Symposium archive is here.

Documentary Cinema Symposium 2023

ArtdocFest/Riga Symposium is a space for stimulating conversation and discovery of new perspectives on the issues facing documentary filmmaking today. This year's edition was taken place between 2 and 9 March 2023. The chosen topics resonated with the filmmakers and audiences alike and was related to the tough choices filmmakers must make in order to tell a compelling story in today’s world where the war and humanitarian crisis is continuing in the heart of Europe. Each day, the Riga Symposium focused on one topic, approaching it from different perspectives. The discussions run with the participation of the filmmakers represented at this year’s ArtdocFest/Riga.

Additionally, in the filmmaker-only format, ArdocFest/Riga continued its traditional breakfast conversations known as the Hamburg Protocol discussions. The term stems from the tradition of performative wrestling tournaments at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries when wrestlers, instead of spending hours trying to wrestle each other to the ground, performed staged fights with beautifully choreographed falls and blows. Yet, to determine the true strength of each performing wrestler, the athletes held annual meetings in the German city of Hamburg, fighting real fights behind closed doors, without an audience. Hence the term Hamburg Protocol – an event without deception, free from performance, an honest reflection on one’s craft. Likewise, the filmmakers’ breakfasts in Riga was honest and insightful, discussing the work of peers as well as one’s own.

Rita Ruduša, Сurator of symposium


4 March 13.30-15.00 - “What are we for? Documentarians at war”

Zuzeum Art Centre (in English) 

How does the purpose of a documentarian's work change when the world is on fire and human suffering becomes a horrifying daily occurrence. Are the creative ambitions of peacetime applicable in such circumstances, and what choices must a documentary filmmaker face when filming a war. A conversation with the filmmakers. 

5 March 13.30-15.00 - “Brutally honest – boundaries in documentary filmmaking”

Zuzeum Art Centre (in English)

A conversation about the relationship between the documentarian and the characters of the film: how far the author can go for the sake of a compelling and credible story, and whether these limits have changed in the era when a person with a smartphone has become a communicator of their own life, down to its most private details. A conversation with the filmmakers. 

6 March 13.30-15.00 - "The national cinema language in Latvia, how to define it?"

Zuzeum Art Centre (in Latvian)

Can we say that Latvian documentary cinema has a national style: what constitutes it, is it static or dynamic, and how is it affected by co-production projects with other European countries. Directors and producers of Latvian documentary cinema, representing different generations, take part in the discussion.

8 March 12.00-14.00 - “A Jury Session”

Splendid Palace (in Russian)

A unique insight into jury work: a frank discussion between three jury members, Uldis Tīrons, Ingeborga Dapkunaite and Dmitry Gluhovsky about the films of the third Artdocfest/Riga, the strengths and weaknesses of this year’s competition entries. 


ArtdocFest/Riga Symposium

Hot-spot driftage or cameras of the First World are looking for emotions. Is it boring to film at home and whether or not Baltic poetic cinema has lost its voice and nerve in front of the big market? The mission and identity of a documentary filmmaker today. How does cinema change the perception of paradigms? 

During nearly 30 years the legendary Riga and Jurmala documentary symposiums (1977-2007) blasted the documentary harvest and raised its strength. 

"It was a fresh and ozone-saturated air, which is very important to breathe and feel in the process — not only in one's work but in the collective world, its closest and furthest borders.” /Herz Frank/ 1

We are not the "legitimate" heirs of the symposium, but we are once again inviting documentary filmmakers and scholars together to discuss art, thought and perspective of a modern film and together search for a “Reality reflection in documentary cinema”. 2

Artdocfest/Riga Symposium is a gathering of documentary filmmakers and theoreticians and aims to create a temporary, inspirational space of thought: transfering the knowledge, highlighting the tendencies and discussing the developments within the field. The context of the region, Zeitgeist, films presented at the festival and visions of future perspectives are important and taken into consideration. 


1 Herz Frank is a famous Latvian film director, and the Artdocfest/Riga festival Baltic Focus program award is named after him.

2 The title of the first theoretical documentary symposium in 1977.

Symposium archive is here.