“It is worth building documentary bridges between East and West”

17. 7. 2023

Author: IDF

Ex Oriente Film, an esteemed international project-based film training programme, has recently expanded its horizons to include documentary series projects. 

The workshop, known for its support of documentarists from Central and Eastern Europe, held its first session in partnership with Sunny Side of the Doc in La Rochelle, France, in June 17-21. This pioneering move comes as a response to the increasing global demand for documentary series and marks a significant milestone in the region's documentary industry.

Zdeněk Blaha, the East Doc Platform Manager from the Institute of Documentary Film, expressed his delight regarding the collaboration between Ex Oriente and Sunny Side of the Doc: “This year's edition proved to be a source of inspiration, thanks to our fabulous partnership with Sunny Side of the Doc, who will host the new Ex Oriente Series program also in the coming years.”

Ruth Reid, producer and leading tutor of Ex Oriente Series explains the specifics of a documentary series: “Documentary series is a genre with endless possibilities. One that has challenged our industry’s practices and opens new doors to audiences we have never met before with creative documentaries.” She wants to inspire more filmmakers to consider the series format without it being a versioning afterthought.

12 feature films and, for the first time, 5 documentary series projects experienced an intensive workshop during Sunny Side of the Doc, where they worked on their projects under the supervision of international experts, discussing the topic, characters and narrative structure, as well as production issues and co-production possibilities.

The director Timo Novotny, a participant from Austria with the project Exit Only, enjoyed the 1st session a lot: “We had an amazing time with amazing tutors who picked our brains a lot. For the 2nd session 2 I would really like to know how we can really approach the big streamers, cause I love to think big and I really want them to come on board.”

The Institute of Documentary Film also very much appreciates the partnership with the American Film Showcase, which added another layer of value to the Ex Oriente Film workshop. Esteemed lecturers such as Nanfu Wang, Victoria Bruce, and Matthew Syrett from the United States enriched the programme with their expertise, providing participants with a global perspective and fostering cross-cultural exchange.

Nanfu Wang – A Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner (One Child Nation) is not a stranger to Ex Oriente. This Chinese-American director joined the Ex Oriente programme for the second time as one of the tutors and in La Rochelle delivered in-depth case study of her new documentary series, Mind Over Murder (HBO), a gripping true-crime story about the case of rape and murder of Beatrice Six. In her masterclass, Wang went into details both on the creative, directorial side, as well as production aspects of working with major studios and broadcasters, such as HBO.

Matthew Syrett  – The documentary series MerPeople became a recent hit on Netflix, bringing on the screen a story of real-life mermaids and the unexpected half-billion-dollar industry behind it. This 4-episode docuseries by Cynthia Wade was introduced by Matthew Syrett, who worked as the lead story producer on the series. In his lecture Syrett went into detail of producing and developing this series for Netflix, with emphasis on the story, characters and main themes distributed through each episode. Matthew Syrett is an award winning documentary producer and story producer. He is best known for producing the Academy Award winning movie Freeheld.

Diana El Jeiroudi  –  An acclaimed documentary filmmaker born in Damascus and based in Berlin. Her films capture sociopolitical tensions and have garnered international recognition, including "Republic of Silence" at La Biennale di Venezia 2021. As a producer, she has worked on notable films such as "5 Seasons of Revolution," "Silvered Water - Syria Autoportrait," and "The Mulberry House." El Jeiroudi has been instrumental in advancing the documentary film community, co-founding the first Syrian documentary film festival, DOX BOX, and establishing the support organization DOX BOX e.V. in Berlin. She actively mentors emerging talents, participates in professional committees and juries, and continues to create impactful films as an independent director, editor, and screenwriter.

See more about the Ex Oriente Film tutors
See more about Ex Orente Film selected projects

The second session will take place for the first time in Germany in October during DOK Leipzig. Nadja Tennstedt, the director of DOK Industry at DOK Leipzig comments on our new collaboration: “Institute of documentary film has been a valuable and trusted partner of DOK Industry for many years. Each year we are continually impressed by the high quality of projects selected for Ex Oriente. Therefore, it brings us great joy to welcome the talented creative teams of documentary feature and documentary series along with the knowledgeable and inspiring professionals who will be guiding and mentoring these teams.”

The last and final 3rd session will organize the Institute of Documentary Film during East Doc Platform from 22nd till 28th March 2024. 


Ex Oriente Feature Docs

  • 2nd session: October 6 - 10, 2023: DOK Leipzig, Germany
  • 3rd session: March 22 - 28, 2024: East Doc Platform, Prague, Czech Republic - in partnership with One World Film IHRDFF

Ex Oriente Series

  • 2nd session: 7 - 9, October 2023: DOK Leipzig, Germany
  • 3rd session: 26 - 28 March, 2024: East Doc Platform, Prague, Czech Republic - in partnership with One World IHRDFF
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