FIPADOC, in many ways the first gathering of the international documentary community of the year, has kicked off its fifth edition in Biarritz, France. Taking place over an extended two-weekend presentation, the 2023 FIPADOC brings members of the public and professionals together for screenings of a selection of outstanding documentary films. Hosting meet-and-greets and premiering new projects, FIPADOC is committed to promoting impact, innovation, image appreciation, and new talent.
This year, FIPADOC puts a focus on the Baltic countries, as well as inviting Ukraine as its 2023 guest of honour. But aside from the diverse film presentations, both in competition and out, FIPADOC also gathers filmmakers and industry for four days of inspiring meetings, pitches, and more. Here, we spoke with the FIPADOC’s Industry Days Head of Coproduction Forum Ove Rishøj Jensen on the specifics of this year’s edition, its role as the first festival of the year, and more.
FIPADOC is the first gathering of the year for the international documentary community. Does this play into your festival mission at all?
Being the first gathering of the international documentary community of the year does indeed influence our mission. We really think of FIPADOC as a place where the industry can meet and kick-start its year. Coming to Biarritz is a good way for international documentary networking to get going again after a break over the holidays and the new year.
Do you feel a responsibility to set trends for the year?
FIPADOC is an occasion for key stakeholders to present the strategy for the year ahead and let the industry know about new priorities and concrete initiatives. This year, the French cultural minister will launch the initiative of 2023, «The Year of Documentary», and a couple of key broadcasters will introduce their 2023 programming strategy.
Continuing off the previous question, what would you describe as FIPADOC’s «place» within the wider continental documentary industry? What separates it from other festivals?
Besides being a festival and market kicking off the new year, FIPADOC stands out as a key event for the international and French documentary industry to meet. For the international documentary makers, it is a great opportunity to explore the vast funding and creative collaboration opportunities France offers. They are many. For the French industry, it is indeed an opportunity to be inspired to make international collaborations and form partnerships with the many international funders, distributors, curators and makers coming to Biarritz. And talking about Biarritz – this is, of course, also one of the very nice assets with FIPADOC. Starting the year in an inspiring location by the sea is the perfect setting for launching new ideas and making new connections.
As the head of the festival’s coproduction forum, what would you say are your primary responsibilities?
As head of the FIPADOC International Pitches, my main responsibility is to make sure that all our participants have a productive and fruitful market. Both for the direct outcome in terms of agreements made on concrete projects but also with the longer perspective in mind. Match-making people with both short-term and long-term effects are at the heart of what I do and what we want to achieve with our initiatives.
Match-making people with both short-term and long-term effects are at the heart of what I do and what we want to achieve with our initiatives.
How do you look at your role as a whole?
For the individual documentary professional, it can be difficult to keep up with the changes in the documentary industry and make sure you meet the right people. I see my role very much as a facilitator of this. Therefore, an important part of my role is the scouting process. I spend a lot of time in contact with directors and producers to know what they are working on. This also goes for decision makers, so I know about new initiatives from their side. Connecting people and making sure that collaborations are started is hopefully the fruitful outcome.
And from year to year?
This year is a very important year for FIPADOC, as we are shaking off the @COVID-19 ghosts still haunting us and bringing people physically together in Biarritz. In many ways, 2023 is a comeback year for FIPADOC and our industry activities.
Connecting people and making sure that collaborations are started is hopefully the fruitful outcome.
Are there any changes in the process and cooperation of coproduction this year and moving on in the future?
This year at FIPADOC, we will have one session in collaboration with the EBU Documentary Group. It will focus on the transitions that public service TV stations are going through, from being broadcasters to increasingly being online publishers. For me, the interesting questions here are not only about the changes in how we distribute documentaries but also about how we will make them and format them. How do we shape our stories when they are intended for an online audience with an extremely short attention span? Can we liberate documentaries from the traditional 1-hour TV format? Should we increasingly tell our documentaries in story universes that can reach several screens and platforms so our audiences have many entry points to our story? I am curious about what our decision-makers from public broadcasters have to say about this during our session at FIPADOC.
Finally, what seminal films, filmmakers, or filmographies kick-started your interest in documentary as a genre?
The works of Jørgen Leth and Jon Bang Carlsen have very inspired me. Two Danish documentary makers with each their signature ways of making films. If I should mention one film from them, it is The Perfect Human by Jørgen Leth.