Exiting Hot Docs Programmers Cite “Toxic Workplace” For Mass Exodus In Open Letter

The ten film programmers who led a mass exodus this week out of Canada’s Hot Docs Film Festival have said a “toxic workplace” environment was the central issue behind their public exit.

In a joint statement shared across social media platforms, the ten programmers, including Senior International Programmer Myrocia Watamaniuk, said: “We consider ourselves to be one of the most principled, process-driven programming teams in the business, and we were unable, this year, to carry out that process.”

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They continued to say the “once welcoming programming environment” at Hot Docs had “recently turned into a toxic workplace” due to “a lack of respect for business communication, team members voices not being heard and/or being dismissed, and contracts breached across various programmes.”

“We were expected to work in an ever-changing, chaotic, unprofessional and discriminatory environment,” the letter read.

The signatories said that programming team members “approached HR, Senior Management, the President and then the Board” with their concerns. The letter states that there was an effort by all parties in the matter to “work together” until what they describe as “public transparency” around “gender discrimination, cultural dismissal, and mismanagement of the process” was denied.

“In order to keep a world-class event and documentary touchstone like Hot Docs relevant and thriving, the programming team believes it must be kept accountable and transparent,” the letter states.

The letter ends with the programming team expressing support for this year’s Hot Docs film program.

The open letter followed after a festival spokesperson confirmed to Deadline earlier this week that Hussain Currimbhoy was out as Artistic Director. In a statement to us this morning, the festival shared a response to the allegations laid out in the letter.

The festival said: “Hussain stepped down from his role as Artistic Director on March 20th due to personal reasons. Hot Docs is not in a position to comment on internal personnel matters due to a variety of confidentiality concerns. As was stated at this morning’s press conference by President Marie Nelson and Director of Festival Programming Heather Haynes, we are holding the door open for any programmers who would like to return this year or for future festivals.”

This year’s Hot Docs Documentary Festival is set to open on April 25 and run through May 5.

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