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FICBUEU pays tribute this year to Joris Ivens, pioneer of socially conscious documentary filmmaking


I Poet, militant, adventurer and war chronicler facets of the Dutch director will be shown with a retrospective screening of four of his most emblematic short films: «Regen», «Borinage», «Indonesia Calling» and «Le ciel, la terre»

I The festival will also dedicate its fourth monograph to the figure of Ivens, who made more than fifty films in twenty countries

BUEU. 27.08.2023. FICBUEU 2023 will pay tribute in its 16th edition to the figure of the Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens, one of the greatest documentary filmmakers of all time. The Bueu International Film Festival, which will be held between 8 and 23 September, will dedicate a monograph to Ivens –the NotebookFICBUEU#4– and its «Retrospective Section», with the screening of four of his most representative short films.

The author of NotebookFICBUEU#4 dedicated to Ivens, and programmer of the event too, Severiano Casalderrey, explains that «at the festival we want important works from the world of short films to be known and this year we chose Ivens because he is one of the pioneers of documentary film and a key figure in history». FICBUEU is committed to auteur cinema and new trends. And also for cultural and cinematographic spreading. Hence the publication of the notebooks and the inclusion of the «Retrospective Section» in its programme.

The gaze that documented the changes and crises of the 20th century

Ivens (Nijmegen, 1898-Paris, 1989) witnessed with his camera the most important social changes, crises, wars and revolutions of the 20th century. His filmography spans more than fifty films, shot over six decades: from his first short film, the western The Burning Arrow, which he made with his father when he was only 13, to his last, A Tale of Wind, about China, which he filmed shortly before his death.

Book and retrospective go hand in hand at FICBUEU. The publication, entitled The expansion of the documentary through the short films of Joris Ivens (1898 – 1989), will be presented at the Centro Social do Mar in Bueu on Saturday 16th (11.30 a.m.) and will be on sale on the FICBUEU website and during the event. Four chapters are dedicated to highlight four different facets of the Dutch director. 

The first is that of «poetic filmmaker», influenced by the artistic avant-garde of the beginning of the last century. The short film that will open the screening of the «Retrospective Section», which will take place on Sunday 17th (18.00 p.m.), dates from this period. It is Regen, from 1929, an abstract, experimental and lyrical exploration of the effects of rain in a modern city like Amsterdam.

Critical and committed

Another of the aspects to be addressed in this approach to Ivens is his activist side. The filmmaker, of communist ideology since he lived for a time in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, contributed a committed perspective to the history of documentary filmmaking, always from the point of view of the people in struggle against the oppression of the system. In fact, social conscience was a permanent driving force in his life –for example, a few days before his death, at the age of 91, he took part in a massive protest in Paris against the massacres in Tiananmen Square– and also in his audiovisual production. «His militancy is directly reflected in his works», says Severiano Casalderrey, «and we always find some critical element in his films». The short film to be shown at the festival is Borinage (1933), about the Belgian mining strikes, in which Ivens denounced misery and proletarian exploitation.

The Flying Dutchman

FICBUEU audience will also be able to discover the adventurous and travelling side of this director, «a restless person, always on the move», who filmed in some twenty countries on five continents. This facet is represented in the third film included in the screening, Indonesia Calling (1947). With this film, Ivens supported the pro-independence movement in this Asian country when it was still a Dutch colony. «He was repudiated by his own country for twenty years because of this documentary, and that increased the concept of him as a wandering Dutchman», Casalderrey points out.

The last side that FICBUEU will explore of the figure of Ivens is the most journalistic: that of war chronicler. The Dutch filmmaker filmed almost all of them: the Spanish Civil War (in the documentary Land of Spain, 1937, with the narrating voice of Ernest Hemingway and the collaboration of Orson Welles), the Second World War, the Cuban Revolution or the Vietnam War, the setting for Le ciel, la terre, which he filmed in 1966 and closes the Festival’s «Retrospective Section». «His images of the main conflicts are a portrait of the last century around the world», summarises Casalderrey of Joris Ivens, who always based his work on the importance of the social function of cinema, as well as on honesty, ideological freedom and the search for truth as essential conditions for documentary filmmakers.


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