Hope you’re enjoying Toronto's Hot Docs right now, the world’s second largest doc film festival. You might also enjoy –or not— the raging discussion about the impending death of the documentary as a genre and a market. From “Funding docs getting tougher, filmmakers say” (CBC) and “Cuts and funding terms put documentary films on hot seat” (Globe & Mail) to “The creeping de-Canadianization of docs“ and “Docs get action, but can they survive?” (both Toronto Star).
Let me pitch in from a European perspective: “The German documentary film has an audience, but no budget” read an article by Cathy de Haan two years ago, lamenting the fate of dedicated documentary filmmakers as TV channels commission less and expect flattened content and quality for it. But hope does lie in international collaborations (certainly evident in Hot Docs' German selection this year) and new channels and innovative formats (see Toronto's Kat Cizek's interactive 360° web documentary Highrise , featuring 49 stories from 13 cities, told in 13 languages),
The Goethe-Institut is doing its part to celebrate, support and promote the format and make sure it is going to be part of our visual, social and political future: For nearly 10 years, we have been awarding the The Goethe-Institut Documentary Film Prize at Dokfest Leipzig. It comes with a €2000 cheque but perhaps more importantly, the Goethe-Institut acquires the rights to the film so that it can be shown at Goethe-Institutes and our film partner institutions around the world, from Novosibirsk to Havana. To make each film accessible to a worldwide audience, the Goethe-Institut also arranges subtitling in up to ten languages.
Let’s assume for the time being that reports of the documentary’s impending death are greatly exaggerated. The success of our special screening of the ambitious innovative format “24 Hours Berlin” by Volker Heise and Thomas Kufus this March seems to give reason for optimism. And then there's AG Dok, Germany's feisty professional association and vocal lobby group.
See you in the cinema! ...and don’t miss Benjamin Kahlmeyer’s Meanwhile in Mamelodi (see photo above) + another dozen worthwhile and engaging German docs at Hot Docs 2012.
P.S. A few days later Nisha Pahuja's "The World Before Her" won "Best Canadian Feature" at Hot Docs. At the premiere, the first thing the producer mentioned was that "the first ones in" to commission the Canadian film was German TV ZDF/ARTE.
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You will hear from us from around the world of film. Our blogger Jutta Brendemühl is the Goethe-Institut Toronto's Program Curator and happy to hear from you.
Jutta is lucky to love what she does: arts & cultural programming across the genres & through a global lens. Over the past 15 years, she has worked with Bernardo Bertolucci, Robert Rauschenberg, Wim Wenders, Pina Bausch, and other luminaries. She has an M.A. in English Literature.