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Hot Docs Fest Financial Crunch Sparks Board Directors Cull

Hot Docs Fest Financial Crunch Sparks Board Directors Cull

The embattled Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival has dramatically scaled back its board of directors in the latest sign of post-pandemic financial distress at the Toronto organization.

Hot Docs said its board of directors at a June 18 meeting agreed to scale down from 14 to three members, with the co-chairs co-chairs Robin Mirsky and Lalita Krishna stepping down. That will leave as the remaining board directors Nicholas de Pencier, Kevin Wong and Lydia Luckevich, “to effectively and efficiently navigate the critical financial obstacles facing the organization over the upcoming months.”

Hot Docs has in effect initiated a root-and-branch review of its boardroom structure: “This process includes an examination of the board’s composition and structure, a governance review that will clarify and update the rules and regulations by which the board governs the organization, and a review of the board skills matrix and recruitment policies.”

The cost-cutting at Hot Docs includes a temporary summer closure of the flagship Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. Earlier, Hot Docs was plunged into chaos ahead of its 2024 edition in late April when artistic director Hussain Currimbhoy and 10 programmers had left the festival’s organizing team.

That left Hot Docs president Marie Nelson — the former ABC News and Disney exec who took the helm at the Canadian festival in June 2023 —  to warn of a widening cash crunch as the organization struggled to regain its footing coming out of the pandemic.

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Hot Docs hasn’t been alone among Canadian film festivals facing financial woes. Montreal’s Just For Laughs comedy festival has seen its parent company, Groupe Juste Pour Rire Inc., begin selling off assets after it filed for bankruptcy protection.

And the Toronto Film Festival has seen its own cost cutting after Canadian phone giant Bell, the lead sponsor since 1995 and with its name on the event’s year-round home Bell Lightbox, said it will stop its financial support. TIFF recently received a $23 million funding boost over three years from the federal government in Ottawa, in part to launch a first-time official film market in 2026.  

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