A report from the annual meeting of festival members of Doc Alliance platform in Prague. Read more to learn what is it like to be a member of Doc Alliance team!
In the Prague office of Doc Alliance Films, the working days of the third week of January have brought a constant shift between two extreme types of mood. The sense of loss of control of heaps of paper full of charts and statistics would alternate with enthusiasm about the approaching meeting with friends and colleagues. What was the reason for the week-long outburst of a collective bipolar disorder? The annual meeting of Doc Alliance platform members; or, directors of seven documentary film festivals under one roof; a Prague roof at that.
Saturday, January 18, 2014; this date would sparkle and shine in the brand new diaries of leading movers of contemporary European documentary well in advance. It was on this day that all lovers of the documentary genre, whose passion has brought them to founding and leading positions in the film festival world, would meet at the same place and time. The negotiating table hosted representatives of each member festival of the alliance; CPH:DOX Copenhagen, DOK Leipzig, Planete Doc Warsaw, Doclisboa, Jihlava IDFF, Visions Du Réel Nyon and FID Marseille. The sight of the long table with 17 people sitting around it in a pleasant discussion atmosphere made it clear that this Saturday would be loaded with information. The evaluation of the progress of the DAFilms.com portal has shown that the team can rejoice at the growing numbers and the festival members have yet another proof that the idea of heading towards online distribution, which may have seemed as a dreamy pioneering attempt seven years ago, has actually hit the bull’s eye.
However, it was not only the necessary working agenda, which would frame the day-long meeting of Doc Alliance, but primarily the moments of informal discussions and common encounters over good food and wine that have defined its character. Many a film student would just love to seize one of the chairs at the table, if at least for a brief moment, where there was a lively discussion about documentaries nominated for the highest international awards (with the Danish coproduction film The Act of Killing raising a huge polemic) or about young talented producers that should not be overlooked. However, there was also time for “non-documentary” themes. Thus some of this year’s meeting guests would learn more about how a Christmas tree can be transported in a small car on the route Prague – Dubrovnik or participate in deciding what scenes of the Monty Python’s Flying Circus should be included in the World Heritage List.
What do the direct participants think of the January meeting in Prague? “When the Doc Alliance group decides to meet in the middle, that means meeting in Prague - not meeting in the middle between the ideas and suggestions that the seven European partner festivals bring to the table," explains representative of the Danish festival CPH:DOX Mads Mikkelsen right at the beginning. "Third January weekend we all met at the impressive post-socialist Doc Alliance headquarters in the middle of the city to catch up on last year's achievements and look ahead towards new goals: it was an exciting day of lively discussions, strong opinions and shared enthusiasm for film. Besides a firm belief in film as an art form and the filmmaker as an artist, one of the things that really ties the Doc Alliance group together is a shared determination not to compromise. And in a day and age where film is in greater transition than perhaps ever before, that really is the ideal place to meet".
Moreover, Ana Pereira of Portugal’s Doclisboa festival had a chance to compare this year’s meeting to her previous experience: “It has been the second time I attended the meeting. I remember the last time we took a lot of time discussing some matters. Somehow I felt the meeting was very productive but also quicker this time. I left with the feeling there were so many things accomplished by this Alliance and also so many others to be done.” Did this year bring something new as well? “This time the Prague Office team took us to the city center to have dinner and a drink in this little and warm pub on the night we arrived (and how beautiful and mysterious Prague is at night!). I flew back home full of energy to work, but definitely one of the things I love most about these meetings is how Doc Alliance Films team make us feel so welcome."
The significance of the informal discussions was also highlighted by one of the festival directors Marek Hovorka, who has assumed the unofficial role of a Prague guide. “While we are discussing primarily the mechanism of the steps we would take to further our cooperation during the day, which usually takes up most of the time, at night we finally get to discuss the very films. However, then the meeting room with its long narrow table and twenty seats is exchanged for restaurants and pubs that are open at the given time. The last place we would go to this year was the sports bar Železná Sparta (Iron Sparta), a stronghold of Prague’s famous Sparta football club. I guess they haven’t had such weird guests for a long time!”
Nevertheless, we will be happy to see those “weird guests” in one year’s time again. With a few days’ hindsight, the first outcome of the Doc Alliance meeting is clear. In the Prague office, only one type of mood prevails now; that of joy of new contacts and experiences, while statistics seem to be gone for a while.
Andrea Pruchova, DAFilms.com team
Doc Alliance is a creative partnership of 7 key European documentary film festivals. Our aim is to advance the documentary genre, support its diversity and promote quality creative documentary films.