IDFA Awards ‘Song From the Forest’ Top Doc Prize

Posted by Brian Brooks on 11.30.2013


Michael Obert's Song From the Forest.

The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, usually simply referred to by its acronym "IDFA" is typically a launching pad for some of the biggest international documentaries of the upcoming year. The festival annually hosts dozens of premieres from both veterans and newcomers of non-fiction filmmaking and the Dutch city crowds into screenings  of films as wide-ranging as aspiring astronauts in Iran to street kids in Ethiopia (this year's IDFA hosted 220,000 ticket holders). The festival also attracts an international crowd of industry and visitors to the 12 day event, which also awards prizes. This year, the 26th IDFA gave its top prize, the VPRO IDFA Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary to Michael Obert's Song From the Forest.

The feature spotlights American Louis Sarno, who has lived for 25 years with a tribe of Pygmies in the jungle of Central Africa. Song From the Forest captures his life there and follows him as he decides to take his son to America for the first time, landing in New York.

Also winning prizes, Twin Sisters by Mona Friis Bertheussen took the BankGiro Loterij IDFA Audience Award, while Special Jury Award to A Letter to Nelson Mandela by Khalo Matabane (South Africa / Germany), in which the filmmaker takes a critical look at Nelson Mandela, his status and role in the reforms that took place in South Africa in the 1990s. And Pussy Versus Putin (Russia) won the NTR IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary.

The 26th IDFA took place November 26 - December 1. The World Premiere of Syrian filmmaker Talal Derki's Return To Homs, which follows two men who are fighting in Syria's civil war, opened the festival.


Khalo Matabane's A Letter to Nelson Mandela.

2013 IDFA Winners follow:

Best Feature Length Documentary:
Song From the Forest by Michael Obert (The Netherlands) - American Louis Sarno, has lived with a tribe of Pygmies in the jungle of Central Africa for 25 years and decides to take his son to America for the first time.

Special Jury Prize:
A Letter to Nelson Mandela by Khalo Matabane - the filmmaker takes a critical look at Nelson Mandela, his status and role in the reforms that took place in South Africa in the 1990s.

NTR IDFA Award for Best Mid-Length Documentary
Pussy Versus Putin by Gogol's Wives Productions (collective) - a grim record of the struggle by the wild, anarchistic female band Pussy Riot against president Putin, from their first disruptive performances to images shot in police cells.

IDFA Award for First Appearances
My Name Is Salt (Switzerland/India) - a painstaking observation of the labour-intensive process of salt extraction in an Indian desert, where the repetitive actions and events take on a ritual character. The film was made with financial support from the IDFA Bertha Fund, and was selected for the IDFA WorldView Summer School in 2009.

The jury also presented an extra award in memory of Peter Wintonick: the Peter Wintonick Special Jury Award for First Appearance. The award went to Linda Västrik for Forest of the Dancing Spirits, a portrait of a tribe of pygmies in Central Africa.


Gogol's Wives Productions's Pussy Versus Putin.

Also taking prizes:

Jury report IDFA Award for Student Competition
Twenty Feet from Stardom by Morgan Neville (USA, 2013) - Backing singers of superstars reveal what it is like to live in the shadow of fame, and talk about their love of music.

The firestarters IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling (€ 2,500) went to I Love Your Work (USA) by Jonathan Harris. In this web documentary, nine women in the lesbian porn industry reveal not only their bodies, but their thoughts to the camera.

Jury report firestarters IDFA DocLab Award for Digital Storytelling

The IDFA DOC U Award (€ 1,500, presented by a jury of young people)
#chicagoGirl by Joe Piscatella – The Social Network Takes on a Dictator (USA / Syria). From a suburb of Chicago, a nineteen-year-old American female student has been coordinating the Syrian revolution since 2011, armed with every imaginable social network.

Jury report IDFA DOC U Award
A Home for Lydia by Eline Helena Schellekens -  The film tells the story of Lydia, who was born in the Netherlands but has no residence permit. A special children’s jury voted A Home for Lydia the best Dutch youth documentary of the past year. Eline Helena Schellekens received €15,000 towards making a new youth documentary.

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