The Canadian federal government made a series of cuts last week to arts and culture, and the Toronto Documentary Forum and Hot Docs festival are feeling the crunch.
Hot Docs and TDF used both PromArt’s $4.7 million fund that supported artists touring abroad, and the $9 million Trade Routes program that exported artists and culture abroad. Executive director Chris McDonald (pictured) says that Hot Docs used PromArt to support the Toronto Documentary Forum as an event and the second fund went to bringing in foreign buyers to both the festival and the forum.
The ending of those funds will mean that McDonald and the festival will be forced to look elsewhere for the combined $70,000 that the two grants contributed. ‘We’ll do everything we can to maintain the status quo, if not make the event better and stronger,’ he says. ‘We’ll cut where we have to, we’ll be as creative as we can and we’ll fight to get those funds replaced through new programs that the federal government might introduce, although there’s been no details coming, or find new sources of revenue.’
The funding ends March 31, 2009 but because Hot Docs and TDF take place in April, the first month of the government’s fiscal year, the funding is effectively over for them.
Ann Howland, director of communications for Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson, had suggested that the decision to cut came from the fact that some of PromArt’s recipients weren’t considered the best representation of Canada internationally. Besides calling that a weak excuse, McDonald also says, ‘It seems dangerous when a government starts to determine who or what is representative of Canada, a democracy.’
He furthers, ‘I think some of the rationale is a bit dubious and even if they didn’t like some of the people who are getting some of the travel support, to cancel an entire program is silly.’
While the organizers of Toronto’s doc festival are forced to scramble around for funding, McDonald has a message for all those involved in the Canadian arts. He says, ‘It behooves all of us in the community and organizers of the events and producers to make as much noise as possible and perhaps we have to do a better job of convincing the government these programs are for a vital industry.’