By Isabella Senno
Seventy films, five locations, 14 years running.
The annual Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival will exhibit dozens of short-form documentaries from Thursday through Saturday in an effort to engage local audiences with the more fringe products of nonfiction filmmaking.
“IC DOCS is a festival that is committed to screening films that pose radical alternatives to normative documentary films, so as [cinema Lecturer] Jason Livingston likes to say over and over again, ‘You’re not going to see these films on Netflix,’ ” said festival Director Emily Drummer. “These are films that most people don’t have the opportunity to see outside of a festival, and that’s why it’s really important for Iowa City to have its own festival so that people don’t have to travel to other festivals to encounter these new, innovative short works that we’re screening here.”
The festival will screen 70 student-selected documentaries over the next two days, and Drummer said all of the films push the boundaries of what a documentary is by either playing with structure or examining a less-mainstream topic.
“The best films, I think, are films that have both an unconventional subject and a form that really defies conventional approaches, so we really look for films that explore both,” Drummer said.
The vast majority of these works have a running time of 30 minutes or fewer, and many fall under the 10-minute mark. The documentaries showcased during the festival are richly varied, with topics that range from a response to the Black Lives Matter movement to an illustration of the life of labor revolutionary Lucy Parsons to an exploration of how video games have overtaken life.
“The short form is a way for [the audience] to see as many films as possible,” said production team member Connor Aden. “I think it’s more accessible for people to see as many films as possible in the short amount of time this festival runs. It’s very important just to get these stories out there to the public.”
The films come from local, national, and international filmmakers with UI students and alumni represented in the mix.
“Documentary … explores human nature and explores the world we live in and exposes who we really are and what we’re capable of,” Aden said. “[The] films here represent a vast array of ideals, ethnicities, and beliefs, so having them all here presented to the Midwest … really opens people’s perspectives.”
The festival also contains seven different competitive programs judged by film programmer David Dinnell and filmmaker Azadeh Navai. Winners will be announced during the Saturday night awards ceremony. Aaron Longoria, a design team member, said there will be Q&A sessions after juror screenings.
“A lot of these films … not everyone might be able to understand, or it’s not accessible to everyone, so having that explanation or just [having] people talking about how the films made them feel is really great and enriching for people who come,” Longoria said.