As mentioned earlier this week, DOXA Documentary Film Festival is celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. Looking back to its beginnings no one would have imagined that two decades later the festival would be streaming directly into people’s homes, buy just like the documentaries show this is a reflection of real life.
DOXA has now revealed its entire program which will be completely available online for the second year in a row. The line-up includes 49 features, dozens of shorts, plus live Q&As and Industry events, all accessible via DOXA’s website from May 6 through 16, 2021.
For its 20th anniversary, DOXA will be available Canada-wide, and will feature a special celebration of the festival’s history, with three generations of program directors—Kris Anderson (1998–2010), Dorothy Woodend (2010–2017) and Selina Crammond (2018–Present)—highlighting some of their favourite features from DOXA’s past, including works by Sara Roque (Six Miles Deep), Claire Simon (Mimi) and Chris Marker (The Owl’s Legacy), among others.
Three other curated programs highlight the important documentary films that are capturing and defining communities across Canada and around the world. As the death toll of Vancouver’s opioid crisis climbs higher each year, a timely program of films curated by VANDU (Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users) considers policies that have benefitted drug users, as well as the devastating effects of the global war on drugs, including groundbreaking films from the Philippines (Alyx Ayn Arumpac’s Aswang), New York (Mia Donovan’s Dope is Death) and a seminal doc from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (Nettie Wild’s FIX).
The FRENCH FRENCH series returns this year, with exciting new films from a few of the French documentary auteurs (Marie Dumora, Claire Simon and Alain Cavalier) who have shaped past iterations of this popular DOXA program. Additionally, DOXA presents a bold showcase of experimental docs by Indigenous filmmakers curated by the Cousin Collective that questions some of the most central tenets of documentary filmmaking itself.
Music docs also make their mark this year, including Lisa Rovner’s Sisters with Transistors, which reveals the overlooked history of women in electronic music, and FANNY: The Right to Rock by Bobbi Jo Hart, a testament to 1970s Filipina-American LGBTQ+ rock group Fanny. Celebrating the rich history of Congolese rumba, DOXA is proud to host the world premiere of Alan Brain’s The Rumba Kings. As previously announced, Paul Sng and Celeste Bell’s Poly Styrene: I Am A Cliché closes out DOXA 2021 with a look at the life of the first mainstream Black woman in British punk rock, and the complicated legacy that she left behind.
One of the festival’s most high profile titles this year is Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) the directorial debut of Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, whose documentary on the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival recently won acclaim at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, walking away with both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award.
Several Canadian filmmakers launch their world premiere at DOXA. In the wake of recent news stories announcing the targeted assassination of female media workers in Afghanistan, Vancouver-based filmmaker Brishkay Ahmed’s In the Rumbling Belly of Motherland provides a sharp look into Zan TV, Kabul’s female-operated and -oriented news agency in Afghanistan. From Indigenous-owned organic farms to Arctic geodesic domes, Caroline Cox’s Food for the Rest of Us explores farming and harvesting as forms of radical activism. Relationships late in life take centre stage in Love, the Last Chapter directed by Dominique Keller as she follows three couples inside a seniors’ facility. These films and more are in competition for the Colin Low Award for Best Canadian Director, which this year is sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC).
Announced last week, DOXA’s Special Presentations include Shannon Walsh’s The Gig is Up, which takes a close look at gig labour, a growing phenomenon and employment path that promises flexible hours, independence and open recruitment to workers around the world Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy, directed by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open), puts humanity and compassion first in its engagement with the substance-use crisis and drug-poisoning epidemic on the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta. Directed by local filmmakers Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams, Someone Like Me, follows a group of strangers from Vancouver’s queer community who unite under the banner of Rainbow Refugee, a non-profit that connects LGBTQ+ asylum claimants with sponsors.
DOXA Documentary Film Festival runs May 6-16, 2021, delivering some of the very best in contemporary documentary cinema over its 11 day run. Films will be available to stream for the duration of the above festival dates. 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. Full program details and festival passes are now available online at doxafestival.ca.