Passepartout is all about documentaries and visual stuff I find worth seeing.

The International Documentary Festival Amsterdam 2016: first day, first three films

After some busy and long months with a lot of things to do – stuff that keeps me away from enough sleep, mental space and also writing on this blog – I wasn’t really much looking forward to IDFA. More work sounds like a pain right now, but I think I temporarily forgot that IDFA is home. I arrived in Amsterdam today without much enthusiasm but once I dived in and got my press pass, a very familiar feeling I get every time I come to the festival kicked in and stayed: I want to see everything!

And everything is a click away, yet I won’t see all of it. I will be at the festival only three days this week. But I will spend them all in the press room, watching film after film, so there’s a good chance I won’t see everything but quite a lot.

So here’s a bit about 3 films I’ve seen today.

Homo Sapiens (2016, dir. Nikolaus Geyrhalter)

The film is basically a sequence of panoramic shots of abandoned buildings and remote places, leaving the acute feeling that humans have been there, but are there no more. The film has poetry, meaning and a lot of emotion without anything actually happening. Straight forward shots, minimal editing, good sound, that’s it, and the result is a powerful portrayal of what the world would (most likely) look and feel like after a while, not too long, should we disappear tomorrow.

The images are impressive, reminding of Burtinsky’s Manufactured Landscapes. The natural sounds bring you in the present of these buildings, and combined with the static shots, the effect is that as a viewer you become acutely observing. Each one of these places have a human touch but there’s no one in sight. This absence so strong that there’s a certain eeriness and weight in feeling it.

I loved the shots, the emotional effect they have, how clearly less is more when it comes to creating emotion. 94 minutes of it felt a bit too long, but that’s probably just my restlessness and nothing else. A film worth watching.

Hotel Sunrise (2016, dir. Maria Rumanova)

Have you heard of Cierna nad Tisou? I’d be surprised if you did. In the IDFA catalogue, the description of the film calls it the most eastern corner of the European Union, which without checking the map you can figure it cannot be true. But that’s not the point.

The film is a daily life observation of this small Slovakian town at the border with Ukraine, where people have to deal with the perspective of truly nothing happening on a daily basis and on the long term, and with widespread unemployment, something that affects everyone’s life. As a topic it didn’t sound really new to me or special, but I wanted to see it because it touches on a topic I am doing research on these days. Eventually I enjoyed the way it captures an atmosphere and how it portrays the interconnection between everything and everyone, something you feel when for example you notice that in different circumstances you recognize people from previous scenes simply because everything happens between the same people. There’s also a bit of humor in all the bitterness, characters like Peter for example, who lives with his mother and starts a diet to loose weight, but then goes to have a beer to keep him motivated.

I Made You, I Kill You (2016, dir. Alexandru Petru Badelita)

I loved this short film in the Student Competition much more than I imagined I would. I could feel the director’s pain and a lot of compassion for his courage to ‘exorcise’ his unhappy and violent childhood though what looks like a collage of photos, animations, family recording and short bits of interviews with his parents telling about their own childhood and the beatings they received.

This is not all. I watched 4 other films, but today is a new day. Stick around.

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