Doc Talk Podcast Unpacks Crisis Plaguing Film Festivals, Sundance Inviting Bids To Ditch Park City

Film festivals in North America have launched some of the greatest movies ever – whether nonfiction or fiction. Telluride premiered Free SoloSlumdog Millionaire, and Argo; Sundance debuted sex, lies and videotapeNapoleon DynamiteAn Inconvenient Truth, and this year’s Oscar winning documentary 20 Days in Mariupol; the Toronto International Film Festival premiered I Am Not Your Negro and Ray.

The importance of festivals to the industry is beyond question, but many of the most celebrated ones on this continent are facing a moment of crisis. Post-pandemic financial struggles are plaguing Sundance, TIFF, and Hot Docs among others, and the situation with the latter festival is serious enough that it may have to fold.

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Deadline’s Doc Talk podcast digs into the precarious state of film festivals in our latest episode, examining that vital question with guests steeped in the field: Ken Jacobson, executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival in Arkansas and veteran of AFI, and Anne Lai, executive director of SFFilm, which puts on the San Francisco International Film Festival and Doc Stories.

Jacobson and Lai weigh in on how and why many festivals ran into trouble and what they can do to pull themselves out of it. The Sundance Film Festival has taken the remarkable step of considering a departure from its longtime home of Park City, Utah, soliciting bids from cities to become the new host of the cinematic event. Doc Talk’s guests question the rollout of that announcement, coming so close to the sudden resignation of Sundance Institute CEO Joana Vicente, who stepped down in March. Jacobson says the way Sundance is dangling the opportunity to host the festival smacks of Amazon, which in 2017 encouraged cities to open their wallets to bid on a second company headquarters. He adds ruefully, “And that didn’t go too well.”

Doc Talk, a 2024 Webby Awards honoree, is co-hosted by Oscar winner John Ridley and Matt Carey, Deadline’s documentary editor. The pod is a production of Deadline and Ridley’s Nō Studios, presented with support from National Geographic Documentary Films.

Listen to the episode above or on major podcast platforms including SpotifyiHeart and Apple.

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