‘Nearby the Festival International du Film Documentaire de Saint-Louis: Rethinking Proximity in Times of COVID-19

Laura Feal, Estrella Sendra

Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewpeer-review

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It has been a decade since the streets of Saint-Louis have been hosting the only international documentary film festival in Senegal. Travelling speakers and local griots[1] enthusiastically announce the arrival of the Festival International du Film Documentaire de Saint-Louis, also known as Stlouis’DOCS, gathering around 10,000 people for the past few years. The 11th edition of this meeting point was scheduled from 15-19 December 2020.
The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic had been rather ‘benevolent’ in Senegal. Shortly after the diagnosis of the first cases in March, rigorous preventive measures were taken. On 11 November, a month prior to the opening of the festival, Senegal registered its lowest rate of positive COVID-19 cases, 22, in a country of a population of over 16 million people. Still under a state of emergency, the measures were eased and the cultural scene, which had been dormant for eight months, started to timidly resurface, experimenting with formats which respected social distancing.

However, the number of COVID-19 positive cases and subsequent deaths started to increase, until reaching 472 by 10 December. Senegalese authorities decided then to readopt strict measures, with an announcement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs banning all sorts of social gathering. This came by surprise to the festival organisers, who would face a dilemma, as expressed by Souleymane Kebe, co-founder of the festival: ‘What shall we do? Shall we continue the festival? Shall we cancel it? Shall we adapt it? And if so, how?’[2] Sebastien Tendeng, co-curator and co-organiser, was determined about the kind of adaptation required, one based on ‘proximity’.[3] This is thus the focus of this review, which aims to examine the various kinds of proximity in times of social distancing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)261-273
JournalNECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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