What was the motivation behind selecting India as the focus country this year?
Every year at the end of our festival we essentially begin prepping for the next one. Over our travels we have a chance to learn about projects in development that might be interesting. ‘Made In’ is a section that explores the documentary work that stems from a rich filmmaking culture. We have in the past featured national and regional films from places like Denmark, Poland, Southeastern Europe, Italy, South America, South Korea, Mexico, Brazil and Japan. This is a section that offers the viewers at HotDocs a glimpse into the social, political, economic and cultural issues facing these societies. Last year we found that there was/is a lot of creative work coming out of India right now. It is also a country with a long legacy in filmmaking and documentaries. So we narrowed down our focus to India for this year’s ‘Made In’ section.
What were the preparations or research undertaken before programming this particular section?
We worked with a number of people and institutions here in Canada. This included producers whose work we thought was interesting, the Indian documentary foundation. In India, we had the support of the Films Division. We also went to the Film Bazaar at IFFI last year and conducted many meetings there. We tried to be as exhaustive in our research as possible.
Could you explain the programming process?
The programming at HotDocs is always a mix of films that are selected and submitted. We make sure that all our submissions are seen by at least two people in the selection committee. Other than that, for the films that were curated, as explained above, we did a lot of research and worked with as many institutions and filmmakers as we could. The idea was to show everything that Indian documentary is doing these days. It wasn’t to restrict to any one type of documentary. We never tried to stay away from anything. Similar to the rest of the programme at HotDocs, we are always looking for creative work, unique voices.
Distribution is a major problem for documentaries in India as they battle big budget mainstream films here. What do you think is the solution to ease out distribution of documentaries?
I feel there has never been a better time for filmmakers to connect directly with audiences who want to see their work. The internet is the biggest leveler of our times. Online opportunities for funding and exhibition is obviously a great way to democratize the entire process.