Photo: Rozbeh Zavari/CPH:DOX
Photo: Rozbeh Zavari/CPH:DOX



The CPH:DOX documentary film festival, which opens on 16 March, has become one of the world’s largest and most acclaimed documentary film festivals. And it’s so much more than just film.

2017 will be a special year for CPH:DOX. The festival, which has taken place in November ever since it first began in 2003, has moved to March and to a new home in beautiful Charlottenborg and has added some new strings to its bow. 

“We’ve grown to become the world’s third-largest documentary film festival, both in terms of audience numbers and the industry,” says Mads Mikkelsen, program editor and one of the main forces behind the festival. “There are quite a lot of festivals that take place in the fall, though, so moving to spring gives more industry professionals the chance to attend.”

CPH: Conference is 5 days of conference concerning technology, science, series, activism and art. Photo: Roberto Flore/CPH:DOX

The move from November to March has provided time and space to develop the festival’s profile.

“We’ve spent the time between the last festival and this one reflecting on what it means to be a film festival in 2017,” Mikkelsen says.  “We saw this time as a chance to create a more rounded festival experience and to return even sharper.” 

CPH:DOX shows political, innovative, artistic and social debate documentaries and the program covers everything from Norwegian dance music to transgenderism and populism, to the war in Syria, robots and taboo-breakers. 

Henry Rollins in Casette - about the cassette tapes role in the music industry, its disappearance and its resurrection. Photo: CPH:DOX

One of the new program strands is the communication of science through art and film in CPH:SCIENCE and CPH:Conference.

“Science and technological development are now moving so fast that we find it hard to keep up,” Mikkelsen says. “At the same time, we’re living in an era when alternative facts, populism and fundamentalism are challenging our democracy. Film has a unique potential to provide understanding of things that are abstract. We believe that we can bridge the gap between science and the public and use the documentary film as a catalyst for real social change through information and reflection.” 

Is it possible to create an artificial sun? Get the answer in the science documentary Let There Be Light. Photo: CPH:DOX

The films at CPH:DOX are never shown in isolation, but are related to other art forms and the real world. The festival includes both documentary films and a mixture of debates, concerts, talks, conferences, art, master classes, food tastings and dance.

“If a film festival is just about film, it can feel a bit like a museum. We want to create a festival that engages, creates debate and invites the audience in by focusing on quality throughout. Our goal is to produce a festival that we would be tempted by ourselves and we invest heavily in the aesthetic framework as a tool for communication.”

DOX has also created an aesthetic focal point with its new headquarters at Charlottenborg.

“We wanted to bring the festival to a place where there’s room for the audience and the industry, art and new technologies such as VR and interactive formats,” Mikkelsen says. “That’s what we’ve got with Charlottenborg, which is in a fantastic location in the very heart of Copenhagen, surrounded by Kongens Nytorv, Nyhavn and Papirøen.” 

Virtual reality (VR) is explored on the festival, i e. in Afripedia Dance Battle. Photo: CPH:Dox

CPH:DOX’s success is reflected in the number of visitors, which over the years has risen from 14,000 to 91,000. For the people behind the festival, though, it isn’t the size that’s the most important thing, but its impact:

“Our ambition is not necessarily to be the biggest,” Mikkelsen says. “Our ambition is to be the best film festival in the world.”

CPH:DOX 16–26 March 2017  


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Last edited: March 22, 2017

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