Image of Vanessa Lobon with Dir Farah X

At the 2021 Cannes film festival, Polish film producer Agnieszka Holland gave voice to the growing fear of streaming services. Referring to streaming as the ‘non-curated, big black hole,’ she stressed that it might signal the end of theatrical cinema.

Lengthy theatre releases are unnecessary with streaming. With Netflix or Amazon, filmmakers can avoid the circus of theatre releases and deliver films straight to the audience. Yet film critics and cinephiles are criticising the streaming giants for burying indie films under algorithms.

However, not all share this sentiment. For filmmaker Vanessa Lobon, streaming is a lifeline to producing unique work. Lobon is the founder of the BFI-supported indie film festival Doc’N Roll, which caters to niche genres like music film documentaries.

“It’s just a matter of choosing which ones cater to your taste. I wouldn’t go to the Isle of Wight Music Festival and be disappointed if they don’t have Tinariwen playing there. I wouldn’t expect Netflix to headline indie films as I would of Mubi or BFI.”

Vanessa Lobon

It’s Not All Streaming Services

But unlike Netflix and Amazon, streaming sites like Mubi and Shudder offer art-house content that is not mainstream. So, these platforms stop lesser-known Indie films from disappearing down the ‘big black hole,’ Holland warned of.

“We’ve found that we can get the same awareness, the same press, and marketing attention by doing an online release without theatrical,” Shudder’s global acquisitions director tells Hollywood Reporter.

But, alongside theatre releases, Doc’n Roll’s own TV also streams full-length films. They also spotlight an impressive variety of films, from Turkish composers to Marseilles rappers, and Afro Brazilian jazz icons.

“I began Doc’n Roll because there was a hole on the market. No other platform was dedicated exclusively to music documentaries despite the appetite from the audiences for this type of film genre,” Lobon says.

Vanessa Lobon, Founder of Doc’n Roll and Director Farah X. © Doc’n Roll

The world of film distribution is changing. To survive, independent filmmakers are tapping into online revenues for more exposure.

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