Hot Docs turns twenty

1 Posted by - April 24, 2013 - Blog, Features, Screen

Twenty years ago today, it was a year like any other. The ceremonial swap between less liberal and more liberal leader of the United States took place when Clinton picked up where Bush left off (launching a cruise missile attack on Iraq just half a year into his term and fine-tuning the ongoing regime of domestic and international deregulation for the next eight), Czechoslovakia emitted more post-Soviet fragmentation moans and became two independent states, North Korea announced its imminent withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Canada saw the four-month reign of its first and last female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell.

In the worldwide box office top 1– grossing films, JURASSIC PARK thrilled with CGI fangs at 1st place, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER struck a historical political chord at 24th, and SCHINDLER’S LIST didn’t leave a dry eye at 4th place.

As for documentary… hang on, where is documentary on that 1993 list of “top performing” films?

Looking back twenty years ago it may be difficult to find documentaries faring well at the box office yet many notable works were produced, such as the gripping THE WAR ROOM (Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker — more on this film later), the politically punchy THE PANAMA DECEPTION by Barbara Trent and David Kasper (technically 1992 but it won the Academy Award in 93) and the environmental classic, and box office “hit” BARAKA (Ron Fricke).

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In Canada, productions included Alanis Obomsawin’s legendary corrective to mainstream media KANEHSATAKE: 270 YEARS OF RESISTANCE (pictured above), festival award-winner BLOCKADE (Nettie Wild), the Gemini-winning doc-series based on Michael Ignatief’s hawkish writings BLOOD AND BELONGING: JOURNEYS INTO THE NEW NATIONALISM, the groundbreaking AIDS advocacy production (and Academy Award-nominated) THE BROADCAST TAPES OF DR. PETER (David Paperny), and Atlantic Canada’s GOD’S DOMINION: SHEPHERD’S TO THE FLOCK (John Walker).

Two important 1992 NFB-involved films of note — Canada’s then top-grossing documentary of all time, MANUFACTURING CONSENT: NOAM CHOMSKY AND THE MEDIA (Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick) and Lynne Fernie and Aerlyn Weissman’s FORBIDDEN LOVE: THE UNASHAMED STORIES OF LESBIAN LIVES — continued to promise, play, and provoke.

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Peter Steven published his book Brink of Reality: New Canadian Documentary Film and Video, the Canadian government replaced the Railway Act of 1906 with a more documentary-friendly Telecommunications Act, and all hailed the hefty hoisting of documentary on to the mediascape stage.

But, much like today’s situation, viable venues, bums in seats and big budgets were part of a misleading cultural promise of independent, alternative media perspectives and channels that grew smaller (and continue to recede) in the reflection of the 1980s, emblazoned with that culturally-tuned public safety warning, “Objects in mirror are smaller than they appear.”

It’s not that previous epochs conditioned documentary’s salad days (although the 1960s and 1970s ushered in a new robust and public era for docs thanks to the New Left, social movements and bold video artists), but the 1980s really rained on the potential parade, as it were. Recovery was slow, and with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the global dream of socialism in free-fall capitalism seemed to pull the final tooth in the Grin Without a Cat.

As the postmodern postmortem “art for money” trampled to death the earlier naiveté and joi de vivre spirit of “art for art’s sake,” artists and creative souls leaned hard into the 1990s, and adapted.

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Speaking of UK arts school students who became pop musicians in the 1980s, Firth and Horne (quoted in Jane Feuer’s 1995 book on the decade, TV and Reaganism) put it this way: “What this suggests to us is not that we are all now colonized by advertisers’ fantasies, but that the interplay of artifice and authenticity is central to everyone’s lives in consumer capitalism.”

Or Patricia Aufderheide’s take: “Commodity culture [can] use as many revolutions per minute as are fed into the marketing machinery” (quoted in her excellent 2000 volume The Daily Planet: A Critic on the Capitalist Culture Beat).

With artifice and machinery whirring along, the early 1990s in Canada were one of many flash points in the protracted struggle between capital and culture, with capital advancing drunkenly from its privileged position among the free market stars, having been fortified and bloated over the previous decade off the back of labour, at the expense of taxpayers, and with Hollywood providing the raw materials for the infinite dreams of progress. Can there be any other reasonable explanation for Canada’s celebrated auteur, Deepa Mehta, having directed two episodes of the TV series THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES in 1993 and 1996?

Knowledge Network CEO and veteran commissioning editor Rudy Buttignol recently wrote in the pages of Canada’s foremost documentary publication, POV Magazine, that the early 1990s were indeed culturally and economically tumultuous:

We were undergoing great cultural change as a response to the worldwide advances of technology, deregulation and globalization. Immigrants were arriving in larger numbers from Asia than they were from Europe or the U.K., and Canadians were trying to sort out what kind of society we were in the process of becoming.

As Canadian culturecrats mindfully migrated from a public to private philosophy, and put artifice to practice with regards to the management of newly anointed specialty television channels, documentarians nonetheless remained hopeful for their art and craft, intent that documentary would indeed play an important role in sorting out just what kind of society we were to be.

Out of the eighties’ ashes, a festival is born

And so, three years into the decade and reeling from the commercial putsch of independent culture by ruthless free market seers like Reagan, Thatcher and Mulroney, documentary makers gathered their forces to create a new showcase event for a genre that had lived (thrived even, some would say) on television but barely breathed outside of the blue-tinged living rooms across the continent.

imagesNot to be outdone by the creation of the Hamptons International Film Festival that same year, prescient Canadian Independent Film Caucus (CIFC) members in Toronto — Paul Jay and Debbie Nightingale at the lead along with Barri Cohen, Barry Greenwald and Ali Kazimi — conspired in the summer of 1993 and set in motion a new path for documentary’s role in interpreting and reflecting that very changing society by launching the Hot Docs International Film Festival.

With a small parcel of cash from Kodak (the culture-commerce tango thus continued after the previous decade’s credit-roll), the CIFC (later to become the Documentary Organization of Canada) filmmakers launched one of three hopeful projects to stir up interest in documentary and support those audacious enough to schlep around heavy equipment and capture actuality for a penance. (POV Magazine and a book spearheaded by Peter Raymont made up the other two projects.) The first Hot Docs edition was a modest affair, but still impressive with 290 tickets sold for the gala event in the Jackman Hall at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which was populated by documentary filmmakers, funders, industry folks, and press.

Twenty years on and Hot Docs is now one of the best, largest and most successful top shelf documentary events in the world. Second in size only to IDFA and mostly extricated from the heavy shadow cast by Toronto’s mammoth festival, TIFF (est. 1976), North America’s foremost public platform and private market for documentary is something to behold.

Unsurprisingly, the festival has changed over the course of two decades, and as organizers, staff, volunteers, filmmakers, industry folk, funders, sponsors and audiences prepare to converge in the coming days, I am intrigued by the diversity and intensity of opinion on the festival, notably the antinomy found among festival-goers and filmmakers who seem to either hate to love the festival, or worse yet, love to hate our dear old Hot Docs.

Among the ranks there is a belief that in the sustained struggle between independent culture and the commanding heights of the creative economy, capital is kicking culture’s ass.

Among the ranks there is a belief that in the sustained (but not sustainable?) struggle between independent culture and the commanding heights of the creative economy, (global) capital is kicking (local) culture’s ass. Sure, Hot Docs is a huge commercial and corporate-friendly cultural event and institution — but what isn’t these days? I mean that anyone has heard of? In this economic and political climate?

Hot Docs serves documentary industry and culture, and as such, we in the doc community should not huddle in grumpy circles pooh-poohing the festival’s mainstream status and rising international star, but should instead cling to the edges of the fast-moving festival and dig in for the long haul. For those of us who love documentary and believe it can have an impact on the world, even intervening in these times of cutbacks and austerity asperity, we need to engage not withdraw.

Twenty years from now I’d love to see a vibrant, strong and Ali-like Hot Docs championing documentary locally and globally. But much like the festival’s many commercial film fest cousins, the current blueprint has imperfections and needs tinkering if it is to continue living up to its fans, answer its critics, and draw in activists, all of whom are angling in a political and cultural climate shaped by a 1980s rampage, a 1990s hangover, a 2000s revival and a 2010s recession.

Hot Docs has shown an aversion to criticism, at least in any meaningful way on the exterior. (I can’t speak for what goes on behind closed doors.) Alternately, much criticism doesn’t reach Hot Docs directly, mostly because the festival has become so fundamental to documentary in Canada, critics tend to bite their own forked tongues for fear of blowback when it comes to programming choices and industry engagements. Such are the trappings of those at the top of the game.

Yet criticism, when it comes from a place of admiration and respect, can be a constructive thing. Further, criticism isn’t always about attack. In the current doc climate we especially can neither afford to wage wars with nor walk away from such a crucial, influential and indispensable player on the non-fiction field, no matter how muscly they’ve become among an anemic doc demographic. (Of course I’m also aware that there is much to celebrate in that brawn — from the two decades of stellar programming to Docs For Schools to the purchase of the Bloor to Doc Ignite, the list is very long.)

So it is in the best spirit of improvement and support that I make the following suggestions for consideration at this exciting two-decade juncture. While these propositions are directed at the festival I love conditionally, they can easily be applied to most large, commercially successful, mainstream film festivals.

I am certainly not so delusional to think that failure is imminent should they ignore, or worse, deride my provocations, but I sincerely hope the festival powers-that-be consider the following five points as thoughtful, supportive and well-researched constructive criticism that is intended to shine light on weak points of an impressively potent giant, so that growth can be directed inward as well as outward as we look to twenty more years of Hot Docs.

1. Slow festival philosophy

Capitalism thrives on inequity, where institutions like banks and big box stores grow prodigious at the expense of community and the working and jobless classes. Culture thrives on diversity, inclusion and local connectivity. Festivals aren’t banks or Wal-Mart franchises, and focusing intently on numbers inevitably threatens quality in favour of quantity. So how big can a cultural institution get and not slip surreptitiously from its roots? How big does it need to get?

The growth of any institution is in direct proportion to the services it offers to the community it serves. The bigger any festival gets, the more compromises must be made in terms of quality interpretative time, inclusive participation, meaningful non-commercial partnerships, and focus on diverse local culture.

We have the slow food movement, the slow film movement, maybe we need the slow festival movement.

I can already hear the response from many in the doc world: “Too big? Then go and start your own festival.”

Toronto has many festivals, and fragmenting the already diminutive documentary audience is not the answer. Eschewing the capitalist framework of growth for growth’s sake, slowing down a little and downsizing outflow just might be the answer. We have the slow food movement, the slow film movement, maybe we need the slow festival movement.

While slowing down can seem anathema to “progress,” the benefits to local culture, community and human relationships are encouraging. Take Norwegian philosopher Guttorm Floistad as he makes the case for slow:

It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

A slower festival, or at the very least, a festival not so focused on constant growth, could mean more time for meaningful post-screening dialogues and debates, greater inclusion of civil society groups in the goings-on of the festival, and an established and functioning avenue for critical dialogue between Hot Docs management and the doc community in Canada.

Slowing down the international pace of the festival could redirect energy to local documentary industry and culture at a precarious time for the form. Slowing down the numbers and reining in the exuberance for accounting could mean more time, energy and resources devoted to standing still and developing existing and new internal and local relations, and less energy on emulating other nodes in a global festival network that privileges an ever-shrinking élite.

2. Sundance North

Speaking of the local-global festival crux: It’s the twenty year anniversary of Hot Docs and a massive movement in Canada has recently erupted among the oppressed and marginalized aboriginal populations called Idle No More. The mainstream and corporate media has either reacted viciously to, or misrepresented, this movement, yet it is a hopeful, vibrant and continuing call to action for inclusion, equality and justice.

Sundance-rotating1As a festival, what could be done to mark this occasion? One considers a special program of indigenous documentary or perhaps a screening of a classic work by an indigenous filmmaker, released twenty years ago, the same year Hot Docs came into being. Sadly, these ideas were apparently not as intriguing on the twenty year anniversary as highlighting a film about the American political process — just when you thought Canadians knew enough about our neighbours to the south.

The fact that Hot Docs is screening THE WAR ROOM to mark twenty years of documentary production and the festival’s life, and not a film like KANEHSATAKE: 270 YEARS OF RESISTANCE (I do realize the fest did a focus on Ms. Obomsawin in 2011, but that was that year, not the 20 year anniversary) is indicative of a worrisome trend where global trumps local and global increasingly looks very American. It’s a tendency that has gathered steam with Hot Docs’s relationship with Sundance in the US, whereby Hot Docs risks becoming the “Sundance North” of documentary.

To illustrate, when Hot Docs announced its 28 Special Presentation films for the 20th edition lineup in March, I counted 20 American films, 19 of which had a direct association with the Sundance Festival or the Sundance Institute. That’s a whole lotta Sundance.

Let’s agree for a second that the Americans produce a massive roster of amazing documentaries each year and an important doc fest like Hot Docs can’t ignore that barrage of quality work. Granted, but surely it’s not all coming from the squeaky shiny liberal indy film powerhouse Sundance? Surely there are still some scrappy—starving even—filmmakers in America producing great stuff, marginalized voices and radical filmmakers making outstanding and outspoken docs on small budgets who aren’t connected to the US indy film élite, and whose pilgrimage seeks the elusive audience?

Further, Canadian films are turned away because of the absolutely arcane festival network policy of premiere status.

Beyond the Sundance domination of American films, there is a degree of ghettoization of Canadian works that I have written about before. Somewhere between 5 and 12% of submissions to Hot Docs are Canadian. That’s anywhere between 100 and 250 films per year submitted (not acquired independent of submissions mind you). This year the festival selected 51 (26% of total) Canadian films, which seems fine at first glance (62 American films make 31% of the total).

Looking closer however, the content behind the numbers reveals another story. If we remove all shorts and previously screened titles as well as co-productions with the US, where Canada is listed second, there are 32 Canadian films left (16%). Applying the same procedure to US films makes for 52 titles (26%). Further, Canadian films are turned away because of the absolutely arcane festival network policy of premiere status, yet in the program we find international films that have been released on line already, one of which has 1.8 million views on Youtube at time of writing.

Naming just a few, the following fine independent Canadian documentaries were rejected this year: BREAKING THE FRAME (Marielle Nitoslawska’s gorgeous work on Carolee Schneemann would have breathed feminist life into this year’s festival), MAXIMUM TOLERATED DOSE (Karol Orzechowki & Jonathan Eagan’s beguiling film sits firmly in the marginalized art/experimental doc zone), MA VIE RÉELLE (By the late social documentarian Magnus Isacsson, who very recently passed away and was an influential and under-appreciated—at least outside Quebec—figure of documentary, and whose proper tribute will be missed at the 20th anniversary), and JEPPE ON A FRIDAY (Shannon Walsh’s captivating follow-up to her remake of an NFB classic finds a way to uniquely connect the global to the local – through class and place).

It is inevitable that every year there is a list of good films missing from every festival lineup, granted. But in the larger context of aforementioned Sundance sway and American content creep, it is a disquieting aspect of a growing (in size and importance) festival when good local films are omitted from a roster swelling with docs from a shrinking source in a schema that may serve the international doc network gods, but over time and left unchecked, will undermine local documentary culture, and maybe even industry as well.

This isn’t a declaration of nationalism or cultural protectionism: I abhor such reactionary and chauvinistic comportment. This is about local culture, industry and community at a time when documentary in Canada needs all the local love it can muster (and not just in the way of international co-pros and European TV sales, which at any rate have a shrinking austerity affection as well).

Lastly, and moving away from the program, but still considering the local — one searches for the special events honouring the people who started the festival. Where is the public legacy of mavericks, intellectuals and artists who handed the festival off to management at the end of the nineties? The festival’s evolution begins as a local story with local personalities who are still alive and kicking (barely, if they’re still making documentaries). Twenty years on is as good a time as any to not only look forward internationally but look back locally (if such events have yet to be announced, I stand corrected).

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3. Ethics & best practices guidelines

Hot Docs is like most commercial festivals in one important regard: it has no official ethics and best practices guidelines. Relatedly, former Hot Docs programmer Sean Farnel has recently made waves with his “pay the fucking filmmakers” take on making festivals more fair. His argument gets at more than just the peculiar economic phenomenon where some filmmakers are paid for screening their work, others aren’t, and some are charged submission fees and others aren’t — it speaks to the problem of a lack of a cohesive set of rules top decision-makers can refer to.

Hot Docs has taken money from the Israeli consulate but would it take money from the Iranian Consulate? Who decides which support is problematic and which support isn’t?These kinds of decisions shouldn’t be made ad hoc by individuals with their own political bones to pick — the Hot Docs Board of Directors should decide on a standard set of practices and objectives that provide ethical and equitable stewardship and touch on the finances, decision-making, sponsorship, programming, partnerships and other aspects of the festival where things can and have gotten ugly and messy.

Coca-cola was once the Environmental Film Sponsor of Hot Docs. I’d like to think that if the festival had such a set of guiding principles, such an ill-conceived partnership facilitating corporate greenwashing could have been avoided.

ghosts_in_our_machineWhat if Monsanto approached the festival to sponsor films on agriculture and food? Which document does the Board turn to guide them in their decision-making on a potentially ethical quagmire? Which companies can benefit from Hot Docs affiliation and which ones can’t, given each potential sponsor’s records on human rights and the environment? Which groups would the festival work with and which wouldn’t it?

The answers to these questions remain inconclusive, at least until Hot Docs develops a comprehensive set of ethics and best practices guidelines for the institution. Not only would it bring clarity to the task of management and mitigate interpersonal differences, but crucially, it would make the festival more fair, just, equitable and ethically sound. It would also position the festival as a leader among festivals, hopefully influencing other fests to follow suit.

4. Diversity & the board of directors

Speaking of the Board of Directors, there is room for improvement there too. The BOD is made up of mostly stellar, hardworking and well-minded individuals, to be sure, but as a structure, it lacks the kind of representation needed to serve the documentary community.

Back in the early nineties when DOC made Hot Docs an independent charity (in 1997 it became its own entity) for legal reasons it was decided that 49% of the BOD would be made up of DOC members and 51% non-DOC members. A good idea in principle, but what we have now is a group of filmmakers who are trying to sell and disseminate their films on one side, and a knot of industry folks who buy and distribute films on the other side.

Leaving aside this inherent conflict of interest, the BOD is largely bereft of community leaders, intellectuals, academics, civil society activists and social animators. Why does DOC only elect filmmakers to the BOD and why is there so much commercial interest on the other side? In terms of the white male syndrome endemic (but changing) to documentary industry, it’s encouraging to see that recently the number of women on the Board has increased to eight out of 21 members.

The-PiratesStill, the Board (pictured at left…OK I jest – that’s the crew of wild ones from this year’s LAST OF THE BLACK SEA PIRATES) is almost entirely comprised of finance and commercial film industry executives and filmmakers, save for two members who represent public media institutions (the NFB and the CBC).

Documentary is a diverse form representing a diversity of voices, perspectives and cultures. A documentary institution as necessary and influential as Hot Docs should have a Board of Directors that represents that same diversity and plurality. Non-fiction cinema is more than the buying and selling of films, it is also very concerned with and engaged in politics, culture, community, and the structure of society from every perspective. The highest decision-making body of the most important documentary institution in Canada might do well to honour the genre’s diversity with a top decision-making body that is equally diverse.

Again, this is not a personal attack on the individual members of the Board, many of whom I know and think highly of, but an appraisal of the structure that I feel should be improved through proactive policymaking at the festival.

5. Documentary spectatorship & civic engagement

Documentary has a long entangled history with policy, as the genre has been traditionally recognized as an educational tool and public resource. Documentary is and should remain a public art, building off its roots in public education and social animation.

But viewing, especially in today’s multi-platform, toggle-happy media multiverse, isn’t where the public part of the documentary experience should end. There is a post-screening social context to documentary that can either be stifled in enclosure (as championed by the megaplex) or stimulated by a variegated approach to the audience-citizenship juncture (as practiced in grassroots initiatives). Needless to say, it is difficult to animate inspired audiences who are given a narrow window after screenings for discussion and dialogue because a festival must adhere to a packed, tight schedule.

Hot Docs screenings are often charged with audience energy that is met with the novel presence of the filmmaker after the screening. Yet too many times there is only enough time for a few questions or comments from the audience and artist(s), because the room needs to be cleared for the next projection. This relates back to the point about slowing down and not paying so much attention to numbers, and the corollary need for more attention to the quality of experience.

Doc audiences often want to engage with the filmmakers, whether the film is a social justice exposé or an intimate human interest story, the connection between filmmaker, topic or issue, and audience member can be nurtured by giving ample space for such interactions, rather than rushing the process because of back-to-back screenings.

docrally_0This is especially crucial when it is an issue doc that has been screened. Unlike the megaplex, audiences at these screenings often anticipate some way to “plug-in” to the issue because their soul has been stirred or a fire has been lit under the keester. But jumping up from a screening only to find a cursory Q&A, then chop-chop and you’re on your way, does not facilitate deep connective tissue required for engagement, action (like the one above, during Hot Docs 2012), community-building, or even the extended extra-textual development of cinephelia.

Further to this point, when a documentary is screened and it does inspire audiences into “joining the conversation” or “getting involved,” there exists no central connecting mechanism at Hot Docs between the film, the audience and civil society. Hot Docs’s stewards maintain that the festival doesn’t do politics and that that part is up to the films. Agreed, that is not the role of the festival, but, surely the role of any documentary festival could include the stimulation of the mostly organic connections between inspired audiences, civil society action and relevant social and issue docs.

At present, there is little to no presence of community and civil society groups present at the festival, at least in any organized, visible way, and this denies a core aspect of documentary as a social animator. Inviting stakeholder community groups and civil society organizations to participate in the festival in meaningful ways, as part of post-screening discussions, on panels, and present in social spaces with their materials, would make for a more rounded, inclusive, and invigorating festival.

We live in an era of information abundance, so to say that documentaries inform is only a sliver of the equation. We’re up to here with information — drowning in it even.

When I watch a powerful doc on an issue that I care about or have been convinced to care about, I want to find out how to get involved locally if possible, to effect change, and I know others do as well. I want to meet passionate committed people who are on the ground doing the hard work that activists and community organizers do.

Those people should be populating the festival along with filmmakers and other industry folks. And if there isn’t enough room for them, we can always ask some of the growing ranks of sales agents to open up some space.

JaiBhimComrade1To illustrate the point of facilitating civic engagement, the case of a screening at last year’s Hot Docs comes to mind. A community-focused festival would not have brought an internationally respected filmmaker from India, Anand Patwardhan, to Toronto only to effectively wash their hands of him upon arrival.

When Patwardhan’s socio-political film JAI BHIM COMRADE screened in Montreal some months after the 2012 Hot Docs screening, 500 attended. At the screening in Toronto, a city with teeming activist and South Asian communities, there were a few dozen of us in attendance. This is a sadly missed opportunity and emblematic of a festival doing too much with too little focus on connecting audiences to local community and civil society. Patwardhan’s film presented a rare chance for the festival to bring relevance and meaning from a far-removed international issue to local communities.

Radical filmmakers like Patwardhan, who provide complex structural analysis of society and win awards doing so, and whose films have the potential to involve diverse ethnic and activist populations, should be given a platform overspilling with audiences who would undoubtedly be eager to engage.

Twenty years today

So here we are, twenty years later and some things have changed and others stayed the same. Liberal leaders still work the revolving doors of power in the West, Hollywood still dominates the box office, North Korea is making the news again, and documentary is back, after a short stint as a promising backup hitter, to its cold seat on the bench.

With the Canadian public broadcasting system converted into a corporate shill of its former self, indy theatres all but extinct and massive cuts to the arts not healing any time soon, documentary making, disseminating and reception is at an uncertain crossroads with few wildly successful phenomena combining all three aspects to point to.

In that spirit, I’ve offered five suggestions for improving a documentary festival that probably doesn’t think it needs improving (especially with all those impressive numbers pouring in) but a festival that is undeniably intrinsic to a community, culture and industry that may be wounded and limping, but is nonetheless vibrant, diverse, local and global, responsive, and even some of the time activating some serious change here and there.

Documentary needs Hot Docs and the festival needs documentary – but not just the industry and the ticket sales, it needs the community, the local culture, the rich history, and the activists who make up the whole mise en scène. To really invigorate the relationship between all these components, some slowing down, policymaking, diversification, and attention to the local might be in order.

Agree or disagree? Want to discuss this further? Look for me loitering around screenings of the following excellent docs at this year’s inimitable Hot Docs: THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE (Liz Marshall; see the Art Threat review here), THE LAST OF THE BLACK SEA PIRATES (Svetoslav Stoyanov), BLOOD RELATIVE (Nimisha Mukerji), OCCUPY: THE MOVIE (Corey Ogilvie), I WILL BE MURDERED (Justin Webster), all the Les Blank films, CHOIR BOYS (Magnus Isacsson), all the Peter Mettler films, and LET THE FIRE BURN (Jason Osder).

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