Film industry insiders to stage protest at Hot Docs

Filmmakers, festival reps and documentary fans will use the festival as a platform Friday to draw attention to the threats facing the documentary genre.

Industry insiders, weary of government cutbacks to the arts, are planning to use Toronto’s Hot Docs as a platform today (May 4) to draw attention to the threats facing the documentary genre.

“Increasingly, Canadian films are being recognized internationally. We’re seeing increased success and critical acclaim internationally, yet decreased support nationally,” Sarah Spring, founder of Parabola Films and protest organizer, tells Playback Daily.

The so-called “symbolic moratorium,” which is scheduled to begin at the corner of Queen’s Park and Charles St. West 12:30 p.m., is geared at uniting filmmakers, festival representatives, distributors and documentary fans, all of whom are upset at what they perceive as an attack on independent documentaries.

In the interview, Spring didn’t elaborate on exactly what form of protest the moratorium would take.

According to the Documentary Organization of Canada, the industry has seen a 30% decline in indie documentary production since 2008, with CBC and CTV cutting back on factual content.

This has led to the disappearance of at least 1,500 full-time documentary-related jobs over the past two years they claim, which Spring says has a big impact on the Canadian economy.

“There’s a perception that film-making is some sort of luxurious business,” she suggests.

“I’m not sure people outside the documentary community understand what a struggle it is, or how much money we’re putting into the economy. Our films are paying Canadians to do the work,” she adds.

As is well known, the CBC, NFB and Telefilm Canada have all sustained significant cuts in recent weeks. These and other federal cuts to the arts were the last straw for Spring.

“It’s clear that the government isn’t very open to listening to [our] concerns, but it’s important for Canadians to see that,” she says.

“They need to know that there are some serious issues affecting the people who are making these films,” she adds.

Spring says she’s hoping for a turnout of at least 100 people, but that the message of mobilizing Canadians to put pressure on the government to support indie culture is most important.

“It’s important that we realize that it’s not just tightening the belt all around. It’s an attack on independent Canadian voices,” she insists.

Photo: Sveta Suvorina / flickr Creative Commons


This story has been updated, as Playback received inaccurate information in the original press release.

The organizers have provided the following statement: “The original press release incorrectly stated that Global TV has reduced its documentary strands. In 2011, Global announced a new documentary strand, Close Up, and has further supported the documentary community through the Shaw Hot Docs Development and Production Funds as well as the Shaw Hot Docs TDF Best Canadian Pitch award. The organizers regret this error.”