I first started going to IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) in 2010. I began that year to write small reviews of the films I saw so that I wouldn’t forget details; seeing 8-12 films in 10 days can sometimes leave blurry memories. Here is a reposting of a mini-review from 2010.
“Kinshasa Symphony” was utterly charming as well as very tough. It focused on an amateur orchestra which we saw preparing for a big outdoor concert. The director singled out about five protagonists to follow along during their preparations, which was a brilliant approach as we got to see very different abilities and lifestyles, although everyone was dedicated to the music. My favorite musician was Heritier, a truly talented young violinist who told us that there are African rhythms in Beethoven. He also said that music had become his life and he wanted to dedicate himself to it whole-heartedly. He really stole the film for me and I would love to see where he ends up in five years’ time. One negative point I found in the film was the abruptness of the concert. It began and ended very quickly and felt like they were either running out of film or time. Another thing I found disturbing was finding out only halfway that it was a religious group. I didn’t feel that had to be made an issue, but it could have been mentioned in the beginning to explain the name of the orchestra. Still, a truly enjoyable and heartwarming film. The director afterwards said that the musicians were anxious that he not show the worst side of Kinshasa and when they saw it, they thanked him for only showing the best parts of the city. To us, though, the poverty is horrifying.
“Feathered Cocaine” was the movie for this morning. I was thinking of skipping it until I read the reviews on IMDB and it sounded too interesting to miss. It’s about Alan Parrot (ha ha), a passionate falconer who worked in the 70s and 80s training the hunting falcons of sheikhs in the Middle East. Soon the falconry business becomes an enormous black market with birds commanding up to one million dollars; still, Alan is most concerned about the dilution of the genetic pool and the illegal smuggling of rare birds. He forms his own conservation society and continues to travel to the Middle East to try to keep the smuggling under control. Along the way, he stumbles across the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and the rest of the movie is about him trying to convince the CIA and the UN to listen to him. The movie verges on the edge of conspiracy theory but just stays this side of it. It was an interesting film, but it felt like it was taking on two big issues where perhaps it would have been good to have stuck with one.