LIDF 2018
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LIDF20 Final Weekend

The LIDF on-line concludes this weekend. Why not use lockdown time to enjoy the full programme at your leisure. Festival Passes are available HERE!

LIDF20 On-Demand

The entire LIDF20 programme will be available on-demand in our virtual Cinema 2 (8th Feb to 22nd Feb). After 4 days of scheduled screenings in virtual Cinema 1 activities shift to Cinema 2. Choose what to watch when you want to watch up until the 22nd February. Hosted by our new sponsor FILMOCRACY.  

Click HERE to find out more and book your Festival Pass.

Programme A-Z

Programme 4th – 7th February (on demand until 22nd February)

Festival Pass

LIDF20 Day 2

Three great films, Get your Festival Pass HERE


Living there isn´t hell, it´s the fire of the desert. The plenitude of life that stayed there like a tree (Vivir allí no es el infierno, es el fuego del desierto. La plenitud de la vida que quedó ahì como un árbol)
Javiera Veliz Fajardo | 2019 | Chile | 58
‘Living there ….’ is about the wind, birds, sweat, hands, a wheelbarrow, drought and burial. Could it be possible to disappear in the desert? Totoral is a town that disappears between its hills. a town that was born and raised by the land, by their animals and by survival. The desert is constantly mutating, the trees get drier and the men get older. These men, together with their animals, erase their footprints and their passage through time.

Le Prix Tenk, Cinema du Réel, Paris, 2019

Producer: Bárbara Pestan


Eating an Elephant (Съесть СЛОНА)
Julia Saponova | 2020 | Russian Federation | 64
“Do you know how to eat an elephant?” One bite at a time! ” Masha is 19 years old, and she dreams of becoming an actress, but it is difficult for her to overcome her shyness. However, a dream can push a person into amazing deeds. Masha comes to the inclusive theater “InterAction”, where each actor with Down syndrome has a suitable role in the new show. Now, all together, they dream of creating a vivid and beautiful performance and going on tour abroad. This is a fun story of the life of a theater troupe, youth, love and friendship, where everyone learns not only to play on stage, but passes a real test of courage, generosity and perseverance.    

World Premiere

Producer: Olesya Ovchinnikova, Igor Mishin, Dmitry Sergeev, Julia Saponova
Writer: Julia Saponova, Valeria Zadereeva


The Bamboo Bridge
Juan Francisco Salazar | 2019 | Australia | 65
Every dry season, a 1.5km bamboo bridge has been built across the Mekong River to the island of Ko Pen in Cambodia. Every year, the bridge is dismantled in the wake of the monsoonal tides and recycled for the following year. In 2017, this bridge was built for the last time when a massive new government funded concrete bridge was inaugurated as the country embraces China’s One Belt One Road initiative. Through a slow and gentle rhythm, the film engages with three generations of bridge builders who share stories of this unique sustainable infrastructure and the diverse community economies and ecologies it sustained. Focusing on the last master builder, Mr Oun, the film explores the subtle intricacies of traditional forms of sustainable living with the rhythms of local ecosystems and the cycles of bamboo. The river, the monsoon, the people, and the bridge all tell an urgent and primal story. Are we listening?

European Premiere

Production Company: Matadora Films
Producer: Alejandra Canales, Claire Fletcher


4th February – 7th February (until 21st February on-demand)

Due to Covid-19 the 2020 festival has been delayed and will take place entirely on-line in partnership with our new sponsor – Filmocracy.

The LIDF presents a diverse and stimulating line-up of the best documentaries from established and emerging talent around the globe. Truly international in scope the programme features films from 25 nations and will entertain as well as stimulate debate.

Festival Pass

Common Mistakes of the Budding Amateur Documentary Filmmaker

Over the last ten years, the smartphone boom has put a camera in everybody’s hands and more recently put very good video shooting capabilities in those same hands. The result has been an explosion of content where one could argue everyone thinks they are a star or can make a memorable piece of content. 

Smartphones with cameras have also brought a boom in documentary filmmaking. If you have a subject you want to discuss in-depth, your phone now provides an instant avenue to creation. No matter your niche, whether its dresses of the 18th century, an in-depth look at matched betting calculator technology, or classic movies, you can now get filming with few restrictions. 

However, just a quick browse through YouTube will show you that most people miss the basics of documentary filmmaking. Many documentary creators (especially at amateur level) ignore some fundamentals of the medium.

Image credit:

Below we will discuss some of the most frequent mistakes documentary creators make. 

Selecting a worthy subject

Ok, that’s a flippant title as any subject is “worth” something to someone, even if it is a small demographic. While it is important to follow your passion and seek to bring attention to it in front of a wider audience, choosing a subject matter of importance is a good first step. Sure, some great films have been made about subjects that seem mundane, but in general you have to strive to add something new to a debate. 

It is worth remembering many topics that are controversial or vital to daily life have already been covered many times. Seek something new or deliver in a different way. 

Get a theme and ask questions

You have your subject, but your plan of action is a mess. Creating a documentary that is clear in its objectives is important, and a theme can help to deliver your goals. Do you want to advocate something or denounce it?

Either way, sticking to a theme will help you drive your opinion. Of course, sometimes you might be looking for a middle ground, which is where questions are vital. You may have an opinion, but it is not definitive. Be prepared to question your findings and information. 

Poor technique

You don’t need to be Martin Scorsese to film a world-class documentary, but you should have some of the basics of film on tap. This may be as simple as understanding aspects of lighting, camera angles, and sound management. 

Documentary filmmakers are now using smartphones to film their projects, so understanding some of the fundamentals of film creation can really help. Check out local courses, which are often free, on how to do the basics of filmmaking and take your documentary’s quality up a notch.

Seek inspiration and learn 

To get a true understanding of the art, the London International Documentary Festival explores filmmaking and showcases some of the best documentaries. Documentaries at the festival show how filmmakers inspire people through asking questions, tackling tough issues, and portraying a clear vision of storytelling. 

Whether light-hearted or touching on the social-political issues of the day, documentations at LIDF can help the budding filmmaker learn and take their own projects to the next level. 

LIDF19 Winners

The winners of the LIDF 2019 are:

Best Film: Maelstrom
Misja Pekel | 2019 | Netherlands | 45min

Best Short Film: Dead Women’s Pass
Alexander Houghton | 2019 | Peru | 26min

London in Motion – Urban Documentary Film Workshop

Film has a unique capacity to reveal the personal, anonymous, and collective routines of daily life in cities. This workshop is a mixture of theory and practice with special emphasis on new migration/refugees, urban studies, cityscapes. The workshop will produce 10 short films. The films produced by the workshop will be screened by the LIDF, SOAS and the University of London Institute in Paris.

During the workshop students will learn to apply the basic principles and tools of documentary film making to research/project needs. The initiative will be mirrored by a similar workshop in Paris and the end products will be exchanged between the two cities.

This is an experimental course. It aims to examine how ‘thinking’ with, and ‘through’, images can produce insight with regard to certain anthropological and sociological questions. In the process deepening the medium’s analytical power and enhancing its audience reception. To this end we will examine how a range of media may be utilised to produce rich insights and creatively satisfying outcomes. Together we will develop short narratives about contemporary London. Great emphasis will be placed throughout on teamwork, and critical feedback.

The core objective of this project is to explore in an inter-disciplinary manner various new, cheap and easily accessible visual technologies as tools for urban research and teaching in urban studies. We choose film as a tool because it has a unique capacity to reveal the personal, anonymous, and collective routines of daily life in cities.

We will focus on the experiences and impact of refugees and new immigration: How has London changed its looks and appearances, how have refugees and new migration altered everyday life in (some parts of) the city, how do refugees and new migrants live, work, and move in and through the city, and what is their own experience and perception of living in a global city like London?

Through the documentary workshop we want to explore the idea that there are different (but also similar and overlapping) parallel ‘Londons’: immigrants inhabit and imagine London in their own manner, creating specific networks and mental maps of the city, and interacting with other Londoners in culturally specific ways.


To provide an overview of documentary theory and practice, while involved in telling a contemporary London story through film. The challenge will be to see how film enriches and provides research insights, while at the same time creating new ways of experiencing that research.

Key films and key texts will be viewed and discussed. The course is innovative in its ambition to explore the documentary and research possibilities of new, ‘democratising’ and affordable visual technologies. The course will explore the importance and relevance of these technologies for filmmaking and research in urban environments.

Venue: SOAS, London

Dates: 12th October to 23rd November with screenings at the end of November

Visualising Compelling and Powerful Messages on Refugees and Displacement through Short Impact Documentaries

Norwegian Refugee Council/London International Documentary Festival and SOAS jointly host a one day workshop on:

Visualising Compelling and Powerful Messages on Refugees and Displacement through Short Impact Documentaries


Based on figures released in June 2018 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), by the end of 2017, an unprecedented 68.5 million have forcibly left their homes with at least 25.4 million having left their country of birth and therefore considered refugees. Over recent years, the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe has, in particular, generated attention among the public and in general, sources of information are predominantly derived from local and national media and campaigns. There are many displacement situations around the world that receive more coverage and awareness than others. In addition, protracted displacement which involves those who have sought refuge in host countries for decades can slip off the list of attention and become neglected.

NGOs and other international organisations involved in providing response and services to refugees and displaced populations are increasingly turning to visual products to bring the issues to the forefront, promote their work and share powerful and compelling messages across to various target audiences on a wide scale.  However, the direct voices of refugees themselves are not always easily or readily accessible often enough.

This challenge is recognised by organisations involved, particularly those on the ground who are in regular contact with displaced populations.  They witness first-hand the hardships refugees endure as well as the heartwarming, success stories encountered.  Such content needs to be developed into engaging visual products for widespread awareness raising among the general public, influencers, decision and policy makers.  Acknowledgment of this fact has therefore further raised demand for video and film production within the humanitarian and development sector.

At the same time, it is crucial to consider that film production can be highly costly and time intensive. Therefore engagement with and commissioning documentary producers and film makers requires well-thought through planning with a clear pathway from A to Z of the processes.  Sharp and key messages need to be adequately – and powerfully – translated onto the screen and into the hearts and minds of their audiences. New technology and democratised access to digital media have also impacted strategies that seek to heighten global awareness of refugee related issues. Such tools are integral to efforts seeking to inspire empathy, political engagement, social activism, donor funding and charitable giving.

Documentary film production for humanitarian and development actors therefore consists of two main objectives:

It can educate and raise awareness like few other forms of media, also serving as an evidence-based resource.

Through targeted content creation and messaging – in both feature and short films – and through the high viewership  it seeks to reach, it significantly contributes towards mobilising engagement, empathy and understanding as well as grassroots influence towards inspiring changes in perception and action.

The one day workshop will address the following issues:

  • Refugees in host countries; with a focus on Afghan refugees in Iran
  • Working with children – ethics, protection risks and security
  • Social impact documentary films
  • The working relationship between NGOs and filmmakers
  • Strategic planning and outreach for audience engagement
  • Impact measurement and empirical analysis


1. Raising awareness of key stakeholders – policy makers; donors and other actors from the humanitarian and development sector and the general public in the UK about:

  • The critical importance of providing essential services such as access to education for displaced children and best practice examples;
  • Voices from the displaced.

2. Enabling exchanges and discussions on the role of visualisation tools – such as video production that organisations can use to share information on the plight of refugees (how it can enable organisations to bring displaced/refugees’ voices to the forefront).

3. Examine experiences and best practice for ‘impact documentaries’ with particular attention to strategic planning, social media strategy, and impact assessment.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is an independent humanitarian organisation helping people forced to flee.  With headquarters in Oslo, Norway they work in 32 countries where they help save lives and rebuild futures.  NRC has been present in Iran since 2012 and implements projects in nine provinces.  Through their solid technical expertise and specific sectorial knowledge in education, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, information, counselling and legal assistance, livelihoods and food security, they provide assistance to an increasing number of displaced Afghans in Iran and their host communities.  In 2018, their projects reached 74,834 individuals.


Filmmaking for Social Change, Barcelona


At Soho House, Barcelona

Born in Gambia, dir. Natxo Leuza (27 min)
Ebrahim, dir. Elliott Mckee (28 min)

Filmmaking for Social Change, Pamplona


In the first of a series of events the LIDF, together with Spanish artist Mikel Belascoain, have curated a short festival of documentaries and debates on the theme of refugees. The festival will take place in Pamplona, Spain, from the 7th February to the 8th February.


Thursday 7th – 19:00 – 21:00

Born in Gambia | Natxo Leuza | 2018 | Spain | 27 min
Love | Raul de la Fuente | 2018 | Spain | 30 min
Access to Education for Afghan Children in Iran | Zohreh Arsanjoon | 2018 | Iran/Norway/Germany | 15min

Friday 8th – 19:00 -21:00

Ebrahim | Elliott McKee | 2018 | Germany/New Zealand | 28min
Calais Children | Sue Clayton | 2017 | United Kingdom | 60 min
Sea Angels | Simone Gandolfo | 2018 | Italy | 25min