The 20th edition of CPH:DOX has kicked off, and on 20 March its financing and co-production event CPH:FORUM kicks off through 23 March. At CPH:FORUM, top producers and highly acknowledged directors from all over the world pitch 30 carefully selected projects of documentary features and series in the intersection of non-fiction, fiction, visual art, journalism and science. Besides project presentations, CPH:FORUM offers pitch preparation and highly tailored one-to-one meetings between the presenting teams, potential co-production partners and interested financiers and distributors.
A consistently core aspect of the CPH:DOX experience is its CPH:FORUM – a long-standing financing and co-production event dedicated to visually strong creative documentary projects with international potential. This year’s CPH:FORUM follows the overall festival theme of «Predicting the Past, Rewriting the Future». For more on the CPH:FORUM, we spoke with its Head of Industry & Training, Tereza Simikova.
As the Head of Industry & Training, what are your primary responsibilities? How do you look at your role as a whole? And from year to year?
My responsibility at the festival is to curate and oversee our industry activities, meaning primarily international financing and co-production platform CPH:FORUM, a 5-days intensive program of CPH:CONFERENCE, presented in partnership with Documentary Campus, one-day INTER:ACTIVE SYMPOSIUM, our CPH:MARKET, a curated market of 150+ documentary films of the official CPH:DOX selection, as well as our brand-new initiative INTRO:DOX for emerging filmmakers and the annual training programme CPH:LAB.
The industry faces a new, post-pandemic landscape and needs to restructure its business models again. It is the job of film markets like ours to be up to speed and able to invite the right people to open new opportunities for author-driven creative documentaries. And market platforms of the size and prominence of CPH:INDUSTRY are here to use their power not only to follow the market developments, but to shape the market, opening it up towards newcomers and daring projects, to create space and real opportunities for more diverse, rich, and varied documentary cinematography.
What would you say is key to a well-balanced selection of projects?
CPH:INDUSTRY is conceived as an international platform with a strong focus on Europe while being open to the world, reflected in the geographical spread of the participants and projects. We aim to present a mix of established and high-profile filmmakers and fresh talents, stressing gender parity and diversity and presenting a wide variety of genres.
Among a great number of outstanding projects submitted every year, we select a wide variety of European and international stories told in a million different ways that have thought in common to be outward-looking, engaging with the state of the world and commenting on the documentary genre itself. We see it as our mission to bring people together and create a conversation and momentum around these films and the larger matters they represent and revolve around – across all our events.
The projects line-up as well as the curatorial line of the CPH:CONFERENCE, the INTER:ACTIVE SYMPOSIUM and INTRO:DOX is built upon the idea of us all – as storytellers, citizens and humans, assuming the responsibility to ask deep questions, to point out injustices, to shift undiscussed paradigms and to bring beauty in people’s lives.
We aim to present a mix of established and high-profile filmmakers and fresh talents, stressing gender parity and diversity and presenting a wide variety of genres.
Explain the CHANGE projects from the European Eastern partnership countries. Aside from the obvious issue of the war in the region, why is it important to draw specific attention to these projects and this region?
The partnership behind CHANGE was actually born a year before the big invasion in Ukraine in March 2022. We’d long wanted to support projects from the region between Russia and Europe, not least because the war that broke out last March was new to us – but not to them. Georgia was experiencing a similar scenario before Ukraine became the target in 2014. Likewise, the never concluded war in Nagorno-Karabakh has been a reminder of unsettled geopolitical ambitions long before 2022.
As Europeans, we need to understand what seems to be the most dangerous cultural and geopolitical tectonic divide in Europe – and to do so, we need to hear first-hand testimonies. Unfortunately, there is not enough support, nationally and internationally, for independent, critical non-fiction coming from the EU’s Eastern Partnership countries. Together with our partners, the eave and the IMS, we decided in 2021 to launch a training and networking initiative for producers in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, so they meet more international partners and broadcasters, distributors, and streamers get a chance of bringing stories from this key region to their audiences.
As Europeans, we need to understand what seems to be the most dangerous cultural and geopolitical tectonic divide in Europe
INTRO:DOX will be another aspect of CPH:FORUM, and its first iteration in 2023. Though highlighting early-career filmmakers, but also seeks industry reform. What sort of reform does the programme seek, and how are early-career filmmakers poised to do so?
CPH:DOX audiences are traditionally young. Our surveys show more than 69% of our audiences are between 18 and 33 years old. But when we look through the projects submissions for CPH:FORUM, for example, a vast majority of projects are carried out by experienced teams of well-established professionals. Post-covid, this is not very surprising. The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on newcomers to the industry. While it was relatively easy to follow up on established business relationships, the emerging generation of filmmakers and producers had little to no chance of opening new doors, meeting potential partners for their projects and establishing a long-term network for their future careers. But we all need innovation!
Media horizons of the new, digitally native generation reach far beyond those who grew up without the internet, which can be essential in order to reach the legendary Holy Grail of young audiences’ attention. Young people have a great appetite for watching more films. That is the unanimous outcome of the European Film Academy Young Audience Summit. But to bring creative documentaries closer to young audiences, the films need to «speak their language».
In the year CPH:DOX is turning 20 years old ourselves, CPH:DOX 2023 celebrates the ideas, creativity, and energy of being young. At a time when traditional cinema is finding it hard to compete with newer media – and the formats it is watched on – the industry should be doing all it can to include young people in the process.
CPH:DOX 2023 celebrates the ideas, creativity, and energy of being young.
Finally, what seminal films, filmmakers, or filmographies kick-started your interest in documentary as a genre?
I personally wasn’t a cinephile at first, but I went to a film school to study documentary at the age of 18 when I barely knew what non-fiction cinema was. I was impressed a posteriori, but how many different things film can be and fell in love with Chris Marker’s films, Ingmar Bergman, Maya Deren, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Agnès Varda, Robert Bresson, and of course Vera Chytilova who taught me at FAMU. I personally love politically engaged, artistic non-fiction every year, and I am impressed every year by the inventiveness and ambition of filmmakers who entrust their projects and films to us at CPH:DOX. This year, I can’t wait to see The Other Profile (Armel Hostiou), The Hostage Takers (P. Damsgaard and S. Klovborg) or Smoke Sauna Sisterhood (A. Hintz) on a big screen.