Iowa City International Film Festival to host three days of experimental nonfiction films

Iowa City International Film Festival will hold its 18th annual film festival from April 29 to May 1 in virtual format, featuring the works of 50 creators across the globe.


Photo of International Documentary Film Festival flyer. Contributed.

Maddie Johnston, Arts Reporter

A group of University of Iowa cinema students joined forces this spring semester to cultivate a festival that would highlight aspects of community and push the boundaries of nonfiction filmmaking. From a local Iowa City coffee shop to a Shopping Centre in South of London, the students selected films they hoped would create a sense of community no matter where one is in the world.

The Iowa City International Film Festival, a three-day event hosted by UI, will feature the works of 50 nonfiction films from creators across the globe. The festival has finalized its lineup and will premiere virtually the weekend of April 29.

This year’s films have been selected from a massive batch of over 600 submissions. The festival’s lineup features films from creators based in Hong Kong, Croatia, Slovakia, Mexico, Canada, India, China, Afghanistan, multiple European countries, and the U.S.

Once the 600 submissions were vetted by the Film Festival Production class (ICDOCS), made possible by the help of local volunteers, students worked to categorize the chosen films into six programs that would bind their common themes, and then divided the itinerary accordingly, Festival Director Nellie Kluz said.

“Our focus is always what is the best work that we’re seeing,” Kluz said. “What kind of rhymes together, what will be exciting for our audience, and kind of be thought provoking and work well together as individual programs.”

The six finalized programs are entitled, “Somatic Reflections,” “Reorienting Spaces,” “Return and Reclaim,” “I Can’t See,” “Games, Illusions, Systems, Play,” and “Memory Manifesto.”

On the last night of the festival, awards for each category will be announced. This year’s jurors are L.A.-based multimedia artist Alee Peoples and writer, archivist, and film program curator Almudena Escobar López. Both jurors will have their own films screened as well.

On opening night, the festival will also host an outdoor screening at the IMU Amphitheater of the film, “Crestone,” a true tale of Soundcloud rappers who live together in solitude, growing cannabis and making music in the Colorado desert.

Stephen Wardell, programming director of ICDOCS, said the festival seeks visually experimental films that have a way of cultivating their own language. Charles Darveau, a student on the design committee of the ICDOCS class, expanded on this concept.

“There’s sort of a traditional understanding of documentary that a lot of people have, and it’s that typical expository mode of just a narrator telling a story, and there’s sort of an emphasis on the narratives,” Darveau said. “So, with experimental documentary we try to subvert that and see what else is out there, and other ways to tell nonfiction stories, and represent the world through the lens of filmmaking.”

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The content of the festival ranges as far as films about recent protests in Hong Kong, to Darveau’s favorite, “Maalbeek,” a French film about a woman who survives the attack on Maalbeek metro station, but with no memory of it. She searches for information about the attack that made her an amnesiac. The full festival itinerary can be found on the ICDOCS website.

Kluz said that, while she’ll miss the excitement of having people come together for an in-person festival, this year’s online format has allowed ICDOCS to create space for their international creators to speak — something never considered in years prior. This year, all programs will be followed by Q and A sessions with creators.

The free link to join the festival can be found on the ICDOCS website.