Docs for Sale previews 2024-2025 catalogue with 17 exciting titles
Docs for Sale previews 2024-2025 catalogue with 17 exciting titles

Docs for Sale previews 2024-2025 catalogue with 17 exciting titles

Tuesday, June 11
By Sevara Pan

Docs for Sale, IDFA’s premier market and distribution incubator for creative documentary films, steps into a new season with the showcase of 17 exciting films, spanning geographies and a wide range of themes, styles, and original artistic approaches.

All the titles in this year’s Summer Showcase previously took part in IDFA Forum and/or were supported by the IDFA Bertha Fund. Many celebrated their world premieres this year at major film festivals, including Sundance, the Berlinale, Visions du Réel, and Hot Docs. The crop of films features titles that have been boarded by leading sales agents and those that are yet to secure sales representation.

Eternal You
We dive into the preview with the Sundance-premiering title Eternal You, co-helmed by Moritz Riesewieck and Hans Block. Expanding our understanding of AI utilization in such private moments of our life as bereavement, the riveting documentary follows people who use artificial intelligence to virtually connect with their departed loved ones as avatars. A young man ceaselessly chats with the digital replicant of his deceased girlfriend. A South Korean mother hugs a VR version of the young daughter she lost. Weighing in on the perils of the technology and ethical quandaries of the digital afterlife, the film also examines the world of AI startups and tech companies working in the business. The documentary is a production of Germany’s Beetz Brothers, in co-production WDR, NDR, BR, SWR, rbb, SRF, SRG SSR, VPRO, and Docmine. World sales are handled by Dogwoof.

My Stolen Planet
Emotive personal testimony is at the heart of Iranian director Farahnaz Sharifi’s My Stolen Planet. World-premiering in Berlinale’s Panorama section, Sharifi’s assured debut feature documentary presents an evocative first-person essay that portrays a life of a woman in Iran straddling two metaphorical “planets”: her “safe planet” of domestic freedom and “their planet” of regimented oppression. Blending her personal archives and the keenly collected found footage—8mm tapes of strangers’ private lives—Sharifi crafts a resonating cinematic space where the past and present, the personal and political, are in perpetual conversation. The filmmaker’s voice—now in exile—carries the film’s narration. Germany’s JYOTI Film co-produced the documentary with PakFilm Hamburg, while CAT&Docs handles its world sales.

Rising Up at Night
Another Berlinale title Rising Up at Night by Congolese director and visual artist Nelson Makengo conjures up a captivating collage of lives as the camera zeroes in on Kinshasa residents as they struggle to find access to electricity, navigating the many challenges of a flooded city that is shrouded in darkness. Rarely venturing into the daylight, the film creates an immersive nocturnal documentary experience that harnesses the absence of light to convey the feeling of being plunged into the dark, with no certainty of electricity. Belgium’s Twenty Nine Studio & Production produced the film with DRC’s Mutotu Productions, in co-production with Germany’s Film Five, Burkina Faso’s Diam Production, as well as Belgium’s Auguste Orts, Magellan Film, and RTBF.

Fragments of Ice
The personal and political intertwine in Fragments of Ice by Ukrainian director Maria Stoianova. In her Visions du Réel-premiering documentary, the filmmaker contemplates memory, history, and identity by burrowing into her family’s VHS archive, filmed by her ice skater father Mykhailo between 1986 and 1994, and letting the images suggest a path to follow. In an intimate film of familial ties and profound political consequence, Stoianova explores her father’s “vision of paradise,” set against the changing socio-political landscape and the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The 15 VHS tapes, fragments of which make up the film, comprise recorded family moments and her father’s videotaped impressions on foreign tours with the Ukrainian ensemble ‘Ballet on Ice’. The documentary is a production of Ukraine’s TABOR, in co-production with Norway’s Indie Film. TABOR is in charge of the film’s world sales.

We Are Inside
Another Visions du Réel title in the selection comes from Lebanese director Farah Kassem, whose film We Are Inside centers on the complexities of the father-daughter relationship. In a remarkably personal film, imbued with candor and humor, Kassem returns to her Tripoli home after a decade-long absence to care for her ailing father, Mustapha. In a bid to connect with her father in the face of apparent generational differences and disputes about their homeland’s politics, Farah joins her father’s poetry club, where the retired men write and recite poems in the old Classical Arabic. As the film unfolds, it morphs into a space where both their mediums, her camera and his poetry, inescapably meet, and where she may address her father in verses. Lebanon’s Road2Films co-produced the documentary with Denmark’s Good Company Pictures as well as Al Jazeera Documentary Channel.

Kanuara, People of the River
A topically different offering that plucks us deep in Peru’s Amazon region comes from Stephanie Boyd and Miguel Araoz Cartagena’s Karuara, People of the River, which celebrated its world premiere at Hot Docs. To protect the Marañón River, headwater of the Amazon, and its spirits, ruled by the Karuara (or the ‘People of the River’), residing under the river’s surface, Mariluz Canaquiri Murayari and a group of Indigenous women file a groundbreaking lawsuit demanding that the river is recognized as a legal person with rights. The Karuara’s role is vital as they safeguard the fragile balance of nature. But their world is also replete with playfulness, as depicted in the film through enchanting hand-painted animations, with the spirits smoking sardines, having donned catfish shoes and crayfish watches, and lolling in hammocks made of boa constrictors. The film is a production of Asociación Quisca, Radio Ucamara, and the Kukama Indigenous Women’s Federation.

The Brink of Dreams
Premiering at the Cannes Critics’ Week, Nada Riyadh and Ayman El Amir’s The Brink of Dreams presents a sobering tale, set in the remote village of Barsha on the banks of the Nile in southern Egypt. The documentary, which scooped the coveted Golden Eye Award, patiently observes a band of girls as they form an all-female street theater troupe. Shot over a four-year period, the documentary captures the girls’ artistic journey and their life transitions as they face difficult choices as young women in the conservative community. The documentary is a production of Egypt’s Felucca Films, in co-production with France’s Dolce Vita Films and Denmark’s Magma Film. World sales are handled by The Party Film Sales.

From this Small Place
Unfurling in the backdrop of the Rohingya refugee crisis, another poignant coming-of-age story in the line-up comes from NYC-based director Taimi Arvidson. The filmmaker’s debut feature documentary From This Small Place gently draws us into the world of a six-year-old Hossain Johar in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Through sensitive verité scenes, the film unveils the joy and heartbreak of childhood and the unadorned truths of the crisis through the eyes of a boy who faces the adversities of the adult world: from devastating monsoons to a controversial repatriation back to Myanmar. The documentary is produced by Brette Ragland and Neaz Mahmud Roni.

Obsessed With Light
A mesmerizing woman-centered narrative shines in the latest film by the directing duo Sabine Krayenbühl and Zeva Oelbaum, Obsessed With Light. The film spotlights Loïe Fuller, a pioneer of modern dance who left an indelible mark on the art form in the early 20th century. Treating Fuller’s story with much finesse, the filmmakers bring forth her adventurous perseverance in innovating stage lighting and fusing dance, fabric, and movement. The film is a visual homage and an ode to the visionary artist who continues to inspire many in the craft, including Bill T. Jones, William Kentridge, Taylor Swift, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Shakira. Between the Rivers Productions co-produced the documentary with ZDF/ARTE and Yuzu Productions. Austria's Autlook Filmsales handles the film’s world sales.

Entries for the 2024-2025 Docs for Sale catalogue are now open and will close on September 9. The 2023-2024 catalogue will remain available until November 1, 2024. The 17 films featured in the summer showcase will remain available until November 2025.

Film still: Obsessed with Light, dir. Zeva Oelbaum, Sabine Krayenbühl