Industry Report: Documentary
Successful Docs for Sale at IDFA overcomes crisis
by Margherita Sabia
01/12/2009 - It was a positive year for Docs for Sale, the market of the IDFA - International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam. Held parallel to IDFA, the numbers of the ten-day event remained more or less the same as in 2008 – with 460 films, 65 distributors, almost 100 buyers and 78 festival directors from around the globe – and dispelled initial fears of a drop in participants and deals due to the global economic crisis.
"The impact of the crisis will be felt in a year or two,” warns market coordinator Fred De Haas, “in a significant reduction of documentaries and their production budgets."
The most viewed films included the Chinese/Canadian Last Train Home by Lixin Fan, winner of the IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary.
New this year was the World Documentary Exchange, a programme created in tandem with Hot Docs of Toronto and the Jan Vrjimand Fund, to support exchange among professionals from Europe, North America and developing countries, with the presence of emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, and an analysis of new strategies of hybrid distribution.
There was also the three-day IDFA Forum, dedicated to co-financing new documentaries in various phases of production, presented together to a large group of television commissioning editors and then discussed individually in one-on-one meetings. The projects were selected for their quality and international appeal, and covered a wide range of style and content. And while 80% of the productions were European, to respect the parameters of the EU’s backing of the Forum, their vocation was definitely global.
The Forum paid particular attention to three cross-media projects, indicators of new trends in production and distribution. The panel discussions also focused on financiers’ selection criteria of cross-media platforms, as well as the possibility of financial involvement from foundations and NGOs.
"The time it takes to find funding has increased,” said Forum head Adriek van Nieuwenhuyzen, “but the Forum continues to be a privileged place for networking". Over 16 films programmed at this year’s IDFA came through the Forum, proof its success.