Hot Docs Announces New $50,000 Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch Prize

Hot Docs Audience Award winner and Oscar nominee St. Louis Superman was an AJ Witness success


By Pat Mullen

Hot Docs announced today a new $50,000 prize partnership with Al Jazeera’s English documentary programme Witness. The Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch will award a cash prize at this year’s festival to the best short documentary pitch. In addition to receiving up to $50,000 USD for a full commission, the selected film will premiere on Witness across Al Jazeera platforms.

The Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch selects six teams to pitch their short film projects at Hot Docs 2020. Applications open February 10 and filmmakers of all levels of experience are welcome to apply. The process is open to Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or filmmakers with refugee status. A panel of judges will determine the winner, which will be announced at the Hot Docs awards ceremony on Friday, May 8.

“There are so many creative filmmakers who excel at telling compelling stories through short film,” said Elizabeth Radshaw, Hot Docs’ director of industry programs, in a statement from the festival. “We’re so pleased to be able to reward their remarkable talents and champion their work with this new partnership and prize.”

Last year’s Hot Docs featured an AJ Witness success story in St. Louis Superman. Directed by Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra, St. Louis Superman was commissioned for Witness and went on to win the Hot Docs Audience Award for Best Short Film. The film follows Ferguson activist turned politician Bruce Franks, Jr. and observes his fight to translate the spirit of the Black Lives Matter movement into political action. St. Louis Superman is currently an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

“We are delighted to partner with Hot Docs on this exciting short documentary pitch competition for filmmakers across Canada,” said Fiona Lawson-Baker, executive producer for Witness, in a statement. “We champion the art of observational filmmaking in our Witness short films by placing human experiences at the heart of the story. We can’t wait to connect with Canadian filmmakers, discover new voices, and share their stories with our global audiences.”

Hot Docs 2020 runs April 30 to May 10.