Sunny Side of the Doc 2021, a Committed and Engaging Edition

The 32nd edition of the international marketplace for documentary and narrative experiences was the unique opportunity for international documentary professionals to reconnect with their peers during these uncertain times, over a programme strongly focused on networking and prospects for the future of the industry.

La Rochelle, 24th June 2021   - From 21st to 24th June, some 1500 industry professionals from 58 countries (including 380 decision-makers) and 891 companies (68% of which coming from abroad) took part in the 32nd edition of Sunny Side of the Doc online via our platform that was specially designed to foster exchange. Alongside this, the 5th edition of PiXii Festival was held in La Rochelle, taking over several of the city’s emblematic venues while offering industry professionals a digital and physical programme.
“As the pandemic is receding globally, industry expectations for resuming normal activity are high. The focus for this online edition was on networking – an element much missed by many over the past months. And the figures prove this to have been a success,” introduces Mathieu Béjot, Director of Strategy and Development. Since the platform opened on 10th June, more than 1,000 meetings were organised as part of nine tailor-made matchmaking sessions for producers, distributors and new talents, and almost 15,000 messages were exchanged. 

Building European documentary

Sunny Side of the Doc’s programme has always been a melting pot of initiatives and exchanges for the documentary community - and this year was no exception, awash with European topics in connection with the new calls from Creative Europe. The European Commission’s Maria Silva Gatta presented the new programme for 2021 – 2027 which focusses on three main areas: content, business and audience, encouraging documentary actors to strengthen their efforts to become more digital, more eco-responsible, more collaborative and more inclusive. “The aim is to create a common audio-visual industry with business and industry potential without losing sight of our mission to promote cultural diversity,” explains Gatta.
With this in mind, the Scam SPI and USPA acted as a counterpoint to offer the views of film authors and producers and the risks faced which hang over the creative documentary industry. Discussions focussed on transposing the AVSMD directive, as well as the French SMAD decree and the French TNT decree.
Netflix has unveiled its new European organization chart for documentary creation: Dolores Emile looks after Unscripted and Doc Series, Mark Edwards (ex-ARTE) runs the European feature documentary slate and Kate Townsend leads the Original Documentaries (Global).
The streaming platform has reinforced, at Sunny Side of the Doc, its editorial strategy based on stories designed for a local audience yet having an international resonance, with a strong support to emerging talents. So it was only natural that the project Girls’ Stories from the Talent Hub selection won the Netflix New Voices award. This coming-of-age story follows two young girls as they navigate adolescence and features a creative, yet quirky, innovative and poetic narrative style. 

Diversity and impact in action  

Parallel to the European recommendations advocating greater diversity in grant applications, the challenge of inclusion was a talking point of the 32nd edition of the international marketplace. As Anna Serner of the Swedish Film Institute explained, not only is there a diversity problem, but also a financial one: “The higher the budget is, the fewer the women are.” 
In an attempt to introduce greater diversity and inclusivity, several initiatives were highlighted, such as Little Dot Studios, which provides training on how to pitch to potential investors, as well as the Mouatheqat/Women in Dox incubator, initiated by Dox Box, dedicated to African and Arab women who dream of becoming documentary filmmakers.  
Broadcasters are also becoming increasingly aware of these topics, as demonstrated by line-ups presented by Arte, Canal+, France Télévisions, Histoire TV & Ushuaïa TV, NHK, RMC Story & RMC Découverte. The distribution sector is also targeting these objectives: PBS International has implemented a long-term strategy aiming to increase diversity at all levels. “When we receive a project, we ask for a complete list of all team members at all levels to ensure diversity has been respected,” explained Bill Gardner, Vice President, Programming & Development. 
By increasing the opportunities for meetings and co-productions, Sunny Side of the Doc has contributed to the emergence of new voices that are under-represented on the international market, driven by the dynamism of talents showcased during the Central and Eastern Europe Panorama.
Making their debut appearance, NGOs such as The Redford Center and Ford Foundation also unveiled their programmes related to impact documentaries and funding supports. The latter is looking to get involved in the development stage on projects that take on stories of social justice. The Redford Center supports international storytellers involved in environmental impact work to galvanise environmental justice and regeneration. The Center is looking to support storytellers who are under-represented. It promotes racial justice and gender equality as well as environmental action.

PiXii Festival: hybrid in every sense

Designed as a hybrid event, the 5th edition of PiXii Festival presented the most innovative stories and immersive installations, with a backdrop of cultural heritage. From 19th to 24th June, five of La Rochelle’s most emblematic sites welcomed a public won over by 10 virtual reality, augmented reality and 3D audio experiences. More than 1,000 tickets were issued, offering exclusive access to prestigious heritage sites such as the Natural History Museum, Musée du Nouveau Monde and even the Tour de la Chaîne (Centre des Monuments Nationaux).  
The PiXii VeeR platform has recorded no less than 20,000 views for all the XR films from the Official Selection.
Hybrid was the keyword when it came to the program of industry conferences. Topics covered included native content producing for mobile featuring CNC, TikTok and Arte, and even the profitability of immersive installations in Location-Based Entertainment (LBE). Case studies such as The Infinite at the PHI Centre as well as Lady Sapiens The VR Experience perfectly illustrated how cooperation at the writing and distribution stages can positively influence production plans for increased profitability. 
“For many months now, through our central theme, #StorytellingMatters, we have responded to this call to unravel the complexities of our world, to this need to bring together the international documentary community . This was reflected in an eclectic and renew winners list, a mostly female participation (58,5%), and through our pledge to gender equality commitments made for the upcoming Generation Equality Forum,” Mathieu Béjot says.
"We are delighted with PiXii Festival’s success amongst the general public, both at cultural venues across La Rochelle and also via the online video library. This 5th edition has shown great maturity and renewed ambition. But our greatest objective, of course, will be to welcome ‘in real life’ all industry professionals in La Rochelle from 20th to 23rd June 2022."

The 33rd edition of Sunny side of the Doc and the 6th edition of PiXii Festival will take place on Monday 20th to Thursday 23rd June 2022.

All 50 sessions of the 2021 edition remain available for catch-up on the event’s digital platform until Wednesday, June 30.

Discover awards winners here.

#SSD21  |  Award  |  Storytelling Matters  |  Sunny side of the Doc 2021  |  PiXii Festival



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