Banff: Programmers Talk Showcasing Timely Political Issues With 2019 Lineup

Jenn Kuzmyk and Randy Lennox- Getty-H 2019
Phillip Chin/WireImage; David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

"We're looking at a discussion of global issues and where that meets our industry," says festival exec director Jenn Kuzmyk.

Jenn Kuzmyk, executive director of the Banff World Media Festival, says Hollywood's annual Canadian Rockies retreat has found politics with its 40th edition.

"We're looking at a discussion of global issues and where that meets our industry and is directly tied to headlines and to the real world," Kuzmyk told The Hollywood Reporter about the speaker and panel lineup for the June event.

She adds getting at the zeitgeist of global concerns in Banff will help with her festival's traditional role to hothouse new media content for worldwide audiences. "When we create a content program and bring people literally from all over the world — from 25 countries in all — and everyone has disparate points of view, when that filters through into new business partnerships formed at Banff, new content emerges," she said.

Banff's politicized lineup includes Dear White People creator Justin Simien talking about identity politics after turning his 2014 feature about college race relations into a Netflix comedy, and a trio of Surviving R. Kelly producers offering the inside story on how their six-part Lifetime docuseries overnight changed the conversation about R&B star R. Kelly and his accusers. 

Elsewhere, global terrorism will likely be discussed when Jed Mercurio, creator and showrunner of the police procedural series Bodyguard and Line of Duty, talks about his work, while Banff will focus on environmental sustainability when the festival offers a North American first look for BBC's One Planet: Seven Worlds nature series, via its own master class.

And the politics of the media industry today will dominate the marquee summit series, to include keynotes by DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg, who will talk about his streaming service Quibi and how disruptive technologies are transforming the entertainment industry, while Paul Feig, who directed the 2016 female reboot of Ghostbusters, will address the current Time's Up movement after launching a female director incubator through his and Laura Fischer's digital content company, Powderkeg.

Newly-installed Banff chairman Randy Lennox insists the rarefied air and seclusion of the Canadian Rockies should help industry players find a clear vision in a fast-changing media landscape. "It's so intense now, with so much content being created for this aggregated world, that people can get myopic, so inside of their own world, that getting to Banff and being refreshed and reminded of the big picture internationally, that's another benefit that Banff brings," Lennox argued.

He added the Canadian festival for its 40th edition, as it celebrates a legacy of four decades and embraces the future, decided against offering a "company of distinction" tribute, as it has in recent years when Banff feted Lionsgate, A+E Networks and, last year, NBCUniversal.

"What we're doing is going very Switzerland. Given the advent of the 40th anniversary, it provides us an opportunity for neutrality and to celebrate the entire content universe, particularly as this moment of mergers and divestitures and probably more change than ever belies us to come into the eye of that storm and celebrate content with a completely unbiased lens," Lennox said.

The Banff World Media Festival is set to run from June 9-12.