Taking documentaries one step further

Elizabeth WoodWhen I first founded DocHouse, over ten years ago, it was a time when international, insightful and creative documentaries were disappearing from the terrestrial broadcast channels and being put onto BBC4 and More4.

Since then things have not changed much on Television but documentary has found new outlets through DVD distribution, VOD, a greater presence at festivals and, most importantly, by finding its way into cinemas with increasing regularity.

This latter is a result of significant technological advances. Twenty years ago, in order to put documentaries in the cinema, you had to have the money to make expensive film prints in order to have significant distribution. But since the digital age you can now do that on a harddrive, which mkes it very easy to distribute documentaries. This is a major change.

Additionally, people are hungry for information; they”re hungry to find out about the world around them. Documentary films are a fantastic medium for this and the internet a great platform. Simultaneously, broadcast television seems to be increasingly about domestic tabloid issues.

Changing boundaries of filmmaking

Recent years have also brought documentary to something of a crossroad. Partly due to advances in communication and technology – which has opened up great possibilities for who can document and how – and partly due to a growing recognition of the impact that factual films and democratised storytelling can have on global issues.

Boundaries that used to define practices such as documentary filmmaking, investigative journalism and citizen reporting from one another are becoming increasingly blurred. New forms of capturing reality are emerging, while old forms are under scrutiny.

This has left us with a great many questions as to where documentary is in this current climate, and where it goes from here. At DocHouse we therefore felt that it was an excellent moment to take a good look at the way we document, report and inform audiences about the world we live in.

Exploring the future

With this in mind Between the Lines was born. The festival is a collaboration between DocHouse, an organisation that showcases and supports creative international documentary, and The Frontline Club, an organisation that promotes independent journalism.

The brand new three day festival takes place at the Rich Mix in London and will see seven spine sessions presented by over 20 speakers. What we”re aiming to provide is an all-too-rare forum where practitioners from across recent and traditional documenting disciplines can come together directly to discuss key issues. This is underscored by a brilliant line-up of documentary films, online presentations and events for the public in the bar.

The festival is unique in that it is focused around one particular issue. We will look to investigate the merging boundaries of traditional documentary, investigative journalism and new media, and will provide a platform for enlightened discussion about the possibilities and the pitfalls this presents for the future.

What we are looking to examine with the help of our audience is how digital technology and the internet have affected and changed the way we communicate. We’;ll explore this from the point of view of both the professional storytellers and the audience, who are now able to create their own perspectives on reality and post them online within a matter of mere minutes.

What to expect?

The festival is not just for media practitioners, it’;s aimed at a broad audience; young filmmakers and journalists; professionals; theorists, enthusiasts, social media producers and members of the public who simply want to know more.

The speakers are all experts in their own widely different fields, from Alexandre Brachet – an e-producer and CEO of – to filmmakers Kevin Macdonald and Penny Woolcock. Also attending are Tim Pool of the 21 hour Occupy Wall Street live stream; Jon Blair, commissioning editor at Al Jazeera English; Jenny Kleeman, journalist at Channel 4′;s Unreported World and William Uricchio, founder of the MIT Open Documentary Lab – to mention just a few.

To accompany these sessions are18 relevant films addressing the festival”s subject matter, in form and in content, including Eugene Jarecki”s The House I Live In, Kevin Macdonald”s crowd sourced Life in a Day, Alex Gibney’;s new film Mea Maxima Culpa, Ken Burns” Central Park Five and Jessica Yu”s Last Call at the Oasis.

Between the Lines is not meant to be either definitive or prescriptive. Rather it is intended to open minds, debate issues and discuss what opportunities the future might hold. We hope you will join the debate and help further shape a future for documentaries.

Between the Lines will take place Friday 1 March until Sunday 3 March at the Rich Mix in Bethnal Green, London. More information and tickets can be found on the website. To find out more about DocHouse and their events, please visit their website.

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