Doc town Biarritz

Doc town Biarritz

The second edition of FIPADOC kicks of January 21 2020 with a selection of 100+ titles competing across four categories and a full Industry programme running Jan 22-24. Managing and artistic director Christine Camdessus explains the festival’s raison d’être.


FIPADOC grew out of former Biarritz-based festival FIPA, an event that was dedicated to television programming. The event ran from 1987 to 2018, but laterally proved difficult to fund sufficiently. It was, Camdessus stresses, a quality festival but something of “a sleeping beauty.”


But there was talent within the organisation, and a healthy audience in Biarritz, and FIPA festival president Anne Georget was determined to investigate the possibility of morphing the event into a creative documentary festival in the mould of CPH:DOX or Dok Leipzig. Camdessus and Georget therefore set out to launch FIPADOC in January 2019. 


“The first thing which is very important for a festival is the level of attendance,” stresses Camdessus. “Was there an audience for non-fiction, as opposed to fiction which is very attractive and easy to promote. Would the public come and respond to our new proposal? And the answer was yes.” 


Camdessus points out that the last edition of FIPA attracted an audience of 25,000 and that attendees for the first edition of FIPADOC numbered almost the same.


The event also managed to attract artistic and technical leading talents from the French documentary industry, she adds. 


“The third criterion was, were we able to make a selection that people would enjoy? And we did. Comments on the selection were very positive. So we knew, all in all, we had thought of a good idea, and it worked, so we thought let’s continue.”


For the second edition, the pair have secured funding from Creative Europe. “It is very important for us to show we are at a level of importance within the European festival scene.” Further funding was sought (and gained) from CNC, local and regional funds and professional guilds. 


A key component for Camdessus is a sound offer to the international doc community. “It’s going to take time, but we are creating an appeal and offering great reasons to come, which is why we are looking to deliver an Industry Days programme of high quality.”


She stresses how “the DNA of the festival” lies in the documentary credentials of both herself and Georget (as doc producer and director respectively). “We seek to answer important questions. What is a festival for? Is it to promote films, to promote directors, to promote talent or business models, or to build collaboration, create encounters and challenging debate. 


“All of these are important. We think like an attendee of a festival. What would I love? What would I expect? If I spend three, four or five days in this city, what do I want to experience? This is key. We visit other festivals and we borrow the best ideas. And we collaborate with them. That is a privilege of the doc world, it is less competitive and more collaborative.” (See below for details of this year’s Industry Programme).


Camdessus further explains the initial three-year plan of her festival. “The first year we wanted to validate the proposal. The second year we want to demonstrate that we are capable of being of European standard in terms of selection levels and the offer to the industry,  and I think this edition will demonstrate that. In future we will implement a FIPADOC nomade by extending the festival to cinemas across the region. We want to be stronger at both European and local level.”


Another core aim is become a regional documentary hub for the Basque, Navarra and Region Nouvelle Acquitaine regions, “creating relationships with the different funds and professional guilds using the different tools that are available and to make FIPADOC the meeting point for the doc industry and to drive through doc production from the region.”


“We want to build layer upon layer, all the time reinforcing the structure of our festival.”




The Industry Days programme is designed to provide international and French doccers with opportunities to forge new alliances, pitch and fund new projects. The 3-day session is also designed to work as a think tank on the future of the documentary sector.


Highlights include a focus on the Swedish doc industry includes an impact case-study given by Swedish director Fredrik Gertten and producer Margarete Jangaard who have together created several documentaries with strong outreach and impact strategies. The focus continues with a presentation on co-producing docs both with Sweden and France, before producers from both countries sit down to talk business.


Other features of Industry Days include an outreach case study of the Greek/French/Irish/Bulgarian co-production Citizen Europe as a vehicle for cross-platform and Europe-wide distribution, and appraisals of both the female gaze in doc-filmmaking and the Europe-wide public broadcast response to the rise of the SVOD platforms.


A later panel discussion will assess the tricky question of revenues deriving from documentary production/exhibition/broadcast, in which panellists will “follow the money” and check out the roles of different financiers and distribution platforms.


The International Pitch of FIPADOC will present 15 international projects to a panel of leading industry decision makers, with two in-kind post-production prizes €5000 up for grabs, courtesy of Saya. One is for an international project, the other for a French project.


French and Spanish producers will also meet and greet to discuss co-pro collaboration, and another session will address the nuts and bolts of co-production, from contractual obligations to finance plans, from sharing the risks to sharing the revenues.


Industry Days will welcome a debate on the changes of regulations in France concerning the audiovisual industry, a conference on France Television with chair Delphine Ernotte in attendance, and concludes with an address on the European development of ARTE by Régine Hatchondo, General Director of ARTE France and Vice President of ARTE GEIE.


Elsewhere at the festival, 100+ recent international and French documentaries are selected from and across a range of formats and themes, including music docs, impact, digital/interactive, shorts and new talents. These include recent audience pleasers such as Honeyland and The Cave, both short-listed for Academy Award nomination, Sandra Beerends’ archive-derived story of Indonesian independence They Call Me Babu and Michał Bielawski’s The Wind: a Documentary Thriller.


Four Grand Prix will be awarded, each worth €5000, within the International Documentary, French Doc, Music and Impact competition categories. The International jury consists of director Maryam Ebrahimi, film programmer Martijn te Pas, and editor Mary Stephen.