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Reel Life in Lunenburg: A Decade of Doc Fest Delights

For one week every September, people who love a good true-to-life drama come to Lunenburg NS to see the stories they likely won’t see anywhere else. Stories from their community, their country, and the world at large.

All of them specially curated by a small, dedicated team of people working away in a small office in Lunenburg, just up the hill from the hustle and bustle of the beautiful harbour and restaurants that draw hundreds of thousands of tourists year-round.

Under the leadership of Executive Director, Pamela Segger, staff of the Lunenburg Doc Fest venture out of their brainstorming center a handful of times to seek out the best documentaries on offer, whether it be in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto or Nova Scotia.

When they aren’t doing that, they are looking at over 700 submissions sent to them from filmmakers and sales agents who hope to make the cut for the annual Festival.

This year is special for a couple of reasons. It marks the return to fully in-person documentary showings at the Lunenburg Opera House. And second, it marks the 10th anniversary of the Festival which has grown every year, attracting more and more documentary filmmakers and an ever more dedicated audience.

It’s no easy task to whittle down hundreds of submissions to the best 23 features and 27 short documentaries, as they have once again this year.

The fact that several of their picks have gone on to win Oscars in Hollywood, is a testament to their skill in choosing what will capture the audience’s imagination.

For example, Nova Scotia’s Ben Proudfoot showed his documentary The Queen of Basketball at the Lunenburg Doc Fest in 2021 which then went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary Short in 2022.

This year Proudfoot will be working with up-and-coming local filmmakers to hone their skills so they can one day make the cut with their stories.

Lunenburg Doc Fest begins on September 21 and runs until the 27th. The documentaries are entertaining, haunting, humorous, provocative, and will undoubtedly leave you with much to think about or laugh about depending on the documentaries you choose to see.

For example, here’s the official description of a 17-minute short documentary called Chicken Stories (I’m laughing as I write this):

A coop of egg-laying hens whose free-range lifestyle creates challenges; a coop of wild, rescue roosters who just might kill each other; a coop of newborn baby chicks for whom daily survival is a delicate, fragile thing. On a start-up farm outside Oakland, these various chicken flocks surmount obstacles while the newbie farmers attempt to Google their way to help.

After Work is a documentary that asks a question many workers ask just as they are about to retire or who have been laid off. Who are we without work? What will we do with all this spare time? With Artificial Intelligence moving further and faster into our working lives, it’s a question even the younger generations must ask themselves.

20 Days in Mariupol is a documentary by a first-time filmmaker who is a reporter on the front lines of the war in Ukraine. He was in Mariupol with his team from the Associated Press when, as he puts it in the film “The war has begun, we have to tell its story”. They were on the streets, in the hospitals, risking their own lives capturing haunting images of the conflict zone most of us have never seen.

And if you love music, Doc Fest will open with the newly released documentary Carlos. It’s about the life of one of the world’s most famous guitarists, Carlos Santana. It’s been described by critics as enthralling, and Variety Magazine says it has one of the best openings its critic has ever seen. Following the film will be our one-of-a-kind gala at the Zwicker Building, engage in conversation and enjoy delicious food and live music.

There are so many more choices at this year’s festival, and you can see the entire lineup at, but what all these stories have in common is intimacy. Filmmakers go to great lengths to gain the trust of their subjects. They spend months, sometimes years researching their stories and thinking about how best to express and illustrate their stories in a way you can relate to their “subjects” as much as they do.

Lunenburg is a picture-perfect town on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. From September 21 to 27 it will be the documentary picture-perfect setting for the stories of our fellow humans from around the world who are determined to learn, thrive, laugh, connect, and even survive. Prepare to be inspired and moved as Lunenburg Doc Fest is proud to host the community for their tenth-anniversary celebrations!!

This content is sponsored by the Lunenburg Doc Fest.


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