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Toronto’s Hot Docs Shaken by Mass Programmer Exit; Artistic Director Also Leaves

Short Summary:

In a surprising turn of events, Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival based in Toronto, announces the departure of ten programmers and the artistic director, Hussain Currimbhoy, citing personal reasons. This mass exit occurs as the festival prepares for its 2024 edition scheduled from April 25 to May 5.

Hot Docs, the leading documentary festival in North America, situated in Toronto, Canada, is confronting an unexpected challenge as ten of its programmers have announced their departure en masse, alongside the artistic director, Hussain Currimbhoy, who left for personal reasons on March 20. This announcement was confirmed by the festival officials on Monday afternoon, introducing a wave of uncertainty ahead of this year’s festival, set to commence on April 25.

The departing team members, including Samah Ali, Vivian Belik, Jesse Cumming, Angie Driscoll, Margaret Pereira, Gabor Pertic, Kaitlynn Tomaselli, Myrocia Watamaniuk, Mariam Zaidi, and Yiqian Zhang, took to social media to announce their exits. Their tenure at Hot Docs varied, with some being recent additions and others, such as Watamaniuk and Driscoll, having contributed over two decades of service to the festival.

Despite the sudden departures, the 2024 edition of Hot Docs is still on track, with Heather Haynes, the festival director, spearheading the final preparations. The festival’s lineup is expected to be announced shortly, maintaining the excitement for what is considered the largest documentary festival in North America.

This mass exit has raised questions about the festival’s future direction and its ability to maintain its prestigious status in the documentary film community. Each of the departing programmers expressed a unified sentiment of regret over their decision but reaffirmed their commitment to supporting films and filmmakers, which they regard as the cornerstone of any film festival.

Currimbhoy’s departure is notably significant, given his recent appointment in November to lead the festival’s programming team, along with overseeing Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema and the educational initiative Docs for Schools. His extensive experience across global film festivals was deemed instrumental for this year’s edition of Hot Docs.

The news comes amidst financial uncertainties for Hot Docs, with the festival’s president, Marie Nelson, warning earlier this year of the potential for 2024 to be the festival’s final edition without additional government support, following financial losses during the pandemic.

As the documentary film community awaits further developments, the focus remains on the festival’s ability to navigate through these challenges and continue its legacy of celebrating documentary cinema.