Hot Docs, Blue Ice, NYT Op-Docs team on doc shorts fund

The Canadian festival and financier Blue Ice Group have partnered with The New York Times' Op-Docs to commission a series of doc shorts from African filmmakers that will be showcased on the Emmy-awarded digital forum. (Pictured: Hot Docs' Elizabeth Radshaw)
May 2, 2016

Canadian festival Hot Docs and financier Blue Ice Group have partnered with The New York Times‘ ‘Op-Docs’ to commission a series of documentary shorts from African filmmakers to be showcased on the newspaper’s Emmy-awarded digital forum.

The organizations will select five to eight projects over the next year from the films already submitted to the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund and Fund Alumni, as well as from those received in the 2017 round of disbursements.

“Even though we’re announcing our collaboration today, we’ve already started talking about different potential projects that would come through it so it’s something we’d be rolling out within the several months to come,” Hot Docs industry programs director Elizabeth Radshaw (pictured) told realscreen.

Selected filmmakers will be commissioned to develop new documentary shorts inspired by the themes of their feature film, which will then be posted via the ‘Op-Docs’ website.

“[The partnership] addresses two really critical points: form and audience. We’re really celebrating the short form and helping to facilitate funding for short films and distribution in different ways,” said Radshaw. “The New York Times’ ‘Op-Docs’ works within the short form, but it also addresses audience. It’s incomparable to look at any other platform that is featuring shorts to the size of an audience that The New York Times has.

“For these voices and filmmakers and stories that are supported by the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Fund, distribution and dissemination are critical issues and seeking audience within the continent and also outside is very important, so we really feel that it’s a great partnership,” she continued.

Launched in 2011, The New York Times’ ‘Op-Docs’ division is the news organization’s forum for original short documentaries produced “with wide creative latitude and a range of artistic styles” broaching the current affairs, contemporary life and historical spaces.

The $1 million Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund, which recently received an additional $1.25 million from the Blue Ice Group, was founded in 2011. It looks to provide backing to Africa-based filmmakers by sharing their stories and contributing to the professional development of the next generation of African documentarians.

To date, the fund has presented grants to 40 projects from 15 African countries amounting to CAD$626,000 (US$499,600). In January, the trust granted a total of $125,000 to eight winning projects selected from a pool of 94 submissions from across 25 African nations.

Grant recipients also receive support to attend the Hot Docs Festival where they will participate in a creative filmmakers’ lab, attend screenings, conference sessions, the Hot Docs Forum and various networking events, as well as a year-round, peer-to-peer mentorship program.

Past recipients have included Riaan HendricksThe Devil’s Lair, a 2013 official selection at Hot Docs and IDFA; Nadine Salib’s IDFA-awarded Mother of the Unborn; Jihan El-Tahri’s TIFF-selected Nasser; Ryley Grunenwald‘s Hot Docs-selected The Shore Break; and Rama Thiaw’s Berlinale-selected The Revolution Won’t Be Televised; and Whose Country? (pictured), which enjoys its world premiere at Hot Docs 2016.

“One of the goals of [The New York Times' Op-Docs] is to spark conversations, and one of the most important ways we can do that is by bringing in a global, diverse group of filmmakers to contribute to ‘Op-Docs,’” said Kathleen Lingo, commissioning editor for opinion video at The New York Times. “The Hot Docs-Blue Ice Documentary Fund is an important collaborator and it really feels like a necessary partnership so we can increase our pool of talented filmmakers we can work with.

“Nothing is more crucial to our series than to include voices from around the globe.”

Elsewhere, the Toronto-based documentary festival has collaborated with the Panicaro Foundation to launch a new strand within its CrossCurrents Doc Fund.

The new CrossCurrents Doc Fund theatrical strand will look to provide financial support to one or multiple feature-length documentaries annually with grants of up to $30,000 per project up for grabs. The strand will also look to provide professional development opportunities for selected recipients.

While the theatrical strand is broad in scope, it will also seek to prioritize filmmakers aged 35 and younger within underrepresented and marginalized communities. Additionally, the fund will support filmmakers whose access to resources has limitations and whose films seek to make a disruptive impact.

“We want to support documentary films in all of their forms and expressions, and adding on a theatrical stream addressed filmmakers who had a desire to create in the theatrical form,” Radshaw explained. “We don’t think that that’s dead just because we’re supporting lots of shorts as well – the more funding that we can bring to different forms of documentary filmmaking, that’s our mission.”

The recipients will be chosen by a selection committee made up of representatives from the Panicaro Foundation, Hot Docs and the documentary production community the fund aims to serve.

Grantees will receive similar support as that seen by Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Documentary Fund recipients. However, CrossCurrents Doc Fund theatrical grantees will not receive access to the Hot Docs-Blue Ice Group Filmmakers Lab, the Durban International Film Festival or the Durban FilmMart.

Applications will open in June 2016.

The original CrossCurrents Doc Fund, which was founded by R&M Lang Foundation in 2013, aims to foster short- and mid-length documentary filmmaking by emerging directors from within such communities, and encourage understanding of unheard voices among broad audiences. It has awarded $10,000 to one successful global applicant per year.

(Photo by Christian Peña, courtesy of Hot Docs)

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.