Hot Docs Forum promises Burmese pop stars and crowd-funded pirates

Hot Docs Forum and market director Elizabeth Radshaw (pictured) spoke with realscreen ahead of next week's pitching forum to discuss the projects she's excited about and how one pitch team was wooed after being found on a crowd-funding site.
April 27, 2011

Hot Docs Forum and market director Elizabeth Radshaw spoke with realscreen ahead of next week’s pitching forum in Toronto to discuss the projects she’s excited about and how one pitch team was wooed after being found on a crowdfunding site.

This year, the pitching forum received just under 200 submissions, which was whittled down to 27 projects, with one slot remaining open for the randomly selected Mountie Pitch. “The cream rises to the top, it always does,” says Radshaw.

Taking place on May 4 and 5, the two-day pitching market will be a place for “outrageously innovative, creatively excellent and incredible documentary storytelling,” she adds.

Almost 200 international broadcasters, foundations and other funders will be present, including new organizations CrowdStarter, which helps doc filmmakers with social media campaign strategies; and Cause & Affect, which creates multi-platform campaigns for social change.  As reported previously, the Forum and festival has also teamed up with crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

“We’re offering something a little bit extra this year,” Radshaw explains. “We’ll have some experts that people can sign up with, as well as interactive folk, distributor folk, sales agents and these other support groups.

“It takes a village to raise a child; it takes a planet to finance a documentary,” she says.¬†“I’m very aware of the role that Hot Docs plays in the international documentary community¬†– we’re part of a greater network and community.”

Radshaw gave her top three picks of the Forum after making it very clear that she loved all 27 projects.

She names TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard as a “fascinating film with an incredible back story about this BitTorrent site.” And having read realscreen‘s Nick Fraser article about his interest in stories about the dark side of the Internet, she adds: “Nick, we’ve got you sorted. It’s worth the trip!”

Radshaw found the Pirate Bay pitch from Swedish prodco Nonami AB while searching crowdfunding sites including IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, and suggested the producers should submit their project to Hot Docs Forum. They did, the selection committee liked the project and it was accepted.

The second pick is an Australian pitch from Iris Pictures, Miss Nikki and the Tiger Girls, which follows the members of an all-girl band in Burma. Radshaw says the women’s story will attract audiences to a Burma documentary that is different from the typically conflict-oriented stories about the region.

“They bring a message in their music about democracy [and] they realize the risk they’re under, but they’re brave gals. Of course there are the dramas that go on within it, so it’s even more enticing than the character study that it is.”

Her third pick is Canadian pitch Within Every Woman, from Golden Nugget Productions. First time feature-length documentary filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung tells the story of former comfort women who survived Japan’s institutionalized system of rape during the Second World War.

Radshaw says: “It’s beautifully shot with a very strong cinematic aesthetic and still has a great online interactive and educational component. It has a personal element to the filmmaker as well.”

This year, the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Pitch Prize is CAD$40,000, for Canadian pitches only. The Forum will also welcome back the return of the Cuban Hat Award, which asks observers to donate money for a cash prize to be given to the best pitch and best decision maker.

The Hot Docs Forum is held at Hart House in Toronto from May 4 to 5. The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival begins April 28 and runs until May 8.

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