Aliona van der Horst


Dutch director Aliona van der Horst has directed five international award-winning documentaries.  She was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1970 and studied Russian literature at the University of Amsterdam and film at the Dutch Film and Television Academy. She began her career in 1997 with the much-acclaimed The Lady with the White Hat and since then has received multiple awards for most of her films, among them the Special Jury Prize at the Tribeca film festival 2006 for Voices of Bam (co-directed with Maasja Ooms), the Grand Prix of the FIFA Montreal 2004 for The Hermitage Dwellers. For the documentary Boris Ryzhy, which is now considered to be a ‘classic’ she received  Best Midlength Documentary Award at the IDFA 2008 and the Best Documentary Award of Edinburgh Filmfestival.  Water Children premiered at Doc Leipzig 2011 and got a special mention as well as the Doxa Vancouver Award for Best Feature Documentary 2012. In 2008 she received the Jan Kassies outstanding achievement award for ‘the poetic sense in her films’.  Along with five fellow filmmakers, she set up the collective Docmakers. Together they made the collaborative documentary Don’t Shoot the messenger about the Occupy movement in Amsterdam.

In many of her films, art and artists play an essential role. Be it music and visual art in Water Children, poetry in Boris Ryzhy, photography of her father in After the spring of ’68, lost snapshots afther the Iranian earthquake in Voices of Bam, or conceptual art by Suchan Kinoshita in 15 attempts. In both Water Children and 15 attempts, she worked in close collaboration with the artists portrayed in the films. Her films are meticulously crafted, paying a lot of attention to style, sound and rhythm, which makes them close to being a work of art in itself. She does so in collaboration with her DoP and editor Maasja Ooms.

She works as a coach to fellow-documentary filmmakers, helping them to realize their documentary. She gives master classes all around the world, Kyoto, Rejkavik, Stockholm, Edingburgh, Barcelona and she was jury member for international competitions of IDFA, DocLeipizg, Kosovo and other festivals.

A retrospective of her documentaries was held in Cinemateka Barcelona 2013, in Kiev at the Docudays Int. Filmfestival and BelDocs Begrade, Serbia 2017.


  • Love Is Potatoes – 2017
  • 15 Attempts – 2013
  • Don’t Shoot The Messenger – 2013
  • Water Children – 2011
  • Boris Ryzhy – 2008
  • Voices Of Bam – 2006
  • A Passion For The Hermitage – series – 2006
  • After The Spring Of ’68 – 2000
  • The Lady With The White Hat – 1997