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Marie Nelson Exits Hot Docs as President

Marie Nelson Exits Hot Docs as President

Hot Docs president Marie Nelson — the former ABC News and Disney executive who took the helm in June 2023 — has left the struggling Canadian documentary festival.

It is with deep regret and gratitude that the Hot Docs board of directors announces that our president Marie Nelson has shared the news that she will be leaving her position at Hot Docs,” the festival said in a statement. That’s from a Hot Docs board of directors that recently scaled down from 14 to three members and temporarily shuttered its Toronto cinema for the summer as their event financially restructures.

Interim executive director Janice Dawe and managing director Heidi Tao Yang will run Hot Docs as it attempts to survive a post-pandemic financial distress, the fest confirmed. Hot Docs was plunged into chaos ahead of its 2024 edition when artistic director Hussain Currimbhoy and 10 programmers left the festival’s organizing team.

A year ago, Nelson replaced Chris McDonald, who first as executive director and then as president has led the Hot Docs festival in Toronto for 25 years. 

Financial woes like the ones facing Hot Docs as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs has spread to rival Canadian festivals, including Montreal’s Just For Laughs annual comedy event. The Just For Laughs parent company, Groupe Juste Pour Rire Inc., recently filed for bankruptcy protection and began selling off key assets as that organization also tries to recover from pandemic-era in-person event closures and disruption.

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And the Toronto Film Festival has faced 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. No replacement sponsor has yet been announced by TIFF, even as the federal government stepped forward with a $23 million investment over three years to fund a first-time official film market.

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