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 one of my first mini-reviews.
The best film of the day was the first one I saw, “Village Without Women.”
It portrays three brothers living and farming in an extremely remote village in Southern Serbia. There are no women at all in the village because, as an old friend explains, all the women either left for the city or died. The filmmaker showed us very clearly why people would not be tempted to stay or to move there. Cooking with wood in a derelict 2-room house, washing outside, using an outhouse — no, it wouldn’t tempt many potential wives, I would imagine. The film focuses on the eldest brother, as described by the director in the Q&A afterwards: “At first, only one brother was willing to be filmed. So we had one brother for and two against. The next day, the second brother got jealous and wanted to be in it so then we had two brothers for, one against and the animals for us.”
The film is completely charming and your heart goes out to these boorish men who cut out girly pictures and paste them to the mildewing dirt walls. It was beautifully made, as well, with gorgeous shots of peaceful mountain scenery and special views when they took their women-hunt to Albania. But there’s only so much action that can happen in a movie like this and after a bit, the close-ups of roosters crowing and men shaving outdoors looking into a tiny mirror got a bit predictable. Still, I wish the brothers (and the director) the best, it was very enjoyable.
The second set of movies I saw was a double-bill and I could find no info online about them to give you a poster. The first short was called “Starring David” and was made here in Amsterdam and both the director and the young protagonist were present for the Q&A afterwards. It began promisingly, with a charming Eurasian 13-year old boy exploring his Jewish (father’s) side and officially taking the steps to becoming Jewish. It was quite sweet, but David’s precociousness soon began to grate and it didn’t get better in the Q&A. An interesting topic, and he was quite filmable, but I found him quickly annoying.
The second short was longer: “The Hangman.” It was one long series of stories related by the main character, Shalom, a Yemeni kosher butcher in Israel. He told the story to his long-suffering buddies of how he was assigned to be Eichmann’s guard when he was on trial and, eventually, to pull the rope when Eichmann was on the scaffold. We also see Shalom’s fight to accept his son’s death from cancer. I found the movie too long and too monotonous. There were a lot of scenes of ritual slaughter (which I didn’t watch) and lots of him talking.. and talking… and talking. At a certain moment, although you liked him, you just didn’t want to hear his voice anymore. I almost left, but decided not to as I knew the director was in the room and I would have felt bad. I skedaddled as soon as the credits rolled, though!
So thanks, IDFA, it was great! See you next year!