Hussain Currimbhoy Out As Hot Docs Artistic Director As 10 Programmers Exit – Update

UPDATED, 3:55 p.m.: Without acknowledging them by name, a spokesperson for leading documentary festival Hot Docs has confirmed the departure of “some members of the programming team,” as well as recently appointed Artistic Director Hussain Currimbhoy.

“Hot Docs has announced that Hussain Currimbhoy stepped down from his role as Artistic Director on March 20th due to personal reasons. Hussain was fundamental in programming this year’s Festival,” wrote a spokesperson in a statement to Deadline.

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Clarifying that “Festival Director Heather Haynes will lead the programming department in preparations for this year’s Festival, April 25-May 5,” the spokesperson added that “regrettably, some members of the programming team have decided not to participate in this year’s Festival. We thank them for their contributions.”

Wrapping up their statement, rep for Hot Docs said, “We look forward to celebrating this year’s films with our audiences and bringing them together with filmmakers to share their important stories.”

As we previously reported, Senior International Programmer Myrocia Watamaniuk took to Facebook to announce her exit from Hot Docs, along with that of nine colleagues. The list included Samah Ali, Vivian Belik, Jesse Cumming, Angie Driscoll, Margaret Pereira, Gabor Pertic, Kaitlynn Tomaselli, Mariam Zaidi, and Yiqian Zhang. Currimbhoy had only joined Hot Docs last November.

While no specific reason was for the programmers’ exits was given, they came following recent comments to CBC from Hot Docs President Marie Nelson, suggesting that the org continues to be hampered financially following the Covid-19 pandemic.

PREVIOUSLY, 9:33 a.m.: Ahead of the 2024 edition of the Hot Docs Canadian Documentary Festival, 10 programmers have announced their exit — among them, Senior International Programmer Myrocia Watamaniuk, who revealed on Facebook that she’d be departing after more than 20 years at the organization.

“I have made the heartbreaking choice to exit the 2024 Hot Docs Festival,” Watamaniuk wrote. “I do so with 9 of my fellow colleagues, listed below. I will continue to fight for films and filmmakers—they are the bedrock of all film festivals, and the reason I do this job.”

Others Watamaniuk cited as leaving included International Programmer, Features Samah Ali (who was with the fest from 2020-2024), International Programmer, Mid-Lengths Vivian Belik (2020-2024), International Programmer, Markers Jesse Cumming (2021-2024), Senior International Programmer, Features & Shorts Angie Driscoll (2003-2024), International Programmer, Mid-Lengths Margaret Pereira (2023-2024), International Programmer, Features Gabor Pertic (2010-2024), International Programmer, Features Kaitlynn Tomaselli (2023-2024), International Programmer, Shorts & Canadian Programmer, Features & Shorts Mariam Zaidi (2016-2024), and Canadian Programmer, Features & Shorts Yiqian Zhang (2023-2024).

Reps for the festival have not yet returned request for comment.

The departures come following recent comments to CBC from Hot Docs President Marie Nelson, suggesting that the org continues to be hampered following shutdowns of the in-person fest and the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema at the height of Covid. “We are now turning back to [the] government to say, yes it was great to provide some support during the pandemic, but let’s not think that the pandemic is over for us,” Nelson said on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. Past government funding partners for Hot Docs have included the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council.

The largest documentary festival in North America, Hot Docs set Hussain Currimbhoy as its new artistic director, also responsible for overseeing the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, as well as educational initiative Docs for Schools, in November. This year’s festival is taking place in Toronto from April 25 – May 5.

News of the Hot Docs programmer exits was first reported by Screen Daily.

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