21st International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)

There are many reasons why I love living in Amsterdam. The International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) is one of them. On Monday the 24th 2008 I went to see two documentaries at the festival.

The first movie I saw was Jos de Putter‘s Beyond the Game. This “western in cyberspace” follows the two top players in Warcraft III: Grubby and Sky. Warcraft is the “thinker’s game” at the yearly World Cyber Games. The documentary did not explain how one plays Warcraft, instead it explored how heroes are created. There were two things that I really got out of it:

  • At some point in the movie Grubby describes Sky as being the epitome of “Mindless practise”. Sky practises 12 hours a day, whereas Grubby can be competitive with way less hours of work and relies on his creativity as a player. Personally, I could see an analogy with the current global situation where the “west” is banking on out-innovating the “east” where they just work harder.
  • In the movie Grubby moves to China because he has a ping of 300ms when he plays Warcraft from the Netherlands. This is enough time to make playing useless. We tend to forget that distances stay real in this global economy: You can travel thousands of miles because saving 300ms is important to you. Or in my job: You can have all the video conferencing tools in the world, but you cannot easily overcome time differences.

IDFA usually has the directors of the documentaries present at the screenings. It was very interesting to hear Jos de Putter talk about cutting some scenes because he considered it to be “too TV”.

This is not the first great video game documentary that I have seen this year. I really enjoyed The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. A completely different documentary, but a definite must see (even if you don’t enjoy videogames):

The second movie that I went to see was Leg Before Wicket by Shashi Buluswar (watch the trailer). I have had a weakness for cricket for years now and am always interested in anything cricket related. To me cricket is also about heroes. No other game has such a thin line between being a failure (out for duck) and being a hero (making those much needed runs in the last over, after a 50 run partnership).

Leg Before Wicket uses the LBW concept of cricket (with the often disagreeing viewpoints of the fielding and the batting team) as a metaphor for how both India and Pakistan take a different viewpoint on the partition of 1947. Indians and Pakistanis have a great distrust of each other and a lot of families have painful memories of what happened in 1947.

The movie shows two separate reconciliations: on a macro level the Chicago Giants consists of both Indians (of which the director of the movie was the first one in the team) and Pakistanis struggling together to make the playoffs; and on a macro level where the Indian and Pakistani governments have organised a bi-directional cricket tour, handing out visas to the spectators and building mutual understanding: “cricket diplomacy”. This juxtaposition of different worlds worked very well.

All the proceeds of Leg Before Wicket will go a to a good cause, so please buy the DVD if you are interested.