This week, DOXA Documentary Film Festival, Western Canada’s largest documentary film festival, announced its 2023 Festival line-up. The 22nd edition Festival returns to screens May 4 through May 14, 2023 with a roster of crucial and thought-provoking documentaries in theatrical venues across the city, bringing filmmakers and audiences together for a communal cinema experience. For those folks who prefer to view from the comfort of their own homes, a selection of festival films will be available to stream online after festival dates, between May 15 and 24, 2023.
The 22nd annual DOXA Documentary Film Festival will showcase a total of 39 features and mid-lengths, 25 short films, as well as Industry events and multiple opportunities for filmmakers, audiences and industry professionals to connect. Online films will be available to stream Canada-wide, through DOXA’s Eventive online platform. Theatrical screenings will take place at The Cinematheque, VIFF Centre and SFU Goldcorp Centre for the Arts, while in-person industry events will be held at SFU’s World Arts Centre.
DOXA presents Karen Cho’s Big Fight in Little Chinatown as this year’s Opening Presentation, screening on May 4th at SFU’s Djavad Mowafaghian Cinema. All across the globe, Chinatowns are under threat of disappearing—and along with them, the rich history of communities who fought from the margins for a place to belong. Big Fight in Little Chinatown follows the communities that are fighting to end perpetual gentrification and displacement across North America. Other Special Presentations include: Kokomo City, directed by D. Smith, which documents the stories of four Black transgender sex workers in New York and Georgia as they share reflections on tangled desires, far-reaching taboos and gender’s many meanings (Justice Forum); King Coal, directed by Elaine McMillion Sheldon, witnessing the daily rituals of life in Appalachia as the cultural roots of the coal industry continue to permeate, even as its economic power wanes (Rated Y for Youth);
and Kaveh Nabatian’s Kite Zo A (Leave the Bones), which weaves together ancestral veneration, choreographed dance and interviews to tell a story of fighting back against colonial oppression in Haiti (Closing Gala).
DOXA also features three guest-curated programs.
Vancouver-based curator, writer and current Director of Artspeak Gallery, Nya Lewis has selected the film Beba (Rebeca Huntt, 2021) for their program, A Radical Pluriverse: Reflections on Black Womanhood on Both Sides of the Lens. In Lewis’s words, “I consider it a privilege to access a spiritual legacy of mothers, sisters and daughters—a lineage or geneology of Black women(hood) that is defined by collective self-awareness, shared political consciousness, love, magic, quests for liberation and futurism.”
Farah Clémentine Dramani-Issifou, whose research and curatorial work focuses on Afro-diasporic cinema and visual arts, has curated a program of short films called I AM A (WO)MAN: Transatlantic Perspectives on Political Struggles in the 1960s–1970s in Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, the USA and France. These short works highlight the cross-cultural and -continental “struggles for the emancipation of colonized peoples,” and display the collaborative work of filmmakers and labour activists in the fight.
Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis program titled NORITA: The Mother of All Struggles features Jayson McNamara’s work-in-progress doc, Norita, which examines the life and revolutionary work of Nora Cortiñas, the most famous of the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo—Argentina’s movement of women fighting for justice amidst the country’s rampant political oppression.
Beyond the festival’s cornerstone Justice Forum and Rated Y for Youth programs, DOXA 2023 will include two Spotlight programming streams: DANCE, DANCE OTHERWISE WE ARE LOST and THIN PLACES.
As German dancer Pina Bausch once advised: “Dance, dance otherwise we are lost.” In an effort to make sense of the world, the films in this spotlight program meld the disciplines of dance and filmmaking, strengthening relationships between ancestors, culture and community in the process.
Thin Places presents a collection of films exploring liminal and precarious zones. “There are places,” says Irish writer Kerri ní Dochartaigh, “both hollowed and hallowed, all in one.” Thin places, as they are known in the Celtic tradition, are locales where a sense of Heaven and Earth meet. But in this dense collection of films, Hell is present too.
Several Canadian filmmakers will bring their world premiere to DOXA 2023. Amy Miller’s latest film, Manufacturing the Threat, is a festival highlight: After the arrest and imprisonment of a young Surrey couple, their plot to commit acts of terrorism was revealed to be the work of government agent provocateurs aiming to entrap and create their own “threats.” Miller will also be giving a masterclass, co-presented by DOC BC | YT | NWT, as part of DOXA’s Industry program. Ali Grant’s Not Quite That champions an affecting local story; after finding out she is predisposed to breast cancer, Sarah White—a Jewish woman, mother, and butch lesbian—must decide whether to wait and see what happens, or act fast and have a preventative double mastectomy. These Canadian films and more are exciting titles in DOXA’s 2023 festival program.
DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs May 4-14, 2023, with select films available to stream online after the festival, between May 15 thru 24, unless otherwise specified. Online films are geo-blocked to Canada and virtual tickets will be limited. Select screenings will include live and pre-recorded filmmaker Q+As and extended discussions. Festival tickets and passes are on sale now at doxafestival.ca