Head of industry and training, Mara Gourd-Mercado, talks about the opportunities for creative documentaries.

Under the INDUSTRY umbrella, CPH:FORUM is CPH:DOX’ flagship financing and co-production event from March 17-21 in Copenhagen. The forum will showcase 32 projects from over 65 filmmakers and producers representing 26 countries, covering a range of deeply personal to global stories. The event aims to foster dialogue and build bridges between people by presenting a variety of documentary styles and themes.

CPH:CONFERENCE will feature a variety of sessions, including a collaboration with the DISCO Network for a declaration of independent documentaries, discussions with filmmakers about their creative challenges and innovative paths, and dialogues on the latest projects and the impact of filmmaking.

This year's theme, “RE:BUILDING NARRATIVES”, aims to foster inclusivity, collaboration, and innovative storytelling in the documentary field. The event is in partnership with Documentary Campus, and seeks to empower media professionals through meaningful conversations and new partnerships.

For the entire line-up: CLICK HERE.

New head of industry and training, Argentinian-Canadian Mara Gourd-Mercado, is excited to welcome a record high number of accredited professionals.

What is your job like as head of industry and training?

Very interesting and diverse and fast. I moved here specifically for this job. I worked at a documentary film festival in Montreal for six years. It's very satisfying to be working in documentary specifically, and I am very happy to be on the industry side.

What is it like to come to the Nordics?

We have a similar financing system in Canada as in the Nordics, where we balance out public funds with broadcast and sales agents, etc. That similarity is very helpful. The industry side of CPH:DOX is that bridge between Europe and the Americas, and to make sure that producers have the opportunity to be in touch with equity funds, platforms, potential collaborators, potential partners.

How to match public funds with equity funding?

That’s one of the things that all producers who have come into touch with equity funding have to ask themselves. How does that work? And that is a similar challenge in Canada as here. People want to know how to work with equity funding. That being said, it's important to keep the public funding as well, because it provides documentary with a freedom, and it provides a space to uphold democracy. I don’t think the solution is going all in on equity funding and private investment. It's about finding a way to take the best of both worlds. So, I think that it's really important for us here in the Nordics, and also in Europe, to keep that freedom in public funding.

Do you see a growing interest from the streamers’ side in non-scripted?

The interest in non-scripted has been there for a long time. But from the audience side, there is an interest in works that redefine cinematic language, that push the boundaries of documentary filmmaking. There is an audience for this. Non-scripted content is there. It works well. The streamers are asking for it. But I do think that there is room for more creative work.

What has been the best part of coming to Copenhagen and working for CPH:DOX? What makes you proud of your work?

We are living and breathing for documentary films. We're a community. I think that nurturing a community within a business space is something very special. There is a space for money, but there is also a space for creation, for dialogue and for building connections. I think that's the part that makes me proud, to know that we are a space where people can kick off a project, and then maybe see it come back on the programme side. Every year we have projects that have gone through the forum, which then come back in our programme at CPH:DOX for the audience. That's something to take pride in.

What have you seen as the most challenging part?

CPH:DOX is very specific. So, keeping the essence, standing on the shoulders of those who came before me who built something great. And build on that, but it's still a bit abstract, right, and you want to uphold the quality and you want to uphold what has been done.

So, how is business going?

Well, actually we're looking at numbers similar to last year, which were our highest ever. And we have the same number of projects on the forum side. We received more than 620 applications for 32 seats at the table. So the numbers are there. The excitement is there. We can feel it. People look forward to coming.

More than 620 projects! How do you select?

We have many readers who read the different projects, and then we discuss them in committees and make sure that the selected projects have international and co-production potential. But it's also about originality and creativity and innovation. We look at all projects and make sure that we have representation from different areas of the world and so on. We are a European festival and market, so we want to make sure that we also cater to the industry here.

What is the status of the Nordic projects? Are there any particular trends?

Not specific trends for the Nordics. But these are challenging times. People bring the stories of what's happening now to the screens. People can feel the urgency, that we need to get those stories out there. We feel it more and more because the context is challenging, the world right now is challenging, so that's really interesting to see as a trend. But back to your question, the Nordics fare really well, as you can see in our forum, we do have a great presence of Nordic projects, and we take pride in this because we are located in Denmark.

What is a low hanging fruit for your professional visitors?

The thing about markets is that they exist to connect to the people. People want to work with people they know, and get along with. You enter a market and make your way into the industry. You have this urgency to pitch; to make those connections. But we tend to forget it's a long-term process. Patience, and building connections slowly, is something that is very important and precious.

What are the major challenges?

Regarding challenges, adapting to the rapid pace of social movements and technological advancements, like AI, is ongoing. AI presents both opportunities and challenges in filmmaking, but it won't replace human creativity. We focus on nurturing emerging talent and fostering inclusivity, and as a Canadian, when I think about inclusivity, indigenous communities are a priority.

Looking ahead, our goal is to maintain the momentum of CPH:DOX, attracting a diverse range of projects and participants. For newcomers, networking and participating in sessions are key. Finally, I think it’s vital for decision-makers to support emerging talents and embrace patient, empathetic approaches to inclusion and representation.