A Short Walk Through the International Competition


The international competition line-up includes 17 documentary films, including the Oscar-nominated titles and the winners of prestigious festivals such as Sundance, IDFA, CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig and KVIFF

In addition to Oscar-nominated For Sama, by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, and The Cave by Feras Fayyad, the International Competition offers an abundance of films arriving to ZagrebDox straight from their impressive international festival tours. The winner of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), In a Whisper, by directing duo Heidi Hassan and Patricia Pérez Fernández, brings a story about friendship that surpasses geographical barriers, while IDFA mid-length competition laureate, Anticlockwise, directed by Iranian Jalal Vafaei, is a moving portrait of the author’ family and their struggle against the oppressive Iranian regime. Iranian filmmaking veteran Mehrdad Oskouei, winner of the IDFA directing award for Sunless Shadow, arrives with a devastating portrait of five young Iranian girls imprisoned for killing their abusive spouses or fathers. The ZagrebDox International Competition also includes last year’s IDFA First Appearance special mention winner Ilya Povolotskiy’s debut Froth, an astonishing cinematic study of a small eclectic community of “subpolar cowboys” living in the semi-deserted town on the shores of the inhospitable Barents Sea. The winner of the main festival prize at CPH:DOX, Ridge, directed by John Skoog, whom the jury described as the Swedish Tarkovsky, skilfully employs cinematic language painting a minutely detailed picture of an idle summer in Scandinavia. In the manner of a gripping thriller, Polish Wind. A Documentary Thriller, directed by Michał Bielawski, evolves into an extraordinary cinematic symphony about the unpredictable and destructive power of the wind that blows several times a year in the Polish region of Podhale. 

The winner of DOK Leipzig, Exemplary Behaviour, directed by Audrius Mickevicius and Nerijus Milerius, examines the notions of crime, justice and forgiveness by telling the story of the inmates of the Lithuanian prison Lukiškės. On the other hand, Swedish director Mikel Cee Karlsson attempts to shed some light on the fate of his best friend, gradually uncovering a previously hidden side of his life in Fraemling (A Stranger). Using documentary footage, interviews and reconstruction techniques to piece together certain scenes, the author weaves a story about the very fine line between sacrifice and guilt. Controversial Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel, known for her fearless and impassioned advocacy for the rights of Palestinian political prisoners is the central protagonist of the impressive Advocate, which has earned directing duo Rachel Leah Jones and Phillippe Bellaiche numerous awards, including being shortlisted for an Academy Award. In his latest documentary, Midnight Family, winner of the Special Jury Award for Cinematography at Sundance, young American director Luke Lorentzen accompanies a Mexican family on frenzied and turbulent night rides as they race around the streets of Mexico City. Shot in cinema vérité style, the film follows the work of a privately owned ambulance service, in the process revealing fatal gaps in the state-sponsored healthcare system. Sundance Special Jury Award laureate The Painter and the Thief, directed by Benjamin Ree,is a tender and heartfelt story, which, skilfully avoiding sentimental traps, assembles a cinematic equivalent of a cubist painting of the unusual friendship between the two titular protagonists. Having scooped the Best Emerging Director Award at Locarno Film Festival for 143 Sahara Street, Hassen Ferhani arrives at ZagrebDox with an intimate and evocative documentary about a lone café in the middle of the Sahara Desert. The infamous Brussels neighbourhood Molenbeek, known for suicide bombers and police patrols, is portrayed through the eyes of two little boys from vastly different cultural backgrounds in Finnish director Reetta Huhtanen’s Gods of Molenbeek. The lyrically framed documentary succeeds in finding a fresh and imaginative way of broaching one of the most pressing issues of the present day – the (in)ability of coexistence in difference. Family secrets, repressed memories and unspoken trauma are at the centre of the family drama, It Takes a Family, in which director Susanne Kovács offers a complex, intimate story of her own family, the Holocaust and horrors from the past that, passed down from generation to generation, still haunt us in the present. Russian director Ksenia Okhapkina’s Karlovy Vary IFF Grand Prix winner, Immortal, perspicaciously examines the way the mechanisms of political power affect our everyday life, even in the most benign of situations.