Cara Mertes, director of the JustFilms initiative at the Ford Foundation, will receive this year’s Doc Mogul Award during the 2018 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival.
The honor celebrates individuals who have “made an essential contribution to the creative vitality of the documentary industry, both at home and abroad.”
“Cara’s dedication to building a global non-fiction community and accelerating progressive change through filmic storytelling has been unparalleled,” said Ryan Harrington, acting director of industry programs for Hot Docs, in a statement. “Her leadership and vision has led her to build new networks, champion hundreds of filmmakers and empower and build thought-leading organizations around the world. Her contribution to the documentary film community has been invaluable, and we’re delighted to recognize her work with this award.”
As the director of JustFilms since 2013, Mertes has been responsible for fulfilling the Ford Foundation’s commitment to film as a critical social justice strategy and has expanded JustFilms from a documentary fund to a field-funding initiative that supports indie film and emerging media worldwide. She has also spearheaded the Ford Foundation’s funding for 250-plus projects for stories that underscore human dignity and justice, including Laura Poitras‘ Academy Award-winning film Citizenfour.
Through JustFilms, Mertes has supported fellowships for industry leaders, created opportunities for filmmakers to work with journalists, and expanded the emerging media landscape with the recent Making A New Reality report and a set of VR labs for makers of color.
Prior to this, Mertes served as director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund over an eight-year period, where she developed year-round labs and fellows programs, and incubated initiatives focused on deeper understandings social change, including the Good Pitch models created by DocSociety.
Previously, she worked at PBS’s documentary strand ‘POV’, where she executive produced such Oscar-nominated films as Street Fight, Nerakkoon: Betrayal and My Country, My Country.
“None of this has happened alone. I have been very fortunate to have been mentored and supported by extraordinary cultural and media leaders,” added Mertes. “Women in particular have been important role models. In turn, over my career as an independent media maker, in public media, in the non-profit world and now in philanthropy, I have tried to foster new opportunities and resources for underrepresented and transformative moving image makers and support visionary, inclusive leadership for the future of this work. I believe these are the stories and the leaders who are the key to creating a path through the current challenges the world faces.”
Hot Docs, which celebrates its 25th festival anniversary this spring, will present Mertes with the honor at a luncheon on April 30.
Past recipients include SODEC’s Monique Simard (2017), Iikka Vehkalahti, formerly of YLE (2016), NHK’S Takahiro Hamano (2015), DR TV’s Mette Hoffmann Meyer (2014), Women Make Movies’ Debra Zimmerman (2013), Participant Media’s Diane Weyermann (2012) and IDFA’s Ally Derks (2011).
The 2018 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival takes place from April 26 to May 6 in Toronto.