New Zealand's Doc Edge Festival to Be Held Online Amid Virus Crisis

Deane Cohen
Canadian filmmaker John Walker at a past Doc Edge Festival forum

Tom Oyer, awards manager at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has committed to giving a keynote during one of the online events. "When life throws us lemons, we make gin and tonics."

New Zealand's Doc Edge Festival is among the latest international cinema events to rejig its plans amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The upcoming 15th edition of the factual film event, along with its industry-focused forum, is sticking to its originally planned dates in late May and into June, but will shift all screenings and industry activities from its usual events spaces around Auckland to a virtual format online.

"Our motto is 'Life Unscripted,' so we couldn't shy away from this, even though our country is currently in lockdown," says Doc Edge executive director Alex Lee. "When life throws us lemons, we make gin and tonics." 

Organizers have yet to reveal this year's selection and how the online screenings will be executed, but they promise "as close to a real-world festival experience as possible, to build a sense of community while in isolation."

“The current global climate has created a perfect opportunity to re-examine the core of humanity, exploring stories and having conversations about how our world is changing,” Lee says.

This year's industry programming will include Doc Edge Pitch, featuring a panel of local and international film funders, commissioners, sales agents and industry players. "COVID-19 raises important issues for the screen industry and audiences, including the future of documentary production, co-productions, funding and delivery," organizers said in a statement. "Doc Edge will take a lead in tackling these issues, which are vital to ensure the future of documentary."

Doc Edge has already begun experimenting with online activities to help meet the needs of New Zealand's documentary filmmaking community. Last weekend, the organization held an online clinic for filmmakers, and similar virtual events are planned throughout April. Tom Oyer, awards manager at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, has committed to giving a keynote during one of the online events.

"As an Academy Awards-qualifying festival, Doc Edge is honored to have Tom join us this year," says Doc Edge director Dan Shanan. "He's a perfect example of the caliber of international guests we'll be announcing over coming weeks."

During Doc Edge's official festival period in late May, all of the event's forum activities will be made available for international viewers online. "It will run on Friday and Saturday, May 29-30 — at your place,” Lee says.  

The festival's dates are May 28-June 7.