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As of 2014, Cinéma du Réel has been working alongside industry professionals to encourage the distribution of documentary films and to foster connections between filmmakers and distributors. The 36th edition of the festival saw the creation of ParisDOC, an event engineered by Maria Bonsanti, Anaïs Desrieux and the association Les Amis de Cinéma du Réel. Participants who attended the two-day event were shown films in post-production, while an additional day was dedicated to discussing initiatives in favour of film distribution. The purpose of the event, later to become ParisDOC Works-in-progress and the Public Forum, was already clear: rather than opening up a marketplace, the goal was to centre the issues and challenges affecting the documentary film industry, to promote innovative ideas, and to provide professionals with tailor-fitted support and guidance.

Since then, ParisDOC Works-in-progress has proved a great success: out of the 60 films in post-production shown over the past 10 years, 80% have been featured in at least one international festival and 70% have been picked up by an international distributor or sales company. Now, for the third year in a row, the festival is teaming up with Studio Orlando to provide final-stage support to one of the films from the selection, scope of which has been steadily expanding thanks to international collaborations in connection with the festival’s main line-up.

Over the last few years, ParisDOC has broadened the scope of its operations to create a network that engages in discussions and concrete actions in the field of documentary filmmaking, from the development of a project all the way to a film’s distribution. It provides filmmakers, producers, distributors, festival networks and international sales agents with an organization tailored to their needs, offering individual support and dealing with topics relevant to a variety of practices.

Operating along the same lines as ParisDOC Works-in-progress, the Classic Documentary Film Rendez-vous was launched in 2020. It encourages distributors, exhibitors and broadcasters working in the field of heritage films to expand their offer to documentary films. We strongly believe that heritage documentary films can find their place in the thriving classic film market. Three years on, the Préludes platform and the festival are launching a prize designed to support the restoration of a debut documentary feature.

In addition to the work carried out by ParisDOC and the festival to promote the distribution of films, theatre exhibitors are working together with cinema programmers to organize previews in collaboration with ACID and ACRIF.

Working to improve the distribution of independent documentary films, ParisDOC also aims to perpetuate the inventiveness, flexibility and unique quality of each film, as well as values of craftsmanship in an industry that is both vulnerable and prolific. The Public Forum, led by the association Les Amis du Cinéma du Réel, reflects the political concerns of an industry faced by growing threats and by the urgent need to create new opportunities. Created five years ago, Morning Sessions explores the entanglement of thinking and doing, tracing the history of the practices involved in documentary filmmaking. These sessions, in which established professionals are invited to share their experience, are designed to create connections between seasoned and emerging professionals.

The festival values the presence of filmmakers and takes a profound interest in exploring their approaches, as reflected by the various events, masterclasses and Q&As dedicated to their films and creative processes. Every year, Morning Sessions ends with an event dedicated to filmmakers’ visions for the future, attended by filmmakers and members of various professional organizations: SRF, ADDOC, ACID, SCAM. First Contact, co-created in 2022 with Ateliers Varan and EURODOC, works alongside filmmakers reaching out to producers for the first time, and provides them with support that is once again “tailored” to their needs.

ParisDOC is closely attuned to the evolution of filmmaking and viewing practices, and to the considerations and challenges at play within the trade. It is the festival’s laboratory.

Catherine Bizern