For the 2001 International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (November 22 to December 2), organizers bet on the rising popularity of the factual form and expanded the program to ten days, two more than the 14-year-old fest’s original eight. The gamble paid off, with idfa attracting an audience of about 90,000, up from 68,000 the previous year. Festival hangouts, such as the de Balie café, were packed and abuzz with film gossip, while docs such as Runaway (Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini) and Trembling Before G-d (Sandi Simcha DuBowski) played to full houses.
The Special Jury Award went to Elsewhere, a collection of 12 20-minute reports by Austria’s Nikolaus Geyrhalter about the influence of modernization on daily life. The International Film Critics Award was given to Suka (Bitch), Russian director Igor Voloshin’s 18-minute doc featuring the interactions among four Chechen soldiers in their barracks in Grozny. Canadian Barry Stevens won the Audience Award for Offspring, a 55-minute film about the director’s quest to find his biological father – an anonymous sperm donor – and his many half-siblings.
Running alongside the IDFA was the Forum for International Co-financing of Documentaries (November 26 to 28, 2001). Fleur Knopperts, who took the reins for the first time in 2001 following the departure of veteran director Jolanda Klarenbeek, ably oversaw the ninth edition of the event and proposed a virtual innovation for the year ahead. Aided by the BBC’s Nick Fraser, she presented the prototype for an online Forum, which would facilitate interaction between producers and commissioning editors in between the yearly live Forums in Amsterdam. Reaction was lukewarm. Several producers voiced concerns about idea theft, although Knopperts stressed that access to the site would be limited, while many commissioners recoiled at the idea of increasingly impersonal pitching.