Aje Short Pitch Bnr

Hot Docs Al Jazeera Short Pitch

Six Canadian filmmaking teams will pitch their short doc projects to a panel of judges.

The competition will award at least one winner with up to $50,000 USD for a full commission, and the winning project(s) will premiere on the Witness strand across Al Jazeera branded platforms, including television, online and apps.

AJE Witness showcases independent documentaries that place people at the heart of the story. With inspirational and provocative stories, and intimate character-led accounts, AJE Witness provides an insight into the world’s key global events as they impact people’s daily lives. AJE Witness films look at the big issues from the inside out and celebrate the human spirit, with a sense of humour and poignancy even in the most difficult of circumstances. Al Jazeera English reaches more than 352 million households in over 150 countries, delivering bold reporting that informs, empowers and challenges perceptions.

2020 Projects

In 2020, two winners each received $50,000 USD ($70,000 CAD) for a full commission. The winning project(s) will premiere on the Witness strand across Al Jazeera branded platforms.*

Illegal Billboards (working title)
Pitch Team: Cat Mills (Director), Felicity Justrabo (Producer) (Ontario)
A high-energy anarchist-type targets illegal billboards in the city of Toronto, fighting to have two particular billboards removed, a decade later.

Six Mile and Woodward (working title)
Pitch Team: Erin Byrnes (Producer & Director), Allie Jaynes (Co-Producer), Lucia Ho (Associate Producer)
Production Company: Found Poetry Films (Ontario)
After losing friends to violence, Julisa Abad is helping other trans women of color in Detroit confront widespread violence by galvanizing her community to confront their attackers in court and demand justice.

Horse Nation
Pitch Team: Duncan McDowall (Writer & Director), Angie-Pepper O’Bomsawin (Writer & Producer)
Production Company: Before the Wire & Peppered Films (Montreal, Quebec)
Ty is getting youth off drugs and on horseback—reconnecting Indigenous kids to their culture and building back up the ranks of the warriors of Horse Nation.

Publisher on a Hit List
Pitch Team: Catherine Hébert (Writer & Director), Christine Falco (Producer)
Production Company: Films Camera Oscura (Quebec)
After surviving an attack on his life, Tutul, a Bangladeshi publisher, refuses to be silenced in his fight for freedom of expression, free thought, and the right to live in a secular country.

The Shoeless Boy
Pitch Team: Ania Jamila (Director), Josiane Blanc
Production Company: Diversified Voices (Ontario)
Khalid, who suffers from muscular degeneration, devoted his entire life to helping underserved children. At 48 years old, stuck in a wheelchair, he is now ready to fulfil his dream by qualifying to the Paralympic games, before it’s too late.

Tiny Pricks
Pitch Team: Chanda Chevannes (Director), Elisa Paloschi (Producer)
Production Company: Eyesfull and Chanda Chevannes Productions (Ontario)
This spirited film about a subversive public art project follows artist Diana Weymar as she works around the clock, transcribing the coarse words of Donald Trump… into delicate embroidery.

The Jury

Sami Khan
Sami Khan is an Academy Award-nominated filmmaker whose work has screened at the Toronto, Tribeca, Hot Docs, and Mumbai Film Festivals and been supported by the Sundance and Tribeca Film Institutes, Rooftop Films, IFP, the NBC/Universal Director’s Fellowship, and the Berlinale. The Last Out, Sami’s first feature documentary, was slated to premiere at the 2020 Tribeca Film Festival. The film tells the harrowing tale of four Cuban baseball players and their dangerous journeys out of their homeland and into the United States.

Kathleen McInnis
Kathleen McInnis (See-Through Films) consults with emerging World Cinema filmmakers to strategically merge their creative and business development. Kathleen has over 30 years experience in programming at festivals such as Seattle, Palm Springs, Aspen and TIFF, and is a strategic publicist and producer for films premiering at Sundance, Berlin, Karlovy Vary, Toronto, and Cannes. She currently also curates the New Works-in-Progress Forum at Seattle Int’l Film Festival.

Poh Si Teng, Al Jazeera
Poh Si Teng is the senior commissioning producer overseeing the Americas for Witness, Al Jazeera English’s flagship observational documentary strand. She commissioned and produced St. Louis Superman, which was nominated for this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. Her other commissions include Dead Woman’s Pass, which won Best Short Documentary at the London International Documentary Film Festival and the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival; In Enemy Territory; Venezuela: Smuggling Dreams, which was nominated for a Rory Peck Award and a Foreign Press Association Award; HALIMA; A Cold War Family Reunion; Children of the FARC; and Deportees Welcome. She is also an Emmy-nominated director and a former journalist for The New York Times.

Fiona Lawson-Baker, Al Jazeera
Fiona Lawson-Baker is the executive producer for Witness, the flagship global documentary strand on Al Jazeera English (AJE). With a small but excellent editorial team, Fiona oversees the broadcast of more than 100 international documentaries annually for the strand. Witness has won numerous awards and has a loyal global audience with more than 1.2 million followers on Facebook. Fiona also works across standalone series for AJE such as Al Jazeera Selects and This is Europe. With more than 20 years’ experience working with documentaries for broadcast, Fiona has commissioned and executive produced films by independent filmmakers from across the globe. Prior to Witness, Fiona worked at the BBC, SBS and is an award-winning graduate of the prestigious Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). Her career spans living and working in the United Kingdom, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Qatar, where she is currently based.


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Presenting Platinum Partner

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Founding Partner

  • logo Rogers

Signature Partner

  • logo CBC Docs

Presenting Partners

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