Driving to hike the profile, market networking and distribution of social justice docu features at Cannes, the initiative was first mooted months before Hollywood began worrying about an All White Oscars. That debate, however, will only serve to focus more attention on the groundbreaking Ford Foundation-Cannes new push.
Partnership establishes a large presence at Cannes for the Ford Foundation’s five-year-old JustFilms, a film financing, social awareness and education program that has backed
visual story tellers, new media projects and organizations that work to this end. Multiple doc features it has supported, to give just two instances, include Marc Silver’s “gripping” – per Variety – 2015 Sundance winner “3 ½ Minutes” and the “fascinating”- Variety again – “Best of Enemies,” about the televised clash between conservative hawk William F. Buckley Jr. and liberal Gore Vidal.
In practical terms, and three months out from the festival, the inequality-busting new Cannes Fest alliance works currently cuts several ways.
From the 2016 Cannes Festival, running May 11-22, the Doc Corner will relocate to a far more spacious and exclusive area in the Marina Club, a new space in the Riviera building overlooking Cannes Old Harbor. It will be equipped with its own dedicated screening room reserved for documentary feature films. Sales agents and producers – often smaller companies when it comes to the documentary sector will be able to book tables at the new Doc Corner for the duration of the Marché. The scaled-up Doc Corner will retain its exhibition booths for larger specialists, festivals and orgs, plus its video library, which contained 245 titles in 2015.
Cannes Film Market and Ford Foundation’s JustFilms will work to bring some of the best new, little-known and even-less-supported docu filmmakers from the world’s global south to Cannes and the Doc Corner.
Playing out over the Cannes Marché du Film’s battery of initiatives to fast-connect industry attendees, the new alliance will also drive a series of initiatives at Doc Corner, and the Film Market’s Producers Network, digital film forum NEXT, and Mixers program.
One of the Marché’s 2016 Mixers – themed speed networking events – will focus for the first time on documentary, said Jerome Paillard, Marche du Film exec director. A Producers Network breakfast will be at least part dedicated to the docu feature sector. A NEXT panel will also focus on the sector, Paillard added.
Launched in 2012, focusing on docu features, and designed as a one-stop professional area for non-fiction at Cannes, the Doc Corner features sales agent, fest and docu specialist org exhibition booths, a video library and Doc Talks and Doc Drinks and Experts Consultations.
“Cannes is a global gathering of some of the greatest cinema talent. If you start talking about cinema’s relevance to current daily life, so many of its films are based on these realities,” said Cara Mertes, JustFilms director (pictured at Cannes Doc Talks in 2015).
“As we are thinking about creating a global network of documentary filmmakers, especially from the global south, there is no better place for them to learn about being in these very important settings – major, major festivals.”
“What’s really interesting, and we’ve seen this since launching Doc Corner, is that its attendees can connect to the whole of the global film industry – documentary specialists and non-specialists – promoting global awareness,” Paillard agreed.
Doc Corner already boasts a larger presence of Latin American non-fiction titles – 14% of films listed or at its video library – than movies in general at Cannes at large: 8% of the total.
Said Julie Bergeron, Cannes Film Market head of industry programming: “Ford has created an incredible legacy in tackling social injustice and inequality. Their efforts have lead to revealing insights and sometimes startling exposures from filmmakers around the world.”
Mertes added that new documentary filmmakers and other building the sector from “diverse backgrounds and the global south” will benefit from “new contexts and networks for their work to move forward, whether continuing in production, bringing on new talent, connections with festivals, venues, support systems and funders. That way, stories can be made faster, better and travel.”
As in its bouquet of pix-in-post showcases, launched with BAL Goes To Cannes, the Ford-Marché partnership is a further instance of Cannes diversifying from not only facilitating business infrastructure at its market to creating privileged screening contexts for films. Some may be screened at Cannes as works in progress, Paillard suggested.
Move comes, moreover, Paillard suggested, as the borders between fiction and documentary and even film and non-film are blurring.
Justfilms supported more than 80 documentaries in its first three-years. Cannes Marché du Film also has a partnership with the World Bank’s Connect4Climate.