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A treasure trove of 900 documentaries

A treasure trove of  900 documentaries

Film in the Time of Corona: part 9

In expectation of the re-opening of Dutch cinemas – due to happen on 1 June – Observant is taking a weekly look at films offered online. This week, it’s IDFA’s turn (International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam).

How does it work?

The website gives access to a catalogue of more than 900 titles. These can be rented separately; prices vary considerably but the majority costs less than 4 euro. The site acts like a portal and refers you to other parties, such as Vimeo, iTunes or YouTube. In addition, there are about 400 documentaries that can be viewed free of charge.

Is it worth it?

It definitely is! IDFA is one of the world’s most revered documentary festivals; its online archive is therefore a treasure trove for enthusiasts. The added value is evident: only a fraction can be seen in the cinema and for television broadcasting, documentaries are often rather crudely shortened, to fit them into a timeslot of 50 or 60 minutes.

The IDFA database has a superbly set-up index, allowing users to easily search by subject, such as migration, Alzheimer, citizen journalism, globalisation, the Arab Spring, addiction, architecture or alternative energy. Did you go to IDFA five years ago? And did you see a documentary that you would love to watch again? Search by the festival edition and you may find it. You can also put your faith in the IDFA programmers’ personal favourites.

Judgement of Solomon

From economics to psychology, history, politics and culture: for every person at the UM there is a documentary to be found on the IDFA website that will fit the UM curriculum. 


Top 3 recommendations during the crisis (May 2020)

We searched in the overwhelming selection for documentaries from the days before corona that could shed light on the present juncture. 

1. The Queen of Versailles – Lauren Greenfield (2012)

Many people will have to tighten their belts in the time to come. The sharply humoristic documentary The Queen of Versaillesfollows the family of multimillionaire David Siegel and his blond trophy wife Jackie during the financial crisis. The crisis requires great adjustments in their lifestyles, but that is not easy if you are building the largest home in America – modelled after the French palace of Versailles, with two tennis courts, ten kitchens and a bowling alley. A film about the inability to cut one’s coat according to one’s cloth, made with a mixture of both compassion and malice.        

2. Print The Legend – Clay Tweel & Luis Lopez (2014)

“The Netherlands is going to make 3D-printed ‘cotton swabs’ to be used for coronavirus tests,” technology website Tweakers announced. Apparently, those 3D printers are now playing a crucial role in the corona pandemic: ventilators, skin-diving masks, handsfree door knobs, air valves for oxygen masks; they can all be manufactured quickly using 3D printers. In the compelling documentary Print The Legend, an introverted nerd and an extraverted hipster enter into an epic battle: who is going to be the Steve Jobs of 3D printers?

3. Burning Out – Jérôme le Maire (2016)

Heavy work pressure, extreme stress, too few staff, inadequate budgets. Even in the precorona period, the health sector was under great pressure. Two years ago, Belgian documentary maker Jérôme le Maire followed the staff of the surgical ward in a large hospital in Paris. A film about heroes in health care and the approaching burn-out of our care system.

Mark Vluggen



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