Hosting their first hybrid festival


Kodie Trahan-Guay


Belleville Downtown DocFest promotes awareness and understanding about global issues through documentary films – films that Quinte residents may not otherwise have the opportunity to see. 

The first annual DocFest premiered in 2012 and was run by a group of dedicated volunteers. The organization has continued to flourish ever since. DocFest, now in its twelfth year, is in the hands of two powerhouse women with backgrounds in the arts: Festival Chair Holly Dewar and Festival Coordinator Jodi Cooper. 

Dewar grew up in Belleville before moving to Toronto – she returned to Belleville in 2012. Working at the Belleville Public Library gives her an opportunity to connect with what is going on locally. She was asked to be part of DocFest and thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people and get involved in a community that had similar interests to hers. 

Documentaries are an important global art form and a critical cultural practice that brings forth truth in ways which can have long term, profound effects on the audience.

“I really like the way that they take you into a world that you might never have an opportunity to experience. So they really broaden your knowledge and they really influence your thinking on a subject and make you investigate it more,” says Dewar. “They delve deeper into topics that are often very interesting and that sometimes you wouldn’t have even thought you’d be keen on knowing more about.”

Cooper served as a DocFest committee member for years, and this year marks her first as the Festival Coordinator. She is a filmmaker who is passionate about telling stories.  

“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve loved stories. My mom was involved with the theatre guild here when I was young so I’ve always wanted to go into that field.” says Cooper about why she is interested in film.

“I love docs because I’m a lifelong learner. I love to learn about new things. They do such a great job of storytelling, of being engaging, of kind of zooming in that microscope. You’re really close to the subject in a way you wouldn’t be able to be in any other way.” says Cooper. “Really good docs zoom you back out and show you how that connects to the rest of the world, how that connects to what you’re doing.”

Downtown DocFest 2023 was the first hybrid festival allowing for in-person screenings and virtual. It enabled them to grow their audience and engage viewers from all over the province who look forward to experiencing the festival annually. 

“Over the past two years we had moved to fully virtual and we recognized that was a great way to grow our audience because now we’re attracting viewers from across Ontario,” says Cooper about the festival.  “We have some dedicated audience members who are not from our community but love to see the films.”

To hear more check out the Quinte Arts Council Podcast Makin’ Stuff Up: Belleville Downtown Docfest, available on Amazon, Audible, Youtube and Spotify. 

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