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By Ray Pride Pride@moviecitynews.com

“I Work For Documentary”: Sean Farnel Leaves Hot Docs After 6 Years

Sean Farnel, John Grierson

Since its inception, Hot Docs has become the second largest documentary festival in the world, after IDFA in Amsterdam. (I consider it a privilege I’ve attended the past four instalments.) While now-former programming director Sean Farnel doesn’t offer a roadmap to what comes next, his blog entry about leaving Hot Docs offers much about what’s come before: “I’ve watched over 4000 documentaries over the past twelve years. I still have notes on most of them. That’s a lot of reality. Another reality is that there comes a time to change course.” I like what Cameron Bailey tweeted tonight: “Sean Farnel worked 6 years at TIFF, 6 years at Hot Docs. One of the best in the business: taste, grit & humility. A Canadian.” [More at the link.]

[Photo: Sheffield Doc/Fest, November 2008; cradling Margaret Brown’s Youth Jury Grierson award for The Order Of Myths. © Ray Pride]

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“There are critics who see their job as to be on the side of the artist, or in a state of imaginative sympathy or alliance with the artist. I think it’s important for a critic to be populist in the sense that we’re on the side of the public. I think one of the reasons is, frankly, capitalism. Whether you’re talking about restaurants or you’re talking about movies, you’re talking about large-scale commercial enterprises that are trying to sell themselves and market themselves and publicize themselves. A critic is, in a way, offering consumer advice. I think it’s very, very important in a time where everything is commercialized, commodified, and branded, where advertising is constantly bleeding into other forms of discourse, for there to be an independent voice kind of speaking to—and to some extent on behalf of—the public.”
~ A. O. Scott On One Role Of The Critic

“Every night, we’d sit and talk for a long, long time and talk about the process and I knew he was very, very intrigued about what could be happening. Then of course, one of the fascinating things he told me about was how he had readers who were reading for him that never knew it was Stanley Kubrick. So if he heard of a novel, he would send it out to people. I think he did it through newspaper ads at the time. And he would send it out to people and ask for a kind of synopsis or a critique of the novel. And he would read those. And it was done anonymously. But he said there were housewives and there were barristers and all sorts of people doing that. And I thought, yeah, that’s a really good way to open up the possibilities. Because otherwise, you’re randomly looking, walking through a bookstore or an airport. I said, “How many people are doing this?” It was about 30 people.”
~ George Miller’s Conversations With Kubrick