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The Next 150 - Documentary Futurism

For updates on the project, visit the Documentary Futurism Facebook page and follow @docfuturism on Twitter & Instagram.

How Do We Document that which has Yet to Occur?

The Next 150 is a Cinema Politica project that envisions the creation of a new film genre called documentary futurism. Cinema Politica seeks to commission 15 short films that will imagine the beginnings of this new genre through innovation and experimentation that will lay the foundation for future work. Inspired by Afro-futurism, Indigenous futurism, speculative fiction and non-fiction, works created under the rubric of documentary futurism will deploy filmmaking approaches and contexts associated with documentary in order to imagine, speculate and represent a “Canada” of the future. Cinema Politica will launch completed films through a series of special events across the country and these films will subsequently circulate throughout the CP Network. This unique project is funded through a Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter grant.

Cinema Politica is currently calling for film proposals for short films and videos of 5-15 minutes that together will give shape to this genre. The filmmakers will have until September 2018 to complete the films. A specially convened jury of artists working in associated creative fields will review submitted work. The commission allotment for each film will be $7000 and directors will also receive an artist stipend. Artists are encouraged to innovate and break with codes and conventions, mash and remix representational modes of actuality and imagination in order to create their own interpretation of a documentary futurism film. You can find useful resources to help imagine what documentary futurism might be right here


On Documentary Futurism

You may be asking: why a new genre?

We see at least three reasons for naming and developing a new genre of filmmaking in Canada: (i) to pay tribute to and acknowledge related film practices and artistic sub-genres that go under most Canadians’ radars – in particular Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurism; (ii) to explore a cinematic language and media arts storytelling/meaning making approach that blurs borders and boundaries around fact and fiction, official narrative and subjugated knowledge, experience and fantasy; and (iii) to develop a space for the unfixing of spatial and temporal representations that is germane to bringing together the complexities of the past, present and future in one cohesive work.

We believe that on the occasion of the Canadian state marking 150 years of its existence, artists can simultaneously “look back” as they “look forward” in the works we hope to commission. That is to say that, in the hands of the artist, the articulation of a speculated future, or an
imagined fantasy, can be infused with the reality of what has passed. In their introduction to Close Encounters: The Next 500 Years, Candice Hopkins et al ask: “Why the future?” to which they respond, “To date, Indigenous thoughts, images, and words have been omitted in discussions addressing the future, or if they have been included, it is often through pan-Indian prophecies and predictions, poorly understood, and appropriated by dominant culture.” Cinema Politica’s The Next 150 is a project conceived in dialogue with artists like those featured in Close Encounters, and is indebted to ideas that have been expressed around future imaginaries concerned with social justice and equality, such as in the writings of Afrofuturist authors.

Taking our cues from Afrofuturism and Indigenous Futurism, where subjugated peoples, knowledges and subjectivities are re-centred through representations that speculate on future states (especially popularized in science fiction literature), The Next 150 celebrates and foregrounds documentary futurism – a way of artfully documenting a space and time that has yet to occur.

This new genre will offer a chance to reboot NFB founder John Grierson’s “creative treatment of actuality” to describe a kind of documentary filmmaking that embraces avant-garde and experimental formal qualities while seeking to convey both veracity and fantasy. In this light, documentary futurism could be described as the creative treatment of actuality and the documented actuality of fantasy. This new genre traces a kind of filmmaking that subverts audience expectations of “the real” and maps on to depictions of social reality an expressive speculation of what could be or what could be imagined. The emphasis on imagination and social justice connects with much of the Indigenous work currently circulating in the visual and performance art worlds of Canada today as well as in the world of speculative fiction, including the exemplary work of Canadian Afrofuturism author Nalo Hopkinson.

Why Documentary?

Cinema Politica is a network devoted to the circulation and presentation of political documentary because in part we believe non-fiction cinema has great potential to not only educate but to disrupt dominant narratives and activate audiences. Yet so much social justice oriented documentary relies on trusted codes and conventions like explanatory narration and interviews spliced with b-roll. We’re interested in providing an opportunity for artists who believe in documentary’s social justice potential to innovate, break moulds and incorporate notions of the imaginary and future into their work. We hope this will give documentary a creative boost and advance the form into new, generative, future-looking and self-determining realms.

Why Futurism?

Alondra Nelson describes Afrofuturism as “a way of looking at the world, it’s a sort of canopy for thinking about Black diasporic artistic production, it’s even an epistemology that is really about thinking about the future, thinking about the subject position of Black people and about how that is both alienating and about alienation… It’s about aspirations for modernity and about having a place in modernity. And it’s about speculation and utopia…” Following Nelson, the notion of futurism, when conjoined with documentary, explores issues of social inequity and injustice through speculative cultural expression – a mode or platform to imagine the impossible, represent that which doesn’t exist while remaining grounded in realms of actuality. It is the idea of a future documented, a speculated reality.

Who Should Apply?

The Next 150 is meant to engage five core groups of artists: (i) Indigenous; (ii) Black and Racialized; (iii) Women and Queer Identifying; (iv) Disabled, and (v) Newly Arrived (Migrants and Refugees). Cinema Politica believes that by prioritizing artists from these communities the project will champion and help facilitate self-representation as a means to self-determination. In a climate of prolific social issue documentary production, the majority of filmmakers who are celebrated herald from the most privileged social groups, and are often recognized for their works documenting those from the margins. We hope The Next 150 will contribute to a reversal or correction of this trend.

With this in mind, we invite applicants to include any relevant narrative and biographic information that might help the jury in considering these equity objectives.

Guidelines for the Submission of Proposals

Interested applicants much complete an online submission form [form is now closed], which includes the submission of a one-page proposed budget, a suggested timeline for production and the principal artist’s CV. Each proposal will in its own distinct way articulate the artist’s vision for producing a work that could be described as “documentary futurism.” We leave these interpretations entirely up to applicants, but we have come up with some suggestions and orienting materials like suggested readings and possible themes that can be viewed here.

Please fill out our proposal submission form here, and any questions or concerns should be sent to thenext150 AT cinemapolitica DOT org.

Deadline for proposal submissions is September 30, 2017. Cinema Politica will forward all eligible proposals to The Next 150 Jury, who will in turn select around fifteen works to be commissioned. The final exact number of commissioned works is dependent on the number of submissions and the final decisions of the jury.


Call for Proposals: July 31, 2017
Deadline for Proposal Submissions: September 30, 2017
Jury decision: November 20, 2017
Announcement of successful projects: November 27, 2017
Submission of finished projects to CP: September 2018
Presentation of projects in CP Network: Fall 2018 – Summer 2019

Funding Support

New Chapter logo

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter program. With this $35M investment, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

New Chapter logo

The Ontario tour of the films was generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council.


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