Cannes Docs set to roll

Cannes Docs set to roll

On the eve of the 2020 Marché, presented virtually this year, Pierre-Alexis Chevit, head of Cannes Docs, spoke to Business Doc Europe about the brave new world of documentary, and its associated events.


Nobody expected all of this. The zoom meetings, the pitches, the uncertainty. The frantic (at times dubious) analysis of a situation that is by and large beyond our comprehension. Yes, we’ll meet again. But, as the refrain goes, who knows where, who knows when?


That said, the documentary industry (and especially its festival and market sector) stepped up to the plate in Spring 2020. Even as lockdown was being called across Europe and beyond back in March, the likes of CPH:DOX, Visions du Réel and Thessaloniki were determined to maintain their festival and/or market offer to the international industry. And the industry in turn responded by freeing up their docs for selection, sending forth their projects to international pitch paltforms and continuing to engage in the business of documentary sales, distribution, finance and promotion.


Cannes Docs’ Pierre-Alexis Chevit agrees, noting how the attitude of these events was not only welcome, but instructive. “They all rose to the challenge so brilliantly. I was impressed. Kudos to all these festivals and markets, frankly. I now know what they’ve all been through, and it was way worse for them time-wise,” he says. 


“Attending the online industry events of such festivals as CPH:DOX, Visions du Réel, Docudays UA, Hot Docs or DocsBarcelona helped me a lot in figuring out how I was going to conceive Cannes Docs. I’ve learned a lot about using zoom….. and that overall the community is indulgent and very adaptable with regards to all the technologies.”


Obviously, Chevit had a fair idea, pre-pandemic, of how he wanted to present Cannes Docs in 2020. How did matters change post-lockdown?


“To be honest, with the urgency of the whole situation, it’s been mainly about transposing what was planned already for an on-site standard physical edition – and finding the right way, practically speaking, to set all this up technically,” he responds. 


“The major upside of this online edition, for me, is clearly to have a number of international decision makers from everywhere participating – that’s great. They might even want to attend the physical event in the future if they get a good impression of what we’re trying to do, who knows. The minuses are the sometimes overwhelming technical complexities and of course the lack of ‘real’ interpersonal contacts, with all the usual spontaneity and camaraderie of it all!”


He tells how he added a couple of “purely digital proposals into the mix, kind of satellite collaborations, not B-to-B specifically but beefing up the program quite nicely.” One is with SVoD doc-only platform Tënk (for EU residents only), where audiences can access two films previously presented as works in progress in Cannes. The other is with French independent cinema VoD platform UniversCiné (France only), where audiences can view past winners of Cannes’ Œil d’or – Documentary Award.


Of course, the question being mulled over by all industryites is to how future film business is likely to be conducted. Is online the model for future markets? Can/should markets be conducted exclusively in the virtual space? Is live face to face business interaction a necessity, or an expensive luxury which adds to our environmental problems/woes?


Understandably, with a market to arrange, present and oversee, Chevit is holding fire on a fulsome response, but some form of change is on the cards, he concedes.


“Right now, I would tend to say it’ll be probably a mix of physical and digital (but 48 hours away from the Cannes Docs kick-off I won’t be able to go into much of a deeper prospective analysis). I think live and face-to-face remains a business and human necessity, yes. But travelling less and/or not as far is another vital necessity – and something that some of us were starting to try and apply to ourselves already, progressively, before the pandemic started.”




On June 10 the Marché du Film ‘the reinvention’ of Cannes Docs as a digital-only event offering feature documentary film professionals a dedicated platform to connect, and a tailored program of events. 


Cannes Docs runs 22 to 26 June 2020 as part of the Marché du Film Online, with virtual exhibitors, curated showcases of docs-in-progress, workshops, Doc Talks, co-production speed meetings, 1:1 consultations and online get-togethers. 


“Now that we are only a few days away from launching the Marché du Film Online, we realize how much creativity, hard work and commitment it takes to transport a film market to the digital sphere,” said Jérôme Paillard, Executive Director of the Marché du Film. “We are proud to team up with leading partners in the documentary field on this special edition to offer industry professionals around the world a new efficient market model where they will be able to discover projects, screen films, and find business partners.”


Cannes Docs to welcome ten featured virtual exhibitors: 

Documentary film professionals will be able to connect and organize meetings on the Marché du Film Online with buyers, distributors, VOD platforms and sales agents, and with numerous specialized doc sellers, including ten featured virtual exhibitors: Antidote, Antipode, Article Films, CAT&Docs, Cinephil, Dogwoof, Metfilm Sales, Rise and Shine World Sales, Ruth Films and Sweet Spot Docs.


Seven Festival Partners to join forces with Cannes Docs:

European documentary film festivals CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig, IDFA, Ji.hlava IDFF, IDFA and Visions du Reél will collaborate again this year with Cannes Docs. Two major non-European festivals will also join the Cannes Docs partner network in 2020 – DMZ Docs (South Korea) and It’s All True (Brazil). Festival partners will be actively involved in the program, notably by curating projects from their own forum & professional platforms for the Cannes Docs Co-Pro Speed Meetings, and by hosting exclusive Doc Talks on topical issues within the documentary field.


Selections of docs-in-progress curated by eight festivals and organizations will compete for four awards:

From 22 to 25 June, Cannes Docs will showcase curated selections of Docs-in-Progress in finalization stage looking within a few weeks or coming months. Eight major international festivals and organizations will present their curated selections, comprising 4 docs-in-progress each, unveiled in the form of a video pitch and a 10-minute sequence from the rough cut. Participant festivals/organisations are:


CIRCLE Women Doc Accelerator; Festival dei Popoli and Torino Film Festival (in collaboration with Toscana Film Commission and Piemonte Film Commission); FIDBA – Festival Internacional de Cine Documental de Buenos Aires; Film Development Council of the Philippines; New Zealand Film Commission; ParisDOC – Cinéma du Reél; Telefilm Canada, in partnership with RIDM & Hot Docs and Docudays UA in cooperation with the Ukrainian Institute.



Four prizes will be awarded to the winning docs-in-progress on Friday 26 June during an online closing get-together. Prizes comprise the Docs-in-Progress Award, offered in partnership with The International Emerging Film Talent Association and endowed with a €10,000 cash prize and professional project follow-up by IEFTA; the Impact Award, in partnership with Nordisk Panorama, providing a 2-hour consultation on the film’s impact and outreach strategy; the Cineli Digital Award, with a DCP offered by Cineli Digital, Paris, France; and the VOSTAO Award, with French and/or English subtitles offered by VOSTAO, Brussels, Belgium.


Cannes Docs’ Chevit commented June 10: “I am truly thrilled that the shift to online didn’t stop the ongoing expansion of the number of docs-in-progress showcases within the Cannes Docs program. We’ll be presenting no less than 32 projects in finalization stage – 8 more than the last two years – curated by film commissions, festivals and organizations from all parts of the world. We also multiplied the number of awards, and are counting on a substantial number of decision makers attending (including of course some who can’t usually attend Cannes physically). All of this solely to give a maximum of chances of success to all the projects, for them to hit the market and festival circuit magnificently!”


Docs-In-Progress Showcases full line-up: 

Cannes Docs Co-Pro Speed Meetings open to professionals from 23 to 25 June 

The Cannes Docs Co-Pro Speed Meetings will be held over the course of 3 days, from 23 to 25 June. 


Potential co-producers and funding partners will be able to connect with 14 Spotlighted Projects selected by key festivals and organizations, including Cinema For Change, CPH:DOX, DMZ Docs, DOK Leipzig, IDFA, IEFTA, Ji.hlava IDFF, La Fabrique Cinéma | Institut français, Visions du Réel and When East Meets West. 


The Cannes Docs Co-Pro Speed Meetings are organized in partnership with Eurodoc, DAE – Documentary Association of Europe, Emerging Producers and DPA – Documentary Producers Alliance. 


Doc Talks, informal Hangouts and workshops as a cornerstone of the program

Cannes Docs 2020 will include five topical Doc Talks, tackling programming, distribution and creative aspects of the non-fiction field, as seen through the lens of 5 leading international doc festivals – CPH:DOX, DOK Leipzig, It’s All True, Ji.hlava IDFF and Visions du Réel – and of their invited guest speakers; four online informal Hangouts proposed by DAE – Documentary Association of Europe (the new pan-European community and member-driven organisation for documentary professionals, founded in Berlin in February 2020) and designed to share thoughts and projects among doc filmmakers; and four hands-on workshops created specifically for non-fiction makers:

Doc Pitching Training, On and Offline with Stefano Tealdi

Film Marketing: Go Digital with Alphapanda’s Mathias Noschis & Joanna Solecka

Do the Right Thing: Best Practices for Documentary Makers and Producers with Chris Perez & Madeleine Molyneaux 

Standing Out (in Times of Confusion) – Distribution Tips for Up-and-Coming Doc Filmmakers with Hedva Goldschmidt


Dieudo Hamadi will be the special guest of Doc Day

Congolese filmmaker Dieudo Hamadi will be the special guest of the 5th edition of Doc Day, Friday 26 June, in conversation  discussion with Directors’ Fortnight programmer and film critic Claire Diao. 

Dieudo Hamadi’s feature film, Downstream to Kinshasa, represented at the Marché du Film Online by AndanaFilms, is one of the documentary films in the Festival de Cannes Official Selection 2020 and the first film from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Official Selection in the history of the Festival de Cannes. The film portrays the victims of the Six-Day War in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have been fighting for two decades in Kisangani for recognition of this bloody conflict and who are demanding compensation. Tired of unsuccessful pleas, they finally decide to voice their claims in Kinshasa, after a long journey down the Congo River. Doc Day is organized in partnership with CNC and L’Oeil d’or  Documentary Award in Cannes.


Tënk and UniversCiné to curate special Cannes Docs screenings

Two additional satellite collaborations will give the final touch to the program, in line with this year’s “dematerialized reality”. 


French/European doc-only SVOD platform Tënk will offer 100 free 3-month trials to Cannes Docs participants (more information on how to sign up to be announced soon) and will present its subscribers, during the Marché du Film Online, two films previously showcased at Cannes Docs as Docs-in-Progress: Ibrahim: A Fate to Define by Lina Al Abed (2019) and In Mansourah, You Separated Us by Dorothée-Myriam Kellou (2019). 


UniversCiné, the French VOD publisher and aggregator specializing in independent cinema, will offer to French audiences a special mini retrospective of all the documentaries that have received the L’Oeil d’or Documentary Award in Cannes since 2015: Allende de mi abuelo Allende by Marcia Tambulli Allende (2015), Cinema Novo by Eryk Rocha (2016), Visages Villages by Agnès Varda & JR (2017), Samouni Road by Stefano Savona (2018), For Sama by Waad Al-Khateab & Edward Watts (2019) and La cordillera de los sueños by Patricio Guzmán (2019).