From 14 to 25 November the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) will celebrate its 25th birthday. The annual event, which promotes documentaries and presents these to a large and varied audience, started out small but has grown significantly since the late ’80s. Now the world’s largest documentary festival, it is an eleven day event, screening more than 200 documentaries and attracting nearly 120,000 visitors each year.
From a variety of subgenres, the IDFA selects so-called ‘creative documentaries’; films that have been ‘painstakingly designed’ and that express the personal vision of the maker who is viewed as an artist rather than a journalist. The selection criteria are clear; those in charge are looking for documentaries that are ‘interesting from a stylistic point of view, or are particularly innovative, relevant to social issues and successfully manage to communicate with their audiences.’ The best documentaries compete for a number of awards and cash prizes.
One of the selected documentaries to be screened during the festival is Reportero, a film by Bernardo Ruiz. This documentary focuses on veteran reporter Sergio Haro and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana-based independent newsweekly, as they challenge drug cartels and corrupt officials. Just by practicing their profession these reporters are risking their lives. Since 2006, when current president Felipe Calderón assumed office and launched a military offensive against drug cartels, over 40 journalists have been killed or have disappeared. At Zeta alone since the paper’s launch in 1980, the founder has been viciously attacked and two of its editors have been murdered.
I saw the New York premiere of this powerful film at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival last June. The social importance of this well-shot, beautifully constructed and above all poignant documentary is evident; it makes the viewer painfully aware of the violent world of Mexican journalism. As such, Reportero reaffirms the potency of documentary both as an art form and as a powerful medium for illuminating the often-unseen implications of conflict. Which is why I am proud to announce that in our upcoming journal, themed Cinema and Subcultures, we will publish an in-depth interview with Bernardo Ruiz. We will discuss the making and the meaning of his production and its European premiere at IDFA.
On behalf of the United Academics Journal of Social Sciences, I would like to wish Bernardo Ruiz and his team good luck in Amsterdam. For all of you who’d like to attend the screening of Reportero on Saturday November 17 at the Central Library Amsterdam (OBA); please visit http://www.idfa.nl/industry/festival.aspx for further details.