British Columbia

DOXA film festival moves all screenings online, marks 20th anniversary with special programming

The annual documentary festival, which runs May 6-16, will be making its entire program available online. This includes 49 features, dozens of shorts and a handful of live industry events.

Screenings are also being co-ordinated for B.C. high school students after 1-year hiatus

For the second year in a row, DOXA will be making its entire program available online. This includes 49 features, dozens of shorts and a handful of live Q&As and industry events that are all accessible via DOXA’s website. (

One of Western Canada's largest film industry events is celebrating its 20th anniversary by inviting people across the country to join the party from the comfort of their couch.

Despite pandemic measures and the inability to pack people into theatres, programmers for the DOXA Documentary Film Festival have prepared a full slate of thought-provoking films and events that people can access on the festival's website from May 6 to 16.

Available for viewing are 49 features, dozens of short films and a handful of live Q&As and industry events. 

Other highlights for the Vancouver festival's anniversary include a special celebration of the event's history, with three generations of program directors highlighting some of their favourite features from DOXA's past.

Returning after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19 is the DOXA's Rated Y for Youth series, which provides films and study guides for high school educators to facilitate classroom screenings.

"It's our hope that we can inspire youth and high school students to have critical conversations … [and] foster a sense of appreciation for cinema," said Dharra Budicha, the festival's programming and outreach coordinator, during an interview on CBC's The Early Edition on Thursday.

One of the films selected for school screenings is Joe Buffalo, which tells the story of the titular character, who is a celebrated Canadian skateboarder and residential school survivor.

WATCH | Trailer for Joe Buffalo directed by filmmaker Amar Chebib:

"Joe's really a skateboard legend in Canada. Anyone who has skated in the last 20 years knows who he is," said director Amar Chebib, who met Buffalo while skating in Montreal in 2015.

In 2019, Buffalo went pro and also started to speak publicly about being a residential school survivor — something Chebib did not know.

"I was really just blown away by his story and everything he had to overcome to get where he is," said Chebib, who co-wrote the film with Buffalo.

Chebib said showing this particular film to youth is important because it reaches a young, male audience — which data from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission shows is the group least informed about the painful legacy of residential schools, he said.

"We were really excited about the opportunity to make a more stylized film that would appeal to that demographic," said Chebib.

Earlier this spring, the film won the Audience Award at SXSW in Austin, Texas.

In addition to curating films for classrooms, DOXA also features a timely number of films curated by the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users as the death toll of the opioid crisis climbs ever higher.

A special series of films from French documentary auteurs, a showcase of experimental docs by Indigenous filmmakers, and a number of music documentaries also contribute to the festival's wide range of content, all of which will be made available here.

With files from The Early Edition