Are the custodians of the international feature film industry courageous and inclusive enough? | Characteristics


The international documentary industry is increasingly calling on the custodians, curators and funders of non-fiction to broaden their horizons and provide proactive support to traditionally excluded filmmakers. It is not only about women and people of color, but also people with disabilities and those who cannot enter industry by standard means.

“Recognizing and breaking down the barriers that prevent all voices from contributing to the documentary is a complex thing,” notes Shanida Scotland, director of film at the UK’s Doc Society, which supports filmmakers, including those who are involved. perhaps already felt disenfranchised, are building sustainable careers in the sector.


“It requires more than shortlisting more diverse directors. It requires diversifying decision-makers and tackling the compensation structures that make this work a middle-class and neurotypical reserve, supporting the voices and authorship of independent filmmakers, and reinventing funding models.

And that, says Briton Elhum Shakerifar, who has produced films including A Syrian love story, means to move from discourse to definitive action. “The ‘space creation’ phase of the diversity rhetoric has allowed for good work, lots of quick fixes, too much training in unconscious biases and quite a lot of complacency,” she notes.

“We are ready for the phase of abandoning space,” she continues. “Documentary commissioners and custodians need to look at themselves and their work, and ask themselves if they’ve made enough new buzzwords outside of this moment to engage with this – and if not, s ‘It’s time to make room for others who move with inclusion at the heart of their understanding of the world.

Even in a country like South Africa, where the majority of filmmakers are not white, there are barriers to the diversity of authors. Nominated Sundance Producer Toni Kamau, Kenya Soft and I am Samuel, believes there is still a misconception about what African stories should look like and that films that don’t easily fit into that box are less likely to receive support.

“I love making social justice documentaries, but I think there needs to be more space for more artistic and experimental works,” she notes, pointing to a hybrid documentary satire series that she is developing. “A comment I got from someone was, ‘Oh, that’s interesting, it could have been anywhere in the world.’ And I was like, ‘What are you saying? ‘he doesn’t feel African because it’s satirical? “

But, she says, there are positive developments. “The development of the series was funded by the Kenya Film Commission; they take risks with more creative stories and approaches. And organizations like Sundance and Hot Docs are open to funding different types of documentaries.

Practical support

Kamau believes this funding issue is at the heart of the lack of opportunity. “One of the biggest obstacles for independent producers is access to finance,” she said, noting that in South Africa there are no development funds available for producers to expand their lists. , nor scholarships available to enable them to go to international festivals. and events.

“If you’re not in LA, New York or London, it’s hard to build relationships. There isn’t much you can do online. Travel funds for producers so that we can develop our relationships and our network are absolutely crucial. “

Shakerifar agrees that true equality of opportunity can only come from documentary keepers putting their money where they say it is. “I need resources. I need free cash when I need to use it. I need enough respect in the wider UK landscape that I don’t feel like the poor cousin of the fictional movie, trying to map these ill-suited models to my needs.

“Documentary is an incredible, powerful and dynamic form and yet there is so little room for it to develop – there are desperately limited sources of funding for documentaries in the UK. It’s a problem for every documentary producer, so imagine the mountain to climb if you’re seen as different for some reason, and that difference – a difference attributed to you by others – puts you at risk. “

For Doc Society’s Scotland, the idea of ​​risk taking is at the very heart of the documentary, and it should therefore lead the charge on diversity and inclusion. “Making independent documentary films can – and should be – an act of rebellion, committed to voice, curiosity and articulating the world, its joys and blind spots. Of all parts of the film and television industry, the independent documentary should first rise to the challenge of fairness and chart a course. “

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