Source: Dahlia Katz

The Ted Rogers cinema in Toronto during Hot Docs

The 10 Hot Docs programmers who abruptly resigned from the Canadian documentary festival this week have explained their departure, claiming they “were expected to work in an ever-changing, chaotic, unprofessional and discriminatory environment”.

The programmers issued the statement on social media on Tuesday morning more than an hour before the festival unveiled the programme for the 2024 edition running April 25-May 5.

The programmers noted three reasons that turned the “once welcoming programming environment… into a toxic workplace”. The reasons were “a lack of respect for business communication; team voices not being heard and/or being dismissed; and contracts breached across various programmes”.

In a statement to Screen responding to the programmers’ comments, the festival said: “Hot Docs is not in a position to comment on internal personnel matters due to a variety of confidentiality concerns.”

Scroll down for the full statements

Screen reported the mass exit on Monday. The festival confirmed the news later in the day, adding that artistic director Hussain Currimbhoy had left on March 20 for “personal reasons”.

Programmers Samah Ali, Vivian Belik, Jesse Cumming, Angie Driscoll, Margaret Pereira, Gabor Pertic, Kaitlynn Tomaselli, Myrocia Watamaniuk, Mariam Zaidi, and Yiqian Zhang announced they were leaving in coordinated social media posts on Monday.

In its statement to Screen on Tuesday Hot Docs said: ”Hussain [Currimbhoy] stepped down from his role as artistic director on March 20th due to personal reasons.

”As was stated at this morning’s press conference by president Marie Nelson and director of festival programming Heather Haynes, we are holding the door open for any programmers who would like to return this year or for future festivals.”

Haynes is leading the programming department in the wake of Currimbhoy’s departure. 

Hot Docs programmers’ statement

The 10 programmers who have left Hot Docs 2024 have done so independently of any other Hot Docs personnel.

We consider ourselves to be one of the most principled, process-driven programming teams in the business, and we were unable, this year, to carry out that process.

Programming Hot Docs is a labor of love: love for both the films/filmmakers, and for the process of choosing films. We, as programmers, uphold a standard of care for filmmakers: There is an implicit trust between us.

Hot Docs does important work, operating under the values of inclusivity and equity.

The once welcoming programming environment was recently turned into a toxic workplace created by:

1) a lack of respect for business communication

2) team members voices not being heard and/or being dismissed

3) contracts breached across various programmes

We were expected to work in an ever-changing, chaotic, unprofessional and discriminatory environment.

Programming team members approached HR, Senior Management, the President and then the Board in good faith to share our concerns. There was an effort by all parties to work together until public transparency (with regard to the gender discrimination, cultural dismissal, and mismanagement of the process) was requested by the programming team and denied.

In order to keep a world-class event and documentary touchstone like Hot Docs relevant and thriving, the programming team believe it must be kept accountable and transparent.

“The programming team fully supports and celebrates the films in the festival this year — films are the penicillin to what ails the world because they hold the mirror up to our shared experience: Fiction lets you escape, documentary confronts. We can’t dream, change, or do better until we see who we are,” said the programming team. “We as programmers feel the need to uphold the same standards of social justice as the documentaries we are championing.”


2024 Hot Docs Programmers