Tough economic times in Europe and fears of the Internet cutting into the reach of broadcasters have put a chill on the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) Forum. Plenty of interesting projects have been pitched but responses have been measured, with many commissioning editors offering to have subsequent meetings with producers and directors.
Long-time Forum moderator and British Columbia Knowledge Network CEO Rudy Buttignol may have put it best: ‘The favorite tune seems to be, ‘I’d like to see it in rough cut.”
Ironically, one of the most impressive pitches combined a fully interactive website with a digital video doc series. From Zero – People Rebuilding Life after the Emergency is an Italian project spearheaded by producer Stefano Strocchi. The pilot website is established at Southern Italy Earthquake camps set up after a natural disaster occurred there last fall. Strocchi’s team of directors are following eight survivors of the quake as they attempt to get their lives together. While those stories are uploaded on fromzero.tv, there will also be user-generated pages, a forum for community discussion and supplementary video projects. The docs will be created later by editing together all of the footage being generated on the site.
Probably the most unusual approach for getting access to a documentary subject was revealed by feisty French director Letmiya Sztalryd, who gained the trust of notorious British punk fashion designer Vivienne Westwood by ‘stripping naked in front of her and the models to prove my sincerity.’ The jaunty trailer for Sztalryd’s bio-pic has Westwood writing the title of the film (Do It Yourself) in lipstick on a mirror to the tune of the old rock ‘n’ roll raver Somethin’ Else. The project, already supported by ARTE/ZDF for €73,000 gained support around the table, most notably from the BBC’s Nick Fraser, but another €200,000 will be needed to get the film made properly.
One of the rare knock-out successes was registered by director Phil Grabsky for his project The Boy Mir. The sequel to his international hit The Boy who Plays on the Buddhas of Bamiyan has Grabsky following the same Afghani lad since the collapse of the Taliban regime. The moving trailer shows Mir growing from youth to late teens in his native village among his tight-knit family. Grabsky intends the film to show Mir’s life over 10 years, finishing in early 2012. With over half of the €466,000 budget already raised through Britain’s Channel 4, Germany’s WDR, Sweden’s SVT, Planete Poland and other sources, the table of yea-saying commissioning editors included Finland’s YLE, Holland’s VPRO, Norway’s NRK and Canada’s Knowledge Network with strong expressions of interest from the U.S.’ ITVS, France 3 and Switzerland’s TSR.
Forty-three projects were pitched at the Forum, which concluded on November 25. IDFA continues to November 29.