IDFA 2017

15 November to 26 November 2017

IDFA is unique for its international film program, the variety of genres, its politically-committed programming and the many European and world premieres featured each year. Add to that the presence of many filmmakers, sizeable audiences, all the discussions and debates, workshops, master classes and the experienced staff, and it’s no wonder IDFA is the pre-eminent festival for creative documentaries. Aside from the festival, IDFA consists of three industry components: the IDFA Fund, the FORUM and Docs for Sale. All of these were established in order to improve the international climate for creative documentaries.

The Documentary Filmmakers’ Association’s mandate is to nurture and develop the interests of documentary filmmakers in South Africa. Supported by the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Group Export Sector Specific Assistance Scheme (SSAS), the recent DFA delegation attending IDFA surely developed and empowered those attending.


Johannesburg market readiness workshop group

In preparation for the market, delegates received training consisting of one-on-one project mentoring sessions and a full day workshop on pitching and market readiness workshop. During the one-on-one project mentoring sessions, the delegates discussed their own projects with a mentor(s) and received advice on how to strengthen the project, develop a one-pager and pitch document. The group workshops were lead in Johannesburg by Marc Schwinges, Pat van Heerden and Desmond Naidoo.  In Cape Town Riaan Hendricks and  Francois Verster facilitated the workshop. Our gratitude to Sylvia Vollenhoven who assisted as the co-ordinator on the ground during the delegation’s time in Amsterdam.

The overall expectation of the delegation was to network with several buyers and industry leaders to determine the reach of South African documentaries as a global franchise and build relations on a global scale whilst also learning more about the international / European documentary film industry and how it operates and to discover market needs and niches, to understand more about co-productions and to form the necessary relations for possible co-productions.

Delegates also intended to obtain funding, sales and distributors. Meetings that the delegates secured included: 104 Films, Amazon Studios, Arte France, BBC, Bertha Fund, Bind, Blue Ice Docs, Sub-Genre, Canadian Broadcast, Cascoland, Cats & Docs, Catapult Film Fund, ChanceOperations US, Cineart, Creative Scotland, Danish Film Institute, Doc.fest Munchen, Doxy, Dutch Film Fund,  Dutch Picture Industry, Dutch TV VPRO, Espresso Media Distributor UK, Figa Films, Filmpoption International, Hellwig Productions, GreenGround Productions,  HotDocs, IKON, Las Belagas Denmark, Les Films De La Butte, Mad Tree Film Company, Norwegian TV, Ondemotive Productions, Paul Caudieux Megafun, Shanghai Seedling Film Inc, Sundance Film Institute, Taskovski Films, Witfilms, Women Make Movies.


Container by Simon Wood and Meghna Singh pitch at IDFA Forum

Delegates also aimed to market their material to international buyers as well as testing their current projects to see how it can be improved to make sales. All of our delegates were fortunate enough to be invited to the pitching forum.  Many of the delegates used the multiple networking sessions to also pitch to prospective buyers and / or financiers. A pitching session for SA Delegates was arranged beforehand and the delegates felt that this was very useful. The market offered networking sessions daily and the SA delegates attended as many of these as they could.

Some of the social events that the SA delegation attended included: Awards Ceremony & Documentary Ball, Chilean -guests meet guests, Czech party, Distributors’ party, Docs for sale happy hour, Finland drinks party, HBO happy hour, Hot Docs Party, Human Rights Brunch, IDFA-Bertha Fund party, International Producers Breakfast, Scottish party, Sheffiled party, Nordic Party and the Tribeca party.

A crucial aspect of attending IDFA is to gain exposure to international documentaries by watching the festival’s selected films and be exposed to innovative storytelling, to experience the medium in a context when it is not strictly determined by the constraints of the market place. It is in such spaces that one is re-inspired and given the privilege to ‘go back to source’ as it were in terms of the potential of the medium of film, leaving the comfort zone of a commissioned television output.

Attending a session with the International Documentary Association. Sylvia Vollenhoven with Don Edkins, Marc Schwinges and Desmond Naidoo

Delegates also had an opportunity to attend masterclasses to hone their craft and all our delegates confirmed that they have achieved the targets they set for themselves.  One of our delegates were accepted to the IDFA Academy and attended all the sessions and workshops offered.  Some of the other delegates were fortunate to attend some of the open sessions offered by the IDFA Academy. Some of the formal events and masterclasses attended were: Cinematography masterclass, Co-production round table, Distribution and Sales, Doc Dialogues, Unchartered Rituals, Frederick Wiseman masterclass, Fertaile Resistance, Masterclass Ed Lachman, Masterclass Joe Bini, Masterclass Jonathan Harris, Outreach and Impact, Sustainable Web Series

Selected highlights of attending the festival were:

“Strike a Rock” (director Aliki Saragas, producers Liani Maasdorp, Anita Khanna, Rehad Desai) was playing at the festival. The film was well received by the Dutch public and South African ex-pats alike. Each screening was more full than the last and it had great feedback, such as how important a film like this is of people to understand what is going on, on the ground in Marikana, and politically in South Africa as a whole.

Aliki Saragas at the screening of her film Strike a Rock

Q&A after Strike a Rock viewing

Aliki Saragas presented on a Bertha Panel, Resistance is Fertile which combined filmmakers, lawyers and activists and had Equal Education and Barbara Hogan on the panel. To stimulate new talent and high level documentary production, IDFAcademy organizes international training programs for emerging filmmakers: the IDFAcademy Summer School in July and the IDFAcademy during the festival in November. During the Summer School Sara de Gouveia attended and Aliki Saragas attended the IDFAcademy.


Big World Cinema were well-represented at IDFA with the documentary “Silas,” a South Africa-Canada-Kenya co-production

The chairperson of the DFA Desmond Naidoo, had very successful meetings with the heads of the Dutch Film Fund and the Dutch producer’s organization, and it was agreed to formalize relationships between the parties with the intention of developing a number of co-production projects between the two countries. Those SA films entered into Docs For Sale received some great interest and deals will be made over the next couple of months. Several of our delegates entered into co-productions and others have some good prospects of entering into co-productions in the near future. Opportunities for distribution of some of the SA documentaries are also on the horizon.




With close to 3,000 professional guests every year, including hundreds of filmmakers bringing their latest works to Amsterdam, IDFA is one of the world’s most important meeting places for the documentary industry.