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BERLINALE 2020 EFM

Brigid O'Shea • Fondatrice, Documentary Association of Europe

"DAE nasce per colmare le lacune"

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- BERLINALE 2020: Abbiamo parlato con Brigid O'Shea, una delle fondatrici della Documentary Association of Europe, che avrà il suo lancio ufficiale alla Berlinale sabato 22 febbraio

Brigid O'Shea  • Fondatrice, Documentary Association of Europe

Questo articolo è disponibile in inglese.

We talked to Brigid O'Shea, one of the founders of the Documentary Association of Europe, which is having its official launch at the Berlinale on Saturday 22 February.

Cineuropa: What are the main reasons for founding DAE? What are its goals and who are its members?
Brigid O'Shea: DAE was born less than a year ago as an idea in the minds of many people in the documentary industry looking for an association with a contemporary agenda and a voice in important discussions and debates on media politics. Most importantly, we were looking for a way to bring everyone back to the metaphorical table. Personally, I think the time for European documentaries has never been so exciting or creative, but we need collective, representative organisations to make sure we aren't missing out on things and to act as a central hub of our competence.

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I am completely overwhelmed by the response: since sharing the news that we would be having a meeting in Berlin, hundreds of individuals and organisations have expressed an interest in being involved, so clearly, we all agree that working collectively and democratically is a worthwhile pursuit.

As I complete this interview, DAE as an association doesn't exist! DAE is completely independent and has no affiliations to existing networks or associations, and is open to everyone. We will sign the founding documents at the meeting on 22 February. So, technically, we don't have any official partnerships, except the very generous and enthusiastic support offered by Matthijs Wouter Knol and Nadja Tennstedt, of the EFM and DocSalon. They have been involved since day zero, and we are so grateful for their commitment to documentaries at the Berlinale. The International Documentary Association (IDA) has expressed its support, and we will be mapping out complementary offerings over the next 12 months.

My advice to potential members is: watch this space. We are growing every day, and you can meet us and the first few members at ZagrebDox, the Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, East Doc Platform in Prague, CPH:DOX and Docudays UA in Kyiv, all before April. We just can't wait to talk with professionals working in this space, and to create a big, beautiful, vibrant network and put some fun back into our meet-ups.

What do you think of the current system for funding and distributing documentaries that is in place in Europe, and how does DAE intend to address it?
Like all independent and arthouse practitioners in Europe and abroad, many professionals and companies find themselves at a crossroads due to frequent restructuring and budget cuts, particularly in documentary's natural partner, public broadcast television. Public funding in many parts of the continent is compromised politically, or documentary as a cinema form, product and language is overlooked. So in this sense, DAE wants to share best practices with as many partners as possible, and use its energy and resources for critical and solution-orientated discussions. I imagine it will be up to the members more to inform DAE about their current production and distribution realities, rather than the network coming in with prescriptive plans for change.

Also on the agenda, of course, is working with the private digital platforms, where it is totally crucial to advocate for non-English-language content, artistic freedom and non-formatted content. There is so much to do! But really, the first thing is to identify exactly what European documentary is: who are we? Where is the money? Who is the audience? And we must learn from professionals working in radically different ways than perhaps we are used to, in the interests of modernisation and evolution.

One of the first things that DAE will do is open up spaces for professionals to share information and transfer knowledge to each other. DAE doesn't want to hold documentaries inside the structure as it exists now; we hope to use our resources to bust out of it. But also, capitalising on the successful models of some recent documentaries and demanding our visibility are our responsibility.

What other issues are crucial for DAE?
DAE is all about closing the gaps. There are fractures in our community right now: generation gaps, socio-economic gaps, producers and directors making beautiful films without a cent of public broadcasting money as well as those still working in the traditional system whose businesses aren't so badly affected by restructuring, gender parity and mobility access issues. Our first step is really about uniting these people working under the umbrella of non-fiction storytelling and creating a vision about how the next 25-plus years are all going to work, together. I think we all agree that there are big challenges ahead, and working in isolation doesn't really feel like an option to me. I expect the members to really drive the organisation in a new and exciting way that we haven't experienced in the documentary field before.

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