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Jan 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Why festivals? Doc film fest programmers discuss

With Sky Sitney (Silverdocs), Ben Fowlie (Camden International Film Festival), Charlotte Selb (RIDM), and Basil Tsiokos (Sundance Film Festival), Christopher Allen & Steve Holmgren

How do documentary festival programmers select movies? What is the role of festivals in the ever-changing landscape of film distribution?

The documentary film world has expanded at an astounding rate over the past few years. Along with increased production, there are now more outlets for exhibition and distribution than ever before. At the heart of this network are film festivals across the globe; from long-running traditional fests seeking to expand their doc sections, to upstart festivals dedicated to the art of nonfiction filmmaking. Festival programmers act as filters selecting top docs from thousands of submissions annually, and continue to shape the wider landscape for distribution. Along with showcasing conventional documentaries, film festivals are also embracing nonfiction in a variety of aesthetics and continue to engage audiences with panels, special events, and instillations.

On the cusp of the fourth annual Cinema Eye Honors, whose mission is to recognize the honor exemplary craft and innovation in nonfiction film (taking place this Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image), we bring together some of the top documentary programmers working today for discussion. Joining us is Sky Sitney from Silverdocs, Ben Fowlie from the Camden International Film Festival, Charlotte Selb from the Montréal International Documentary Festival (RIDM), and Basil Tsiokos from Sundance. Each programmer will give an introduction to their festival and programming philosophy, share a stand out doc they have been involved in presenting recently, and talk about what they look for in submissions as well as general trends happening in the documentary festival world today. Following this there will be an opportunity for audience comments and questions.

120 minutes

Sky Sitney Sky Sitney is the Festival Director for SILVERDOCS, based at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD. She began working for the Festival in Fall 2005.  Sky was formerly Programming Director at The Newport International Film Festival and is recognized as one of the key contributors in helping Newport become one of the leading regional Festivals of its kind. She also served as the Film Programmer at the New York Underground Film Festival and was Co-Founder and Curator for the on-going series Fresh Film at the Anthology Film Archives in New York. Sky has also held industry positions at C-Hundred Film Corp. and Fine Line Features.In addition to her extensive programming experience, she is a doctoral candidate in Cinema Studies at New York University, where she has taught film courses on a variety of genres. She is completing a dissertation on the subject of documentary film, sections of which have been published recently in the journal Grey Room and the book Captured: A Lower East Side Film & Video History.

Ben Fowley Benjamin Fowlie is the founder and director of the Camden International Film Festival, which takes place each fall along the coast of Maine and is now in its seventh year.  Recently, the festival was recognized in the second edition of the Top 25 Film Festivals for Documentaries list found on AJ Schnack’s blog, ALL THESE WONDERFUL THINGS. Ben is also the founder of the Points North Forum, a conference component running concurrently with the festival that includes past participants from Sundance, ITVS, PBS, the Tribeca Film Institute, BBC, ZDF – ARTE and IFP, among others. Last January Ben was included in Thom Powers’ list 20 Under 40: Industry Leaders To Watch Out For.  Currently he sits on the nominating committee for the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking and is a co-founder and programmer for The DocYard, a bi-weekly screening series held at the Brattle Theatre in Boston, MA

Charlotte Selb Charlotte Selb moved to Montreal after studying English in France and completed a Master’s in Film Studies at Concordia University. She has been Programming Coordinator at RIDM from 2004 to 2008, Programmer in 2009 and Director of Programming since 2010. She collaborated in the organization of other cultural events in Montreal such as Vues d’Afrique, the Festival of New Cinema, the International Festival of Films on Art and the Genie and Gémeaux Awards. She loves documentaries that surprise, fascinate and inspire her, especially those that take her into uncharted waters and highlight the more marginal perspectives.

The Rencontres internationales du documentaire de Montréal (RIDM) was founded in 1998 by documentary filmmakers who wanted to create a platform for new perspectives and innovative practices in documentary film. At its core, documentary is a way to better understand the current and future challenges facing our society and the planet. Now in its 14th year, RIDM is an annual festival with an international scope. Each installment brings over a hundred films from the four corners of the world to Montreal. The program features distinctive films chosen for their unique perspective and artistic strengths. Workshops and panel discussions welcome audiences, professionals and partners alike. The RIDM is also home to Doc Circuit Montreal, Quebec’s documentary marketplace, created specifically to support and stimulate independent documentary production and to bring filmmakers, craftspeople, producers, distributors and programmers of every kind together.

Basil Tsiokos Basil Tsiokos is a Documentary Programming Associate for the Sundance Film Festival and a Consultant for filmmakers & film festivals. Beginning Winter 2011 he is a visiting professor at Pratt, teaching a course on film festivals and overseeing students as they organize the Wallabout student film festival. He is the Co-Producer of Cameron Yates’ feature documentary THE CANAL STREET MADAM (World Premiere, SXSW Competition 2010). Between 1996-2008, Basil was the Artistic & Executive Director of NewFest: The NY LGBT Film Festival. Since 2009, he has been the guest curator of the Out at the Movies series at the Jacob Burns Film Center. Basil has served on numerous film festival juries and panels, including the Atlanta Film Festival, Atlantic Film Festival, Berlinale, Cleveland International Film Festival, DOC NYC, Fantasia Film Festival, Full Frame, LaCinemaFe, IFP, Outfest, SXSW, and Starz Denver Film Festival. He is a regular contributor to indieWIRE, including serving as the curator for iW’s curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page. He he can be found on Twitter as @1basil1 and on his blog http://WhatNotToDoc.com offering advice and information to filmmakers. Basil holds a Masters degree from New York University in Cinema Studies and completed his undergraduate degrees at Stanford University.

Sally Berger Sally Berger is a video, film, and new media curator, lecturer, and writer. She specializes in the areas of experimental video and non-fiction media. She is an Assistant Curator in the Department of Film and Video at The Museum of Modern Art (1986 to the present) and an independent curator. She was Executive Director of IFS from 1989 -94. She is an international guest lecturer and programmer and writes on non-fiction practices, video art, and new media. She received her M.A. in Cinema Studies from New York University in 1999 and B.A. from Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 1986.


Jan 16, 2011
9:00 pm – 11:00 pm


352 Onderdonk Avenue
Ridgewood, NY 11385 United States
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