland/Spain) by Chico Pereira

The other nominees were:

Beyond Wriezen (Germany) by Daniel Abma
Rogalik (Poland) by Pawel Ziemilski.

The director will get a money prize of € 2,500 to help him on his way. In the jury were Arto Halonen (Finland), Vanja Kaludjercic (Italy) and Herman de Wit (the Netherlands).

IDFA Competition for Dutch Documentary
Fourteen Dutch documentaries competed for the Dioraphte IDFA Award for Dutch Documentary worth € 5,000. In the end the prize is being awarded to Soldier on the Roof by Esther Hertog.

The other two nominees in the category were:

The Only Son by Simonka de Jong
Space in Between by Noelia Nicolás

The jury for the Dutch documentary competition consisted of Thierry Detaille (Belgium), Jessica Gorter (the Netherlands), Alex Lee (New Zeeland), Tobias Müller (Germany) and Pascale Ramonda (France).

IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling
For the second year, an award has been handed our in associated with the DocLab programme, the prize involve a sculpture and € 2,500. The winner has been announced as Alma, a Tale of Violence (France) by Miquel Dewever-Plana and Isabelle Fougère.

The other nominees were:

Bear 71 (Canada) by Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison
CIA: Operation Ajax (VS) by Daniel Burwen

The jury in this category consisted of Elisabeth Holm (USA), Bjarke Myrthu (Denmark) and William Uricchio (USA).

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Rosemarie is an avid documentary watcher and loves talking and writing about them! She graduated with a Film Degree in 2010 and since then has been working in digital media and documentary. She loves the power of documentaries and the way they can inspire and inform. Contributing to DocGeeks gives her an outlet to jabber on about documentary, without having to annoy her housemates with her constant flow of opinions.

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