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The Festival

Stories from the Field, the first United Nations Documentary Film Festival, took place on May 21 and 22, 2005. The submissions were all UN-produced. They included feature-length and short documentaries, and PSAs. It was an auspicious beginning, but when it was over, we found ourselves thinking about how we could enrich the film pool and reach an even wider audience.

In 2006, we opened the festival to public filmmakers and adjusted the submission rules accordingly. The number of film entries doubled, coming from countries on all five continents, including Burkino Faso, Canada, China, Germany, India, Iran, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Venezuela, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

As our constituency grew, so did our commitment. For our band of volunteers — yes, we were all volunteers! — the festival was how we spent every “non-working” hour. Stories from the Field had become a major production, but it was also irresistibly gratifying, not to mention a resounding success. By closing night 2006, we were exhausted, exhilarated, and already laying plans for 2007.

The 2007 festival was another record breaker, but we were starting to worry. Funding had not kept pace with growth. As the number of film entries increased and our web of strategic connections widened, so had the production workload. The amount of work was now so prodigious, we knew we would have to find the money to hire staff — or else. In the months that followed, we worked to make it happen.

The critical trajectory continued into our fourth year, but the necessary support to sustain ourselves did not. In January 2008, we made the difficult decision to place the festival on hiatus, where it remains today.

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