A first in Europe is DOKU.ARTS – an international film festival entirely dedicated to documentaries about art and artist – portraying, surveying and contemplating the artistic process – whether in visual arts, music, dance, literature film, photography, design or architecture.

Back in 2006, Andreas Lewin, festival founder and artistic director, premiered the festival in Berlin – and in 2008 moved to Amsterdam – at the invitation of Sandra den Hame, former festival director of the acclaimed audience favorite Rotterdam International Film Festival and now director of the Amsterdam Filmmuseum.

DOKU.ARTS is only matched in North America by the Montreal based FIFA – Festival International for Films on Art – which was founded in 1981 by festival director René Rozon – and just wrapped its 27th edition the end of March after 10 packed days with 280 films from over 30 countries.

In comparison and by choice, Lewin decided to keep his festival small, presenting only between 20 and 30 films in 4 days per festival – with a sophisticated, elegant and informed selection. Previous editions included documentaries about luminaries such as actor Marlon Brando, theater director Peter Sellars, film director Robert Altman, visual artists like Chuck Close, Louise Bourgeois and Alice Neel, musicians like Bob Marley or writers like Paul Bowles and Michel Houellebecq.

Fitting the theme of the festival, the website as well as catalog are well designed, easy to navigate and comprehensive. A lot of films in the festival had limited runs or were seen on television in their country of origin only– and so this festival fills a void and gives additional exposure to some gems of art history and culture.

Meeting Lewin during Berlinale, Lewin told me, this year’s edition will feature a special focus on architecture – and so he was busy searching and scavenging around the world for those gems to bring to Amsterdam. Lewin compared it to looking for needles in haystacks.

Thinking of documentaries on architecture, film like Susan Froemke, Bob Eisenhardt and Albert Maysles’ documentary CONCERT OF WILLSTHE MAKING OF THE GETTY CENTER (1997) come to mind – the documentary about the 12 year time it took for architect Richard Meier to realize LA’s famous Getty Center, housing the museum, library and administrative offices; or MY ARCHITECT (2003) by Nathaniel Kahn, a son’s journey to discover the life and timeless contributions to architecture by his father architect Louis Khan or SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY (2005) – a portrait of the architect and person by the late Sydney Pollack.

Most certainly, Lewin and his team will dig out many more hidden treasures to present at the festival later this June. Opening this edition with Agnes Varda’s self-portrait LES PLAGES D’AGNÈS (2008) Amsterdam’s audience should be in for some treats.
For the future, Lewin and team plan to travel highlights of the festival throughout the Netherlands – yet another way to open more doors for filmmakers and their work to wider audiences.

Plus by inviting commissioning editors as well as distributors to the festival, chances for some works to be picked up for broadcast and distribution increase. Kudos to Lewin and team for giving a new platform some important documents of cultural and world history.
The next festival runs June 11-14, 2009 at the Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.
For more information on the festival, please visit


About Author

Tanja Meding

Tanja Meding :Since moving to New York from Germany in 2003, Tanja Meding has worked as a producer for Maysles Films and other independent production companies. Amongst others, she produced SALLY GROSS-THE PLEASURE OF STILLNESS by Albert Maysles and Kristen Nutile which aired on WNET/Thirteen and Channel 25 and is now available on DVD from Since 2007, Tanja has been producing short films by Rosane Chamecki, Andrea Lerner and Phil Harder: JACKIE & JUDY premiered at DANCE ON CAMERA at LINCOLN CENTER was awarded with a PEARL at the POOL 2010 Festival in Berlin. Upcoming this September is a video installation of two new shorts: BOXING and THE COLLECTION at NY's newly opened New York Live Arts building in Chelsea. In addition, Tanja is the co-producer of Gabriella Bier's LOVE DURING WARTIME, a documentary about an Israeli dancer and her Palestinian husband. The film had its US premiere at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and is distributed in the US through 7th Art Releasing. Furthermore, she is the US co-producer of Pascale Obolo's documentary CALYPSO ROSE, LIONESS OF THE JUNGLE. Currently in development with Claudia Brazzale is RETRACING STEPS, a portrait documentary about a group of international dancers and choreographers and their lives 20 years after they first met in NYC.

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