KDocs: Five Years in the Making

A look at the origins of one of KPU’s largest annual events and what it has in store for 2018
Braden Klassen, Photo Editor

KDocs at Vancity Theatre, 2014 (Kier Junos)

KDocs, the annual documentary film festival organized by members of the KPU community, will be returning to Vancity Theatre in 2018. This will be the festival’s fourth year running, and it has come a long way from its relatively humble beginnings.

The origins of the festival can be traced back to 2012, after KPU instructor Janice Morris hosted a documentary screening of the film Miss Representation, which takes a critical look at the media for perpetuating gender stereotypes.

“I got this strange unsolicited email that dropped into my mailbox one day about this film,” says Morris. “We decided to try and have a film night.”

Morris partnered up with fellow KPU instructor Helen Mendes, with whom she had recently attended the Vancouver International Film Festival, and together they hosted the first screening.

“I actually did say, ‘How hard could it be?’ and at that time I had no idea how hard it really was, even to plan an event like that,” says Morris. “But we did it and it was a very successful evening.”

The two documentary buffs continued to host similar screenings and began to invite guest speakers to accompany the films. Some of the speakers that presented between 2012 and 2013 were Liz Canner for her film Orgasm Inc., David France for his film How to Survive a Plague, and celebrated author Margaret Atwood, who spoke at a KPU screening of the documentary adaptation of her book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth.

The success of the screenings inspired Morris to expand them into a full-fledged film festival. After Mendes retired in 2014, Morris rebranded the project as KDocs and partnered with VIFF in order to host a documentary showing of The Price We Pay at the Vancity Theatre. The showing, which featured the film’s director, Harold Crooks, as a special guest took place on Oct. 5, 2014 and was attended by roughly 200 people.

Five months later, KDocs appeared again at the Vancity Theatre, this time as its own independent documentary festival to screen three films over the course of one day.

“Every year since then, we’ve doubled in size,” says Morris.

She anticipates that the duration of the festival will run over four or five days in 2018, starting the screening of about 18 films on Feb. 14 or 15 and ending on Feb. 18.

This year festival will launch a new series of videos on YouTube called KDocs Talks, which will archive the festival’s keynote addresses and panel discussions for online viewing. The list of guest speakers is yet to be finalized, but Morris says that prolific anti-poverty activist Jean Swanson will be attending, as will local housing advocate Judy Graves and KPU alumni Lenée Son.

“A number of organizations now look to KDocs as a space where they can come and actually be seen and be heard, which really, at the heart of it, is the intent of KDocs,” says Morris. “They are people who are working on whatever the issues are represented in the film. They are filmmakers themselves. They are academic, and the one thing we try very hard to do is to have a student on every panel. That’s really key for us.”

Students are involved in KDocs at every level, from volunteering at the festival to being a part of the KDocs board, programming and coordinating, panel moderation, and being featured as presenters.

“I personally think it’s a really important endeavor,” says Tanvir Singh, President of the Kwantlen Student Association. “It gives students the opportunity to get a little bit more familiar with their community.”

The KSA has been a main sponsor of KDocs for years, and is planning to contribute $7,500 to the festival’s estimated budget of approximately $46,450.

“KDocs … is a catalyst or a vehicle for our partners,” says Morris. “That’s really what we’re trying to create, a space for our partners and collaborators where they can come and have their voices—which might be typically marginalized—heard.”

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