29-10-2020

DAFilms, one of the first streaming portals, celebrates 15 years since its founding!

At a time when all cultural events have once again moved to an online environment, international streaming portal DAFilms is set to celebrate its 15th anniversary come October 29th. The portal was created in the same year as the global video sharing platform YouTube at a time when many still had yet to see the potential in online distribution. However, the initial reluctance of filmmakers to put their films online has now been cast aside, and DAFilms has managed to establish itself as an international platform that festivals and independent films depend on. Right now, DAFilms is helping to mediate online versions of such documentary film festivals as the Czech Republic’s Ji.hlava IDFF and Portugal’s Doclisboa.

The establishment of what was originally a Czech project, then still called Doc Air, was announced on October 29th, 2005 during the closing ceremony of the Ji.hlava documentary film festival. In just a short amount of time and thanks to its connection with leading European documentary film festivals, Doc Alliance was established, which in addition to changing its name to DAFilms, also brought the project closer to the international film scene. Since then, the portal has been regularly presenting the works of outstanding creators in international cinema and providing a space to distribute documentaries, festival hits, and other independent films. At the start of 2020, the Czech and European versions of the portal were expanded to include other language versions for Slovakia and Poland, and a DAFilms Americas branch was also launched for North and South America. “Our fifteen years of operation as a streaming portal has been a huge success. During this period of time, the video streaming industry has undergone rapid development, and we at DAFilms are glad that we’re still able to keep and constantly adapt to the ever-changing environment of the online world. Thanks to Doc Alliance, we have managed to create an international community of people genuinely interested in documentary film, new wave cinema, and emerging talents. And it is precisely this enthusiasm from our viewers for high-quality films that will motivate us in the years to come,” says DAFilms founder Nina Numankadić.

The difficult journey for streaming portals

With the development of technology and the growing number of films and film festivals, film distribution had seemingly reached its limits. Other than attending each individual film festival in person, quality documentary films were virtually inaccessible to a wide audience and it was hard for viewers to even get their hands on them. That’s where the festival team at Ji.hlava IDFF stepped in and came up with a solution for delivering great films to people’s computer screens all around the world. "Petr Kubica was the one who came up with the idea of creating this portal. We were all sitting down together in our favourite pub in Amsterdam during the IDFA festival when Petr said that the future of documentary films lies in expanding their distribution to the internet. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. My colleague Andrea Slováková and I immediately got excited about the idea and said that we would launch a prototype of the portal by the next Ji.hlava festival,” says Marek Hovorka, Director of Ji.hlava IDFF.

The development of DAFilms also illustrates the difficult journey and number of obstacles that streaming portals had to face and overcome. The current dominance of global streaming platforms came after people learned how to watch movies on the internet and filmmakers gained confidence in new online distribution channels. "The documentary film environment has always been more open to new ways of distribution, yet in the beginning there was a mistrust of producers in an online environment. Copyright holders were reluctant to put their films on the internet and worried about potential piracy issues whilst viewers were not initially used to paying for content on the internet. That all began to change around 2013 when we first started with our day-and-date film premieres,” describes DAFilms CEO Diana Tabakov, a turning point in which theatrical films were released online on the same day. “Nowadays, especially in these times, this is no longer a rare occurrence. This year we presented several premieres and exclusive festival screenings,” adds Tabakov.

Maintaining a close relationship with film festivals

Cooperating with other festivals has always been crucial for DAFilms, but this year the festival's online programs have become one of its main pillars. This past spring, the DAFilms portal offered viewers the chance to experience an online version of the Visions du Réel festival as part of a special program, and now they can watch the international programs from both Ji.hlava IDFF and Doclisboa. In addition to distributing feature-length films, DAFilms also pays attention to formats that are more difficult to reach a wide audience under standard film distribution, like short films, for example. For the third year in a row, viewers can now discover the best short documentary films from the Short
Joy section of Ji.hlava IDFF and until 29 October can even participate in the DAFilms viewers’ choice award and vote for the best short film.