A day after going public about the withdrawal of a long-standing annual grant from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the cut’s “potential damage,” Vancouver’s DOXA Documentary Film Festival received a call from the minister himself, with news the funding would be restored.
James Moore, Conservative MP for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, called DOXA’s interim executive director shortly before Question Period on Thursday. “He said that he supports DOXA, it’s in his backyard, he knows about DOXA and its history,” Kenji Maeda told The Globe and Mail on Thursday. “He said once he knew that DOXA funding had been removed, then he had to look into it personally.”
DOXA had applied for a $34,000 grant for the 2012 festival, which has an overall budget of about $700,000. Having received funding from Canadian Heritage since its inception, DOXA organizers were shocked when they were notified in January that the grant application had been turned down. DOXA scrambled, adding $2 to its ticket prices (up from $10 to $12), and making adjustments to areas such as filmmaker travel. It also requested a meeting with Canadian Heritage for an explanation of the decision.
Unable to get a meeting, DOXA finally issued an open letter to Mr. Moore this week (dated March 6 but posted online publicly on Wednesday). “After much thought and careful consideration, we are writing this open letter to you, Minister Moore, in order to ask, on behalf of the audiences and artists that we serve, why Canadian Heritage’s support of DOXA has been withdrawn,” the letter read, in part, concluding: “We … respectfully ask that you reconsider your decision and reinstate your financial support for DOXA so that we can continue to present relevant, timely works of documentary filmmaking to Canadian audiences.”
On Thursday, Mr. Moore said funding would be reinstated at the previous level of $29,000 for 2012 and 2013. DOXA organizers were thrilled and relieved, but with the festival planned for May 4-13, the changes may have come too late to alter decisions made over the last few weeks.
“It’s so late in the game when it comes to programming. We’ve had to make all these decisions in the last month around what we were going to do and how we’re going to approach the funding cut,” Mr. Maeda said. “At this point, what I have to do is relook at the budget and go back to the board and say, can we do more things or should we just stay with our plans for this year?”
Mr. Moore was not available to comment Thursday afternoon, but his office called the funding episode a “misunderstanding.”