Documentary and Audiovisual Forum: What Audience for Tomorrow?

VdR 2021 | What audience for tomorrow? The Distribution of Documentary Cinema – one year later

In light of the reflections on our Documentary and Audiovisual Forum “The future of Creative Documentaries” discussed in 2019 at Visions du Réel, we imagined to explore further the subject in 2020 by addressing the issue of distribution. However, the Covid-19 sanitary crisis was a turning point, forcing us to cancel the session and disrupting our habits, in particular those related to our role as spectators. Therefore, today the question is misplaced but, at the same time, more urgent and relevant than ever.

The distribution of documentary films has always been a challenge, often requiring the development of extraordinary and bold strategies. In a time where cinemas are put under strain, theatrical releases, just like festival presentations, do not constitute the point of departure for the distribution strategy anymore. On the other hand, online viewing platforms are growing incredibly popular, both in terms of audience and in terms of their financial and political weight in society. The matter of institutions’ roles and of public proposals to support the distribution and the broadcasting of independent films becomes equally political (especially given the right holders’ remuneration is also jeopardised). As a result, how to widen the public for documentary cinema becomes one of the most important aspects to touch during the discussion.

This is why, one year after the start of the sanitary crisis that disrupted the economy of cinemas, during Visions du Réel 2021 edition in Nyon, we dedicated our Documentary and Audiovisual Forum to distribution. This way, our goal is to stimulate the proliferation and exchange of ideas and examples of both Swiss and international practices in the field.



Matthias Bürcher
Head of Operations and Diversity of the offer, OFC, CH

Susa Katz
Deputy managing director, responsible for the nonfiction department and for distribution Zürcher Filmstiftung, CH

Pierre-Adrian Irlé
Project Leader – Play Suisse, CH

Tobias Faust
Co-director, Kult.kino, my, CH

Mischa Schiwow
Distributor, Frenetic Films, CH

David Bernet
Film Director, AG DOK, DE


Barbara Miller
Director, president ARF/FDS