Film festivals are not just about publicity, red carpet and awards, they are also about interaction between people and great atmosphere.

DokuFest has for years brought special moments in a unique atmosphere where the whole city would turn into a festive mode and where cinephiles had the opportunity to meet either in or outside the cinemas, at a number of festival locations and at numerous parties and late bar gatherings. This is sadly not possible now due to the situation with global pandemic that abruptly disrupted the traditional festival circuit and transformed the way we watch and consume films.

And now, the talk of the day is going online! So, what are the challenges of migrating into the virtual sphere? Does the benefit of gaining more audience equals that of losing the flavor and atmosphere that physical festivals bring and represent? Is this temporary or are we going to stay there more than once? What have we learned so far and how will this impact the future of the film festivals?

Festival programmers discuss the challenges and the opportunities with the new situation.

Orwa Nyrabia is the Artistic Director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. He was born in Syria where he worked as actor and as a journalist, before starting up the first independent documentary-specialized production company in the country, in 2002, together with his partner Diana el Jeiroudi. Later on in 2008, Nyrabia and El Jeiroudi co-founded the independent documentary film festival DOX BOX, which quickly became the Arab region’s leading documentary festival. Nyrabia moved to Egypt in 2012, then to Germany in 2013, where he continued producing award-winning international co-productions such as Dolls, A Woman from Damascus (IDFA 2007), Return to Homs (IDFA 2013 and Sundance 2014) and Silvered Water (Cannes 2014). Nyrabia tutored many up and coming filmmakers from around the world and served as juror for some of the world’s most influential film funds and festivals. He is a member of AMPAS, IDA, EDN. His films earned a long list of awards including a Sundance Grand Jury award and a Grierson Award and his work earned him accolades such as the George Polk Award, the Nestor Almendros Award and the Katrin Cartlidge Award.

Born in Portugal, Cíntia Gil attended the Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema (Lisbon Theatre and Film School) and holds a degree in Philosophy from the Faculdade de Letras da Universidade do Porto (Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Porto). Cíntia has been Festival Director at Sheffield Doc/Fest since November 2019. From 2012-2019, Gil served as the co-director of Doclisboa, Portugal’s most important and steadily expanding documentary film festival. Gil has curated a variety of contemporary and historical film series, retrospectives, and exhibitions. She has been a member of the executive board of Apordoc – Associação pelo Documentário, the Portuguese documentary film association, since 2015. Gil’s texts have appeared in numerous philosophy and art publications and is also a regular guest at panel discussions, conferences, and on international festival juries like Berlinale, Mar del Plata, FIDMarseille among others.

Veton Nurkollari is Artistic Director of DokuFest, Kosovo’s largest cultural event and one of the most important documentary and short film festivals in South East Europe, which he co-founded in 2002 with a group of friends. He is also one of the curators of DokuPhoto, an annual showcase of documentary photography that runs alongside film festival. Veton is a member of European Film Academy’s documentary selection committee as well as of Cinema Eye Honors selection committee, a New York City based organization that recognizes and honors exemplary craft in nonfiction filmmaking and is also one of the founding board members of The Albanian Cinema Project, an initiative to bring awareness, attention, and assistance to the plight of the Albanian National Film Archive.

Veton regularly curates film programs and juries at various film festivals and is currently involved in a coaching and mentorship of young filmmakers from Kosovo within “Future is Here” and “Heritage Space” projects.

Veton Nurkollari is a member of European Film Academy and European Cultural Parliament.

Shane Smith is Director of Programming at Hot Docs, North America’s largest Festival and Market for documentary film. Smith previously worked at the Toronto International Film Festival as director of Special Projects, and director of Public Programs. Prior to TIFF he was Executive Producer, In-Flight Entertainment at Spafax, Director of Programming at Channel Zero Inc, Director CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival, Short Film Programmer for Sundance Film Festival, Programmer for Inside Out LGBT Film Festival.

Smith has participated on juries and panels at festivals and events around the world.

Emilie Bujès is since 2017 the Artistic director of Visions du Réel, International Film Festival (Nyon, Switzerland) and is a Program advisor for Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, as well as an expert for the Swiss fund visions sud est. She has been the deputy artistic director of La Roche-sur-Yon International Film Festival and a member of the ‘Image/mouvement’ commission of the CNAP (French National Centre for Visual Arts). Before this, she was a curator at the Geneva Contemporary Art Center and has contributed to the program of film festivals and art institutions such as the Forum Expanded–Berlinale, the Contemporary Art Centre Vilnius, the Lausanne Underground Film and Music Festival, the Transmediale (Berlin), or the artist/curator-run space Forde (Geneva). She has been teaching at the Geneva School of Art and Design and Bern University of the Arts, and received a Swiss Art Award for curators in 2014.

Pamela Cohn is a freelance film curator, writer, and nonfiction story consultant and dramaturge for documentary filmmakers and moving image artists. She is the author of Lucid Dreaming: Conversations with 29 Filmmakers (OR Books New York & London 2020) and writes and hosts The Lucid Dreaming Podcast, co-created with producer Luke W Moody at LONO Studio, London. She works as a host and moderator for filmmaker talks and panels at an array of international festivals including True/False Film Fest, Sheffield Doc/Fest, DokuFest, Open City, and International Documentary Festival Amsterdam.