CPH:DOX was a success from day one. Not their words, but Tine Fischer and Tine Mosegaard are bursting with the combination of expectation, enthusiasm, energy and professional skills it takes to make this year's CPH:DOX documentary film festival another successful one.
"We reach a point where the festival had the surplus to evolve naturally in an industry direction. We consulted our own advisory board and talked with the industry, and their response was clear: there are plenty of opportunities for pitching documentary projects but for too little focus on distribution."
What's the biggest change from 2006 to 2007? What's new?
Tine Mosegaard (TM): "We are formalising a platform for the industry, gathering all our offerings for professionals under the banner of the Industry Platform. Since the first festival, we have had a large seminar program and last year we introduced a marketplace. Both are continuing this year – and both are evolving. Our market is digital now and we are creating it in collaboration with a line of international partners. Plus, we're introducing a brand new initiative, Distribution Forum."
INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION POTENTIAL
Tine Fischer (TF): "We have reached a point where the festival has the surplus to evolve naturally in an industry direction. We have consulted our own advisory board and talked with the industry, and their response is clear: There are plenty of opportunities for pitching documentary projects but far too little focus on distribution. We want to do something about that. Because there is a need for it, but also because we fundamentally believe documentary film is alive in ways easily comparable to good art cinema."
TM: "Following an extended selection process, we are inviting 12 projects with international distribution potential to come to Copenhagen and be introduced to a string of key players in the international market. Each of these projects will be ready for market during 2008, so our Distribution Forum is a sneak preview at what's coming up.
As we are mainly sponsored by Nordic funds – from the DFI, Nordisk Film & TV Fond and the Nordic Culture Fund – our ambition this year is creating a Distribution Forum on Nordic soil, extending what Filmkontakt Nord is doing with its financing forum (Nordisk Forum, ed.) That's why 11 of the 12 selected projects are Nordic. Down the road, we would like to present other European, North and South American and Asian projects, as well."
Who will the projects be presented to?
TM: "We have invited a throng of distributors, sales agents and representatives of alternative distribution platforms, including NomadsLand, an American online network, and Submarine, a Dutch production company successfully dealing in socalled MiniMovies for financing online, along with alternative distribution and new works, on their online channel www.submarinechannel.com.
Moreover, from Eastern Europe we have Doc-Air, which is affiliated with the festival in Jihlava, Czech Republic, alongside more established distributors, such as Magnolia Pictures of the US. Magnolia does a lot of work in multi-platforms and simultaneous release – theatrically, online, on DVD and TV. Also from the US, we have THINKFilm and Picturehouse, a new, exciting distributor emerging out of a partnership between HBO and New Line Cinema. In addition, there is Against Gravity of Poland, which bought films from us last year; Salzgeber of Berlin, which comes with experience from the digital Docuzone project; and Wide Management, a French company with a catalogue focused on art cinema, both fictional and documentary. Most of these companies are relatively unknown to Danish and Nordic producers, and we are looking forward to bringing everyone together.
We also invited the major festivals that are an important early step in films making their way to the international market. Moreover, we will be visited by the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs, likewise of Toronto, Tribeca of New York, Docpoint of Finland, Yamagata of Japan, the Berlin Film Festival and several others.
Distribution Forum runs over three days, with one day set aside for presenting projects, one for introducing distributors and festivals, and one for one-on-one meetings between participants. As organisers, we aim to create a space for creative dialogue and artistic discussion, and we firmly believe that distributors, too, are content oriented and interested in cinema and art. Accordingly, we deliberately chose to avoid the proverbial, public pitching form in favour of arranging a series of talks, introducing the selected projects, while centring on thematic discussions about distribution."
DOCUMENTARY FILM AS ART CINEMA
Immediately prior to CPH:DOX, festivals are held in Jihlava, Lisbon and Leipzig. While your festival is running, Sheffield holds screenings. And right afterward, there is the ‘world cup,' IDFA in Amsterdam. What do you want to do that the others can't? Are there enough good documentaries to go around?
TF: "We have good relations with the other festivals. A few titles we can't get because IDFA is sitting on them, but I think we have a pretty unique profile. We approach documentary film as art cinema."
And the others don't?
TF: "Sure they do. But we have New Vision, for instance, a separate international competition for what, for lack of better, could be called art documentaries, where 80% of the films come from another world than traditional documentaries, for instance, from the art world.
At CPH:DOX, we always considered it essential not to regard documentary film as an isolated genre. We want to bring documentaries into the same space as fiction films and other artistic platforms. We have a visual art platform, a music platform (specifically music meeting visuals), and this year we are organising a exhibition and seminar in partnership with a major Danish contemporary art institution: Overgaden, Institute for Contemporary Art. Exclusively showing documentary works, the exhibition is a brilliant example that the genre's evolution, both today and historically, to a great extent is found outside the documentary mainstream."
Even so, you also have the Amnesty sidebar, where the films' subjects would seem to be what matters?
TF: "We have always tried to stay away from films of the 'people-in-the-Third-World-sure-have-it-bad'- genre. We wager on works that have a cinematic project. It's very rare to see films of the classic TV-reporting variety in this sidebar. Basically, the films should be carried by some form of cinematic interpretation. This year, we are introducing a new series that we would like to develop in coming years, FICTIONONFICTION, exploring the borderland between fiction and documentary – an area we will continue to deal with in our Industry Platform and in honing the festival's profile. We established this sidebar, basically, because we see major documentaries coming out of this more open, undefined field."
Tell me about your Danish distribution initiatives.
TF: "Psychologically, it doesn't feel ambitious enough to work for a whole year and then run a festival in 10 days! There should be more to it. So we were glad when the Danish Producers Association contacted us and asked if we wanted to come up with a proposal for an alternative form of documentary film distribution. The outcome was DOX-ONWHEELS, a nation-wide documentary film distribution project that runs year round. To date, we have distributed 12 films, Danish as well as international. We have also launched UNG:DOX (YOUNG:DOX), an effort to reach eight- and ninth-grade students and high schoolers. Filmmakers are invited to high schools to speak, and we show the films followed by a discussion. Plus, we tell them about CPH:DOX. This year, we invited high-school classes from all over the country to Copenhagen for an all-day event with Danish and international guests. UNG:DOX is an ideological project to prep a generation on documentary film."
How many people do you reach with DOX-ONWHEELS and what is your biggest hit to date?
TM: "The Monastery" made the Top 20 after it opened, and it's out in just two prints. To date, around 3000 people have seen the film in Danish cinemas."
TF: "To begin with, it was hard to get provincial cinemas to become interested in the programme. Now there is a whole network of cinemas that are all crazy about it. Perhaps they have had a successful event and now they are looking to repeat it. Local cinemas are starting to realise that they have to function as ‘houses of culture' or they won't survive."
You talk about yourselves as curators more than selectors?
TF & TM: "Not that we think documentaries shouldn't be shown in cinemas, but showing films in museums, say, or a music venue, like Vega in Copenhagen, or other alternative contexts, challenges filmmakers and their works. We believe the screening context will also have an effect on the kind of works that are produced in the long term. Clearly, in an art institution, there is far greater tolerance for slowness than in the commercial cinema market. Drawing in these new screening options, we believe, will create opportunities for slow art to grow in the long term at the expense of the fast and super narrative."