Polidoc Contest 2019-2020

What is the Polidoc Contest? 

  • PoliDoc is a contest organized by the Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship (CSDC) and the Consortium on Electoral Democracy (C-DEM), aimed at Quebec CEGEP and undergraduate students in the context of Canada’s Democracy Week 2019. To participate in the contest, students are asked to submit a short documentary proposal on topics related to democracy, civic engagement, political participation, representation, diversity, and other topics related to the exercise of democracy.
  • One winning project will be selected. The winner of the PoliDoc contest will receive a $1000 stipend along with the chance to direct their short documentary. The winner will be given access to technical staff (camera, sound, editing and post-production), coaching, equipment as well as some travel expenses.
  • The finalized short documentary will then be screened during the following year’s Democracy Week, in September 2020, during Democracy Night.
  • Two documentaries were awarded on the last edition in September 2018: “Right on the Rise”, by Benjamin Aloi and Carlo Mole, and “Prête, pas prête” by Gabriella Quesnel-Olivo.

Contest Guidelines

Students will have until December 20, 2019 (11:59 pm) to submit their proposal. Projects will be evaluated by a jury and the winner will be announced by January 31, 2020.

The final short documentary must be 6 to 20 minutes in length. It can be presented in any language, but will need to be subtitled in French or English.

Here is a list of general themes that would be considered for this contest. Please note that projects will be evaluated on how closely they align with the CSDC and the C-DEM’S areas of expertise and research interests:

  • Political participation and youth politics
  • New forms of political engagement
  • Canadian and Quebec democracy and democratic institutions
  • Quebec in an historical context
  • Internet and social media’s relation to democracy
  • Demographic changes and political dynamics
  • Canada and Quebec’s First Nations
  • Gender and Democracy
  • Diversity, immigration, multiculturalism
  • Religion in Quebec
  • Radicalization of Quebec society

These topics can be approached through a variety of documentary styles: observational documentary (“fly-on-the-wall”), character-driven documentary, interview-based, video essay, strong narration, journalistic video report, etc.

The winning project will be invited to screen their movie and attend the Democracy Night event in September 2020 in Montreal (travel expenses will be covered by the CSDC for non-MTL students).

By submitting your film to the PoliDoc contest, you are accepting that your film may be screened publicly during the Democracy Night or other CSDC events. The CSDC will not however publicly distribute your movie online or in any shape or form.


To be eligible to participate in the PoliDoc contest, you must be enrolled full time in a Quebec Cégep or undergraduate university program, and you must be aged between 16 and 25 years old, at the moment of applying. The winner will be asked to show ID to establish age and student status.

To be eligible, you must submit a complete application, written in French or English. Incomplete applications will be automatically disqualified.

Application – Documentary Proposal

In order to apply to PoliDoc 2019, please fill out the form available online AND send in a PDF copy of your full documentary proposal to the contest coordinator: csdc-cecd@mcgill.ca

Please be sure to complete the form thoroughly. Also, please be sure to include all the sections stated below in your proposal. Otherwise your application could be disqualified.

Your documentary proposal must include the following sections:

  • Brief Summary (roughly 150 words)

Upon reading this summary, we must understand what and who we’ll see in this movie, why it’s interesting and what angle you are planning to give to the story.

  • Detailed Synopsis (1-2 pages)

This is where you can give us more details about your topic, your character(s) and your point of view. Your synopsis can be written in many different ways. It can be written as an essay or as a story. It can be very informational and give us all of the background info that give depth and meaning to your topic. Or it can be written as a “scene-by-scene” account of what we will see.

Your synopsis should give us a sense of what will drive the documentary (i.e. the narrative arc). Is there a story we will follow with a beginning, a middle and an end? Is there an issue we will tackle, questions we will ask and for which the documentary will seek answers? 

  • Documentary Style (roughly 350 words)

In this section, you need to explain how you will present your topic, from a cinematic standpoint. Is this a guerrilla-style documentary film where we follow characters with a hand-held camera?  Is this rather a documentary made of formal sit-down interviews?

No matter how you choose to construct your film stylistically, you need to be able to justify your choices. Sometimes, even a shaky and unstable camera serves a purpose. You are encouraged to give examples taken from other documentaries to explain your vision.

Evaluation Criteria

The short documentaries will be reviewed by a jury composed of the CSDC’s Knowledge Mobilization Committee as well as members of youth advocacy groups, fellow filmmakers, and other stakeholders. The jury will select the winner based on the following criteria:

  • Relevance of the topic

Is your topic related to democracy, politics, civic engagement, social issues, and such? How closely does it align with the CSDC and C-DEM areas of interest?

PoliDoc is not a partisan contest, your documentary pitch can tackle many different topics, but this is not the occasion to formulate an endorsement for a specific political party. This does not mean you should refrain from presenting a strong point of view.

  • Originality of the Documentary and Strength of its Point-of-View

Your topic shouldn’t be too general, it should be focused and precise. It should be presented in a new light, or through the life and experience of characters that will be interesting to follow and listen to. Is your proposal offering anything new to a given topic? Are we with characters and ideas that are likely to draw our attention? Are you yourself offering a unique point-of-view on a given topic?

  • Feasibility of the Project

Can this documentary be filmed during the Winter, Spring and Summer of 2020? (i.e. Does the feasibility of your topic rely on it being filmed after September 2020, does it cover something happening in the news in 2019 that might be gone/solved in 2020…) 

Can this idea be filmed on a low budget, with minimal travel and minimal days of filming? (i.e. If you need to travel to Syria to produce this documentary, PoliDoc won’t be able to help…nor if you wish to film a character every week over a 6 month period…nor if you need to purchase vast quantities of archival footage)

Are the characters and experts featured in the documentary likely to participate? (i.e. Are you planning to interview both Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau to ask them the tough questions…our jury might feel this is a tad unrealistic)

  • General Quality of the Proposal

Your proposal should be well written. Upon reading it, we should be able to visualize the movie you are describing.

It should be thorough and cover all the bases. What is the topic? Why is this relevant? What will we see? How will it be covered?

It should be well presented. This means it should be orderly, well structured, and include visual cues when appropriate.

You have until December 20 at 11:59 pm to submit your film. Use our online form to complete your application and send a PDF copy of your documentary proposal to the contest coordinator: csdc-cecd@mcgill.ca

Good luck!