it was in February, but feels much farther away than that now: we were having production meetings, and targeting deadlines for programming, key art, advertising, and marketing. and then COVID-19 happened.
originally scheduled for a May 7 2020 launch, DOXA announced in mid-March that it was being postponed. and although outright cancellation would have been devastating on many levels, given the unknowns of the pandemic it was likely a consideration as well. DOXA is not unique in this madness: for months now, cultural workers and arts institutions in Vancouver have been stuck a loop from a Rocky movie, where we are the eponymous pugilist, body and brains brutally battered by a seemingly unbeatable Ivan Drago or Clubber Lang.
but if we’ve learned anything from Rocky I to Rocky IV, it’s that what really matters is HEART. [insert inspirational 80s training montage.] DOXA has come out the corner swinging, with an online film festival from June 18-26 — the first in Western Canada to go virtual.
without IRL in-cinema experiences this year, no physical materials were produced besides a short run of street posters and a few early magazine ads. typically a festival book, multiple poster runs, supporting collateral and more, would have been in the wild; backed by a robust print advertising campaign alongside digital efforts. this year — relying almost entirely on social media and digital advertising, without any physical marketing or even a printed guide — raises all sorts of questions. can we still reach our audience effectively? after months of exclusively engaging with film culture by staring at screens, are people “streamed out”? is it still a film festival if i’m eating dinner in my underwear while the new documentary about Marina Abramovic is on? it’s an experiment.
and in that spirit, 2020 warranted a different take on festival design: collage. this was a purposeful departure from DOXA’s established practice of constructing a visual language for each festival around a singular photographic subject. a marketing director from another org once told me DOXA’s design approach had become something like National Geographic magazine: each year was distinct, but undeniably recognizable. now, while i’d love to tell you this was a grand plan in establishing DOXA’s visual brand and identity — really, it was an organic practice that made sense, and became “our thing.” considering how the magazine and the festival both seek to document the world and encourage critical thought, i’ll humbly take the comparison.
hundreds of stills were reviewed and sampled. many considered, many more were tossed out. individually and on the whole, the selections needed to combine for a “character poster” but more importantly, they also needed to speak to the programming. imagery from Finding Sally, The New Bauhaus, Sankara n’est pa mort, The Silence that Remains, The Story of Plastic, Pier Kids, Influence, and Areum Married was mixed and remixed into what you see here (and hopefully, in your favourite social media feeds and websites). because so much is going on, the background was kept light, with punchy gradient pink bars for messaging highlights, and the DOXA logo a deep cyan.
eventually i’ll get around to writing up a brief history of DOXA key art. for now: please support documentary filmmakers and the Rocky Balboa of film festivals at doxafestival.ca.