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Cannes Doc Day: Kirsten Johnson and Kaouther Ben Hania

Cannes Docs, the Marché du Film sidebar dedicated to documentary film, has unveiled the line-up of its Doc Day, which unspools on May 23, as the final event in at Cannes Docs.

Veteran U.S. cinematographer and documentary filmmaker Kirsten Johnson, president of Cannes Festival’s Œil d’or Jury which hands out an award to the best doc in Cannes’ Official Selection, will open the morning session in a conversation with writer, director and producer Guetty Felin (“Ayiti Mon Amour,” “Closer to the Dream”).

Entitled “Cinema and the Pleasures of the Impossible,” it will explore the many ways filmmaking creates possibilities to search for the invisible, to bring life to the dead and to time travel in their lives.

“It’s an exciting and side-stepping angle compared to usual industry talks,” explains the head of Cannes Docs Pierre-Alexis Chevit, “which we really like at Cannes Docs, because that is what we’re trying to do: Offer talks and conversations that are slightly out of the industry box.”

In the same vein, the following discussion features an all-female panel made up of filmmakers Zeynep Güzel (“Impressions of A Summer,” “Come Rain or Shine”), Mina Keshavarz (“The Art of Living in Danger,” “Braving the Waves”) and Sahra Mani (“A Thousand Girls Like Me, “Bread and Roses”), who will come together to discuss their work, dreams, aspirations and hopes for the future.

“Called ‘An Impenetrable Field of Optimism,’ this will be a precious and very intimate conversation that goes beyond the classic production filmmaking issues and dive into very personal challenges, especially for women filmmakers trying to work in dangerous countries like Afghanistan or Iran,” says Chevit. 

Keshavarz was arrested and imprisoned by Iranian authorities last May together with filmmaker Firouzeh Khosrovani. Mani’s latest film, “Bread and Roses,” about the experiences of Afghan women living under the Taliban, is part of Cannes’ official selection and will have a special screening on May 21. 

The morning session wraps up with “Anatomy of a Scene,” where speaker Yoni Golijov, the producer of Laura Poitras’ 2022 Golden Lion winner “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” will share a behind the scenes account of one of the doc feature’s climatic scenes.

Afternoon sessions start with Ethiopian-American producer-writer-director Mehret Mandefro (“The Story of All of Us,” “Inheritance”) in a keynote entitled “Moving Beyond Empathy and Equity in Global Stories,” in which she will examine the rising cultural influence of the global South and how the West needs to embrace these stories without cultural bias.

The next guest is Oscar-nominated Tunisian filmmaker Kaouther Ben Hania (“Beauty and the Dogs,” “The Man Who Sold His Skin”) who will talk about her latest film, hybrid doc “Four Daughters,” which is playing in the main competition in Cannes.

Wrapping up the panels, director Justine Harbonnier and her main protagonist will discuss Cannes Docs’ closing film “Caiti Blues,” which will be screened in the evening following the Docs-In-Progress awards.

Each year, Cannes Docs partners with leading festivals and organizations from across the world to showcase a selection of docs-in-progress in the final stages of post-production for industry decision makers. This year, 32 projects are being presented in eight showcases from Canada, Scandinavia, Chile and Circle Women Doc Accelerator, as well as newcomers Scotland, Italy, Spain and Docs By The Sea, which features films from Asia.

In line with previous editions, Cannes Docs will propose numerous workshops and networking events, as well as daily panels with A-list speakers curated in association with DAE (Documentary Association of Europe). These range from a masterclass with Karin Chien, the producer of “Man in Black,” one of two docs by China’s Wang Bing to appear in Cannes’ official selection, to the role of festivals in promoting documentary, curatorial justice and the market value of creative docs.

Two new daily formats include the Co-Pro Social Club, a series of informal presentations by experienced doc producers open to taking on new projects in co-production, and the Daily Morning boost, where guests from the doc and film scene will start the day by sharing inspirational and motivational contributions “to create a safe space for everyone to be prepared for another day in the crazy Cannes jungle,” says Chevit. 

Doc Day is organized by Cannes Docs–Marché du Film, with the support of Doc Alliance, Participant, La Scam (the French civil society of multimedia authors), in association with l’Œil d’or, Année du Documentaire, DAE, the CNC and ACID (the Association for the Distribution of Independent Cinema). It unspools May 18-23.

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