Doc Society underlines commitment to BLM, lays out "concrete steps" for change

Doc Society underlines commitment to BLM, lays out "concrete steps" for change

“Black people have spoken, and now it’s time for allies at places like Doc Society to respond with actions,” says the NY/London non-profit organisation, as it announces five key measures, including the creation of two new senior roles.


In a statement released June 30 2020, the directors of Doc Society announced a series of “principles” for change that they are applying in response to the Black Lives Matter movement’s “call for a reckoning on race and inequality.” 


These are the creation of two new senior posts (or “making space at senior level inside Doc Society”), and then commitments to “greater transparency and accountability”, to “joining (and, if asked, leading) sector wide solutions” and to “sharing power and giving up ground.” The Doc Society has also added an “overt” anti-racism commitment within its mission statement. (See details of these below)


The statement points out how “at Doc Society we turned to review the anti-racism work that we have contributed to over our 15 years. We found that, even though we are deeply proud to have played a part in the many outstanding racial and social justice projects, we still need to go much further, deeper and faster.”


The statement continues: “Black people have spoken, and now it’s time for allies at places like Doc Society to respond with actions.”


The new role of Co-Executive Director of Doc Society will lead the organisation’s work in the US with Maxyne Franklin, the founding Executive Director, and with the board, led by Anurima Bhargava.


The new Head of Film, part of the Doc Society Foundation team based in the UK, will work across all of the organisation’s international film slates and programmes with directors Jess Search, Sandra Whipham, Beadie Finzi and Oliver Rivers.


Both roles require “candidates with a demonstrable commitment to advancing racial justice and promoting greater equity in the cultural sector,” the statement says.

The rest of the statement expands on the four other “principles for [change]”, and reads as follows (in full):


“We are still a predominantly white-led organisation. In fact, our core executive team is the same group who founded it over 15 years ago. Our organisation will now be restructured to make space at the top so that we can better support filmmakers and their visions from diverse communities across the world. We are starting with these two posts. And then together, as a team, we will be looking at how we can better serve Black, Indigenous and filmmakers of colour, starting by …



“We have supported and funded extraordinary racial justice films. Many of those films were directed and produced by Black filmmakers but as many were by white directors and, however great those projects are, the pattern needs addressing. We also know that we haven’t found and supported nearly enough artistic, personal or lyrical projects by Black directors.


“We will be digging into our own statistics, and offering them up to researchers, to better understand what is happening in our programmes. To date they are not sufficiently detailed and mostly used to report to funders. We will make them publicly available, consult to make changes to application processes and to create new, more ambitious goals which we will encourage the filmmaking community to hold us accountable for.


“And while we are in this process, we will be mindful of other communities also under-represented in both mainstream and independent documentary, including filmmakers with disabilities, trans, indigenous and filmmakers from working class backgrounds and the intersections of these communities.


“Why? Tracking results is fundamental to designing solutions, but we had too easily bundled our statistics together as POC or BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic in the British vernacular) which had obscured the inconvenient truth that Black creatives are not getting the support that is their due from Doc Society and beyond. Emboldened with a grasp of what’s happening we will be….



“Doc Society commits to make time and focus for finding and implementing the sector wide solutions that are necessary. Black creatives have called time on schemes and initiatives. No more tinkering around the edges. Structural change is needed and structural change needs considerable time set aside for consultation, analysis, debate, strategy, delivery and monitoring of change.


“We will make that time.

“Why? We can now see that we put too much focus on developing individual projects and insufficient time into working together with Black creatives and with other white-led cultural organisations on understanding and tackling the structural barriers maintaining the status quo. Over the past decade we have put considerable time into this kind of structural analysis and solution design on other issues like filmmaker safety. It’s not too late for us to put that organisational focus into the structural racism that blocks filmmakers from the work. We are going to prioritise it going forward and we will also be…



“We are committing to continuing to pass power and agency to help Black-led organizations to get started and to thrive. Contributing to the emergence of an incredible network of documentary partners around the world has been a big part of our focus in recent years. We have proudly assisted our global south led sister and brother organisations to step into power. We now see that we can do more to share our resources, make introductions to funders and then step aside to help Black-led peer organisations to start and to flourish in the US and UK where our teams are based. Our door will be open.


“Why? Our mission statement has, for many years, enshrined our belief in sharing freely with the field: we want to break zero-sum game thinking and replace competition with collaboration in the independent media sector. That should include us giving up and handing over opportunities to others. Our mission statement, however, will now be bolstered by an overt commitment to anti-racism…



“Together with our boards, we have added an anti-racism commitment to our mission:

We bring people together to unleash the transformational power of independent documentary film. We serve individual filmmakers and the growing network of partners who support them globally. We help build new models, aiming to innovate, share freely and innovate again.


A commitment to anti-racism, economic equity & climate justice is embedded in and informs all we do to promote dignity and belonging.


“Why? Racial, economic and climate justice are all long overdue. All disproportion-ately affect Black and Brown Lives, particularly women, LGBTQI people and those with disabilities. And all are deeply interlinked, which is why we will never find our way to a safer, healthier, happier future without being challenged, transported and captivated by their stories.


“This is what we commit to today. We’re looking forward to the new directions these first steps are going to take us.”



The Directors of Doc Society:

Beadie Finzi, Maxyne Franklin, Oliver Rivers, Sandra Whipham, Jess Search