In Preparation of IDFA: Reviewing a Six Year Relationship

Still from CITIZENFOUR screening at IDFA 2014

There has never been a festival that I have established such a love-hate relationship with as much as I have with IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam). When I was younger I had to review a cultural activity for a school assignment and my teacher was handing out these flyers for DOC U, a program section aimed at introducing young audiences to documentary cinema. This turned out to be the moment from which my love for documentaries would grow.

Now, six years later, what strikes me most about my choice to go and see a documentary about young hip hop culture is that between then and now I have often chosen to see the most controversial, tragic, appalling, and shocking documentaries that give the viewer hope, only to shatter it in the closing credits when the documentary-maker continues their never-ending, unchanged story: “However, after making this documentary…” And this happened with almost every documentary.

Last year, when I continued to stumble upon this feeling, I included a sense of variation in my visits to IDFA-screenings. Occasionally going to a ‘fun’ documentary about music might minimize this unsettling feeling of guilt and powerlessness. And it is precisely this recurring thought that I hate about my relationship with IDFA. The pretentious feeling of buying tickets for several insightful documentaries, with the impossibility of making a useful contribution to the situation that is being portrayed. Being able to choose one documentary out of 300 feels like consciously ignoring the other 299 issues raised. I have forgotten over half of the documentaries I have seen, I’m still unaware of the current situation of the other half and to understand each situation as a whole would cost me the time and energy that I am now using for drinking coffee and going out with friends. Even buying off my conscience by donating money is not an option, because yes, I saw a documentary about the paradox of humanitarian aid. When I embarked upon this journey six years ago, I would never have thought to question good intentions. Even a good intention can be in need of a new perspective.

Sometimes the content is hard to digest, while at the same time nourishable. In an attempt to write about my experiences as a viewer, I found myself torn between the ‘right’ ways of watching a documentary and the ‘right’ ways of trying to process that information afterwards. I have always been first and foremost concerned with documentaries as a form of news-bombardment. However, like literature, the documentary is an art form that tries to shed light on societal issues in ways news media do not. The documentary challenges me to refute or include different perspectives and opinions.

IDFA’s mission statement on their website reads: “Documentaries stimulate the viewer to think further, to discuss, to ask questions. The best documentaries make maximum use of the opportunity to communicate with the audience, whether through a wake-up call, teasing, shocking or even pleasing.” It’s time to grow up and replace the love-hate relationship with a new form of dialogue.



Header image: still from CITIZENFOUR screening @ IDFA 2014


The Comic Loss of 2014

2014 has not been the best year for comedy and that is putting it mildly. During the course of the year three pioneering comedians have passed away: Rik Mayall, Robin Williams and Joan Rivers. They have been influential in their respective comedy scenes as well as worldwide, and inspired a great many comedians that followed in their footsteps. Stand up, theatre, sketches, opera, television, film and even a little bit of music: they filled all of it with distinctive humour. There is no doubt that they are sorely mourned, but their body of work will solely bring forth laughter. Here, we commemorate this threesome with a small look at their oeuvres. Continue reading “The Comic Loss of 2014”

LAB111 & De Filmhallen


Great news for cinephiles: a couple of weeks ago, film theatres De Filmhallen and LAB111 opened their doors! Writer’s Block editor Isabel visited the cinemas and reported on the airy former tram storage and the eerie former pathological institute now both turned into a film fanatic’s paradise.

Located in a former tram storage in the Oud-West neighbourhood of Amsterdam, De Filmhallen’s high ceilings and large seats bring about a different feel than most other cinemas in town do. It is located in a space that has a very modern and metropolitan atmosphere and reminds one of bustling places such as Borough Market in London. This probably has to do with the fact that besides De Filmhallen, the area also houses a branch of the public library, several art galleries, and will soon contain restaurants and a food court as well. You do not have to be afraid of crowds though. De Filmhallen provides a peaceful escape from the busy Kinkerstraat around the corner with its lofty bar and the cinematic getaways it offers. Its assortment of films consists of quality Hollywood movies, Europe’s finest films, and the best of contemporary world cinema. What’s more, the theatre has the comfiest seats my buttocks have ever encountered and because of the smaller size of the viewing halls, one gets a perfect view of the screen. Although De Filmhallen does not have the dusty cinematic vibe of its sister company The Movies yet, I strongly believe this cinema is prone to become one of Amsterdam’s finest, once it has been worn-in by the many visitors it deserves to receive.

LAB111, a hidden gem in the Helmersbuurt (the beautiful neighbourhood near the Vondelpark), has a completely different vibe. The recently reopened film theatre is located in a building that used to be a medical anatomy lab, which gives the place’s roomy corridors quite a spooky ambiance. The building’s decoration, however, is very sleek and modern and the convivial chatter coming from LAB111’s restaurant soon dispels the spookiness. Next to doubling as an art gallery and restaurant (with a very promising and not that expensive menu that I sadly have not had the chance to test yet), the film theatre hosts an Italian Film Club showing recent Italian releases and houses several film-related companies. LAB111’s diverse programming centres on the latest children’s films, surprising new releases, and old classics. It’s now playing A Film About Coffee (2014), of which the title alone is simply irresistible, and Studio Ghibli’s latest film The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013).




De Filmhallen
Hannie Dankbaarpassage 12
1053RT Amsterdam
T 020 – 8208122

Arie Biemondstraat 111
1053PD Amsterdam
T 020 – 6169994