And end up being free

When movies like Avatar hit the theatres, throngs of people line up for hours just to get in on opening day. Although they're now competing with movie pirates for viewership, theatres show movies from the mainstream film industry that are able to afford expensive advertising campaigns.

But what about the Canadian independent film industry, who not only lack funding for large-scale advertising campaigns, but are also not necessarily creating films that mass amounts of people want to watch? Often, they come to rely on funding through government assistance programs like Telefilm Canada, a federal cultural agency “dedicated to the development and promotion of the Canadian audiovisual industry”. In spite of government budget cuts to programs like Telefilm, which saw several million dollars cut to their budget for their Feature Film Fund, the Canadian independent film industry has remained alive, encouraging interest in independent films by hosting film festivals.

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America’s largest festival of that genre, has been occurring in Toronto annually since 1993. It was founded by the Documentary Organization of Canada, an association of independent documentary filmmakers, but later became a separate organization. Their mandate is to “showcase and support the work of Canadian and international documentary filmmakers and to promote excellence in documentary production.”

Recently, Hot Docs launched their DocLibrary at, a project that allows for over hundreds of Canadian documentaries to be streamed and watched online, at no cost to the viewer. It is a different approach to film-viewing and allows for independent documentaries to reach out to viewers outside of a film festival.

"Hot Docs at its core is all about the sharing of outstanding documentaries and stories with eager audiences," says Brett Hendrie, the site's managing director.

The website has divided documentaries by category, and tells you the length, country, and year of a documentary before you begin watching it. It also provides you with the option to create an account, which enables user comments and the creation of documentary playlists. The project is made possible through the Department of Canadian Heritage.

“With the new Doc Library we will be able to further this sharing while focusing in on stories that are uniquely Canadian, stories that are largely by Canadians for Canadians but are also relevant to the rest of the world,” says Hendrie, “and we are able to share these remarkable stories with Canadians free of charge."

HotDocs encourages users of the project to purchase the documentary’s DVD and support the artists who created the films. The documentaries cover everything from shopping at IKEA without a car, to dealing with infidelity, to following the lives of a family living with Alzheimer’s.

A similar service to that of HotDocs is provided by the National Film Board of Canada, on their website Their website now offers over 700 full-length films, trailers, and clips online. It also involves a playlist feature, where you can access playlists compiled by film experts.

These online services indicate a change in opinion in the independent film industry. To have websites that are offering you entertainment services for free would have been extremely rare even a few years ago.

No longer restricted to library video tapes and film festivals, independent films and documentaries are granted new exposure by these websites.

// Samantha Thompson
Assistant News Editor

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