The 18th Annual ICDOCS
Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival
April 29 – May 1, 2021


The Iowa City International Documentary Film Festival (ICDOCS) is an annual event run by students at the University of Iowa. Our mission is to engage local audiences with the exhibition of recent short films that explore the boundaries of nonfiction filmmaking. We seek innovative new works of 30 minutes or less that both complicate and expand upon conventional approaches to nonfiction and documentary.


Online screenings at www.icdocs.wordpress.com
and https://www.twitch.tv/icdocs


Thursday, April 29 @ 6:30pm
Competitive Program 1: Somatic Reflections

Lightmare / Josh Drake
USA // 2020 // 6:56
Lightmare was inspired by a group of youths who used to race motorcycles by my house. Stories began to spread about who they were and what poor conditions their parents were raising them in. The film attempts to capture the anxiety of the neighborhood, using negative space to subvert the audience’s expectations of horizon and depth. In contrast, much of the content underscores the triviality of the perceived threat. High levels of film grain enhance the effects of pareidolia, paralleling the human impulse to create stories for the unknown riders.

Birdsaver Report Volume 1 / Heehyun Choi
South Korea, USA // 2020 // 7:40
The audience encounters a report in blue pages discussing the death of wild birds caused by collisions with transparent soundproof walls. Two hands appear to turn the pages, cut the paper, move the objects and paint, following the text from the report. While birds fly towards a transparent wall, what is the audience colliding with?

Background Material / Britany Gunderson
USA // 2020 // 8:57
A mother/daughter relationship is analyzed through textile materials.

Labor of Love / Sylvia Schedelbauer
Germany // 2020 // 11:30
An expanding feeling, unfolding new inflections — forever different, forever changing.

Happy Valley / Simon Liu
Hong Kong // 2020 // 12:30
British Colonial-era structures overlook scenes in the aftermath of civil unrest as Hong Kongers work to retain some semblance of normality. The sound of petty arguments from local TVB soap-operas of the 80s are put in concert with captive animals, political graffiti and desolate highways. Suspension cables and ship anchor lines reveal a fragile urban anatomy; the structures that keep the city moving along. As civic functions grind to a halt, the limits of our empathy and control come into question. As the days teeter toward an uncertain future, HAPPY VALLEY cinematically probes the role of the so-called “little things”. A rendering of the perseverance of spirit in Hong Kong – an attempt at irony that can’t help but be emotional.

Autopoiesis / Lana Z Caplan
USA // 2019 // 7:15
#aerialskiers #PyeongChangWinterOlympics #divers #LeniRiefenstal #Olympia #OpticalIllusions #SpeculativelyGeneratedOuterSpace #SelfHypnosis #SunRa #SpaceIsThePlace #4ECognition #AssaultByHashtags #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #StillMarching #GiletJaune #Brexit #IdeasofUtopia #AfroFuturism #AryanRace #HashtagActivism #ConstantlyBuffeted #Maintain #LoveWins

Hear Me Sometimes / Sofia Theodore-Pierce
USA // 2020 // 14:22
Butterfly as verb. The monarch migration and an unearthed cassette tape correspondence form a storm speaking towards motherhood, loss, expectation, care and legacy. An elegy. An ode to uncertainty. A cry for radical optimism and a reordering of splendor.

Thursday April 29 @ 8:30pm – Outdoor in-person screening @IMU Amphitheater
Opening Night Feature: Crestone (out of competition)

Crestone / Marnie Ellen Hertzler
USA // 2020 // 73:00 
In the desert of Crestone, Colorado, a group of SoundCloud rappers live in solitude, growing weed and making music for the internet. When an old friend arrives to make a movie, reality and fiction begin to blur.

Friday April 30 @ 2pm
Juror Program: Alee Peoples

Friday April 30 @ 4pm
Competitive Program 2: Reorienting Spaces

Blue, Red and Farmers / Jules Mathôt
Belgium, The Netherlands // 2018 // 16:15
During nights full of colour and fog, a filmmaker observes the daily lives of two brothers living on a farm. This short documentary sets out to find and change the conception we have of a typical farmer’s life. Via cinematographic interference (lighting, fog, sound editing, etc.), their reality is changed into a filmic cosmos. The boundaries between reality and fiction blur.

S p a c e l a n d / Caitlin Ryan
USA // 2020 // 7:15
Long hallways, an orchestrated auction, and acts of disappearance, Spaceland, travels through the mysterious American landscape of storage units. Space that captures the line between necessity and amenity; between an interim life event and the more permanent obscured.

Breaking An Image / Ava Threlkel
USA // 2020 // 9:48
Breaking An Image is a dusty, scratched record. The needle skips a groove, and the image of Tiffany, 80’s teen popstar, jumps thirty years into the future. The image lands in a largely vacant Southdale Center, the first indoor shopping center in the US.

News from Nowhere / Benjamin Balcom
USA // 2020 // 8:00
“Simplicity of life, even the barest, is not misery but refinement.” – William Morris

Another Horizon / Stephanie M. Barber
USA // 2020 // 9:00
the horizon, where the sky and the earth meet, is always elsewhere, is a promised place where these two elements come together. a metaphor, an orienting, a promise of transition, change, transcendence. a place where the corporeal and spiritual meet, or are cleaved apart.

here, the space between narrative and documentary, fact and fiction, is literally scratched between two voices, also cleaved apart or brought beside.

National Bird 2 / Curtis Miller
USA // 2020 // 01:20
A collision of two predatory birds sends the viewer into a sudden, cosmic free fall. From an on-going series on the symbolic value of birds in the United States.

Animal Trials / Drew Durepos
USA // 2020 // 19:05
Sifting through blurred images, animal attacks, and survivalist fever dreams, two friends discover true-crime connections between the owl theory and the origin of evil on election night. Or: this is how I felt one night in November.

Friday April 30 @ 6:30pm
Competitive Program 3: Return and Reclaim

Giant Eagle, Four Stars / Emma Piper-Burket
USA // 2021 // 4:00
In an abandoned shopping center outside of Cleveland, the story of the last remaining grocery store is told through recent google reviews.

Cities I Haven’t Been To / Damar Cuci
Croatia // 2019 // 7:06
An abstract travelogue around the skylines of cities I have not been to. These are dystopian virtual travels from Sao Paulo and Dubai to Dhaka and beyond. The images of cities might be abstract, but I have recognized and picked them out of hundreds of thousands of photograms. Far from tourist postcards, these mental images stem from my knowledge and my prejudices, visualized in a flash of abstract figures.  

Letter From Your Far-Off Country / Suneil Sanzgiri
USA, India // 2020 // 17:00
Drawing upon a rich repository of images – from digital renderings of Kashmir’s mountains to the textured materiality of 16mm hand-processing and direct animations techniques – ‘Letter From Your Far-off Country’ maps a hidden vein of shared political commitment and diasporic creative expression, linking a poem by the Kashmiri American writer Agha Shahid Ali with interviews with the filmmaker’s father and a letter addressed to Communist Party leader Prabhakar Sanzgiri, who is also the filmmaker’s distant relative.

Luminous Variations in the City Skies / Giuseppe Spina
Italy // 2020 // 6:20
A silent film composed of digital scans and blow-ups of Guido Horn D’Arturo’s photographic plates depicting Bologna’s skies.

Medusa and The Abyss / Felicity Palma
Italy // 2019 // 10:56
Notions of belonging and the ethics of travel are questioned through female rite and ritual, pointing at the pervasive and contradictory presence of history and myth in present-day Sicily.

The___________World / Peixuen Ouyang
China, USA // 2020 // 17:56
A personal essay about connection and disconnection, in and through different realities.

Untitled Part 9: This Time / Jayce Salloum
Afghanistan, Canada // 2020 // 6:13
Out of the mouths of rural boys, finding the incomparable Mulla Nasrudin in Afghanistan.

Friday April 30 @ 8:30pm
Competitive Program 4: I Can’t See

In Shallow Water / Marek Moučka
Slovakia // 2020 // 10:17
Finding connections between christmas traditional dish and sentenced prisoners leads to closer look on questions about the meaning of freedom and identity. Faces that cannot be recognized but their voice still remains. Is debt towards society redeemable with sorrow?

3 Logical Exits / Mahdi Fleifel
Denmark, United Kingdom // 2020 // 14:00
A sociological meditation on the different “exits” that young Palestinians choose, in order to cope with life in the refugee camps. 

Alternative Facts / Marina Santana De la Torre
Mexico, USA // 2020 // 1:00
A reflection on the phrase “Alternative Facts” used during a press conference in January 22, 2017.

Maalbeek / Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis
France // 2020 // 15:51
Survivor but amnesiac of the attack at Maalbeek metro station on 22 March 2016 in Brussels, Sabine is looking for the missing image of an over-mediatised event of which she has no memory.

Maciré / Paige Taul
Germany, USA // 2020 // 3:30
Maciré, a young woman in Berlin, details her experience as an Afro-German in Germany. Filmed in Berlin, Germany as a resident of the Institut für Alles Mögliche.

Luces del Desierto (Desert Lights) / Félix Blume
France, Mexico // 2021 // 29:58
Strange lights appear at night in the Mexican desert – it seems to be full of life. This suspenseful film invites us to open our eyes wide in the twilight, and listen to the sounds hidden in the darkness.

Saturday May 1 @ 2:00pm
Juror Program: Almudena Escobar López

Saturday May 1 @ 4:30pm
Competitive Program 5: Games, Illusions, Systems, Play

The Imaginary Kaleidoscope / Masha Vlasova 
USA // 2020 // 11:32
The film is composed of a series of close-ups of animal sculptures, small and large. The close-ups, which excise context from the frame, suggests portraiture. Even without context, lawn sculptures are recognizably mass-produced and made of inexpensive, yet robust material intended to endure outside. The male voiceover reads a monologue quilted with quotations from the western canon in which the author ventriloquizes an animal voice (i.e. Kafka, Rilke, Bishop, Tolstoy). The video offers a meditation on voyeurism and the performative quality of public-facing private displays, and on the desire to reintegrate animals into our life. The yard art animal sculptures are dinky monuments to that desire for reintegration. I gathered the footage in towns across the Northeast, Midwest, and the South suggesting a collective place-less portrait of Americana.

I’ve Been Afraid / Cecelia Condit
Mexico, USA // 2020 // 7:01
I’ve Been Afraid is a musical encyclopedia about how women get abused, and why it is they stay. It uses emojis that are as ubiquitous as abuse is in our culture.

Drills / Sarah Friedland
USA // 2020 // 16:45
Drills is a film about the choreography of preparing for the future. A hybrid documentary and experimental dance film reimagining the form of the Cold War-era, US government-produced social guidance film, Drills asks what futures we are preparing for through the exercises embodying present anxieties. Weaving in between multiple forms of choreography, fiction, and documentation, Drills restages lockdown and active shooter drills, frames corporate and tech start-up office meditation, and reperforms Boy Scout drills from the 1917 Boy Scout manual.

– force – / Simon Liu, Jennie Marytai Liu
Hong Kong, USA // 2020 // 8:47
Placid views of Hong Kong merge with dizzying, semi-abstract digital animations; avatars in a parable about control. A mesmerizing, menacing voice over – part body politic regulator, part cyberpunk travel guide – promises order, accountability, and satisfaction, and threatens trouble, polarization, and tears. A fire has been started, movement has gone on to reach multiple points of no return.

Partial Differential Equation / Kevin Jerome Everson
USA // 2020 // 8:30
Partial Differential Equation is illustrated by mathematician Tariah Gatlin.

Zero Length Spring / Ross Meckfessel
USA // 2021 // 16:00
A walk through corridors and rooms culminates in a familial Reiki session – what’s underneath and within. Zero Length Spring is an apotropaic film, imprinted by rituals and symbols, basking in ruptures of the body and the earth. Through ASMR brush tracks and the language of self-help therapy, film surface abrasions and alleged paranormal photos, the film gives shape and form to various unseeable forces. You’re worth it, you deserve love, you can grow.

Deadphant / Ayo Akingbade
United Kingdom // 20202 // 3:00
A portrait of Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre in South London, a weekend before it permanently closed, after fifty-five years on September 14, 2020.

(Always) Next to Me / Emma Piper-Burket
USA // 2021 // 3:42
(Always) Next to Me is a 16mm film that pairs abstract sequences of plants developed directly on the film emulsion with intertitles briefly describing what was going on for me personally at the moment the plants were collected.

I started the film at the beginning of the pandemic, just after I found out I was pregnant for the first time in April 2020 and finished it just before the birth of my baby in December of the same year.

The film is a compilation of significant and insignificant occurrences- an experiment in co-existence. As we go through our very human experiences and emotions, there is an entire surrounding ecosystem that bears witness, supports, and exists alongside [often with total indifference to] that experience.

The plants leave their image on the film, but my state of mind at the various points over the 9 months of production is also reflected in the care to layout and exposure that I exert over the material. The one rule I made for myself was that I had to use all the plants that I gathered, so some sequences are long and careless, while others are concise and delicately constructed. Stressful moments are revealed by the haphazard placement of random plants across the film strip, the times of serenity can be spotted by recurring patterns, and carefully selected leaves. A reminder that when we are not well grounded, we cause more destruction to the life around us- take more than we need.

Saturday May 1 @ 6:30pm
Competitive Program 6: Memory Manifesto

The Length of a Day / Laura Conway
USA // 2020 // 15:00
The Length of Day is a collaged essay film that tells an emotional history of socialism in the United States. Filmmaker Laura Conway enacts a cinematic seance using archival documents to communicate with her departed communist grandparents and ask them questions about the end of capitalism. An account of the dreams, struggles, and losses of revolutionaries in the United States.

Hi Dad / Karolina Baranowska
Poland // 2020 // 3:00
The film Hello Dad is a short documentary showing how difficult it is for us to talk about important things and core feelings, it is difficult to ask about them, it is difficult to answer. The relationship of Father and Daughter is just an excuse to tell about the fact that we are all on both sides of the handset. What would you say?

Double Whammy / Tristen Ives
USA // 2021 // 4:09
A diaristic short exploring mental illness.

Exit Strategy #5 / Kym McDaniel
USA // 2020 // 8:00
An origin story and the rebirth of an identity after trauma. The fifth in a series regarding my emotional and physical traumas.

Maat means Land / Fox Maxy
USA // 2020 // 29:59
What does it mean to come from somewhere?

I Think It’s Enough, Isn’t It? / Emily Shir Segal
Israel // 2020 // 4:00
Reconstructing one last encounter with Dad.

Too Much Fun / Grace Mitchell
USA // 2020 // 12:00
TOO MUCH FUN is an attitudinal account of familial tragedy surrounding suicide, incest & identity.

Saturday May 1 @ 8:30pm
Awards Announcement



  hours  minutes  seconds




APRIL 29 – MAY 1, 2021