It was with the sharpest pain that I learned this morning that Yves Jeanneau, the co-founder and CEO of Sunny Side of the Doc had passed away in La Rochelle on November 14, surrounded by his loved ones.
It was only yesterday, it seems, that I stood with Off The Fence’s Ellen Windemuth on the stage at the packed opening session of Sunny Side 2019 and toasted a smiling Yves for guiding Sunny Side to its 30th anniversary.
The Sunny Side that followed this June was a standout, attracting record attendance by producers and decision-makers to historic La Rochelle.
They came to an event that combines Yves’ dual commitment: To the documentary as a force for human improvement; and to a conference where industry professionals and newcomers can develop our projects over relaxed conversation in a beautiful location.
Yves became one of those close friends who shares a parallel experience and values, but which we experienced from a great distance. We came of age in the Sixties and early Seventies, and we both became deeply involved in the movements that rejected the political powers and broader society whose failure peaked in the horrors of the Vietnam War.
Those youthful experiences became the backbone of the Yves’ deep belief, which I share, that the highest purpose of the documentary is to drive social change.
Yet Yves was no ideologue. He accepted that the documentary lives in a world where audiences crave entertainment more than engagement with tough issues. He saw that popular, factual television offers enjoyment as well as the training, employment and career advancement that industry professionals can also apply to their creative, personal projects.
Yves was a true universalist, working tirelessly to extend the benefits of Sunny Side to Asia and Latin America. His long-standing mission to engage with China’s documentary community became all the more important as the West returns to containment and even a Cold War with the world’s most populous nation.
After many years of enjoying a collaboration with Yves and his team on co-producing and moderating Sunny Side and Asian Side panels, in 2019, we formed a content partnership with the aim of providing the documentary community with valuable, practical analysis year-round.
My collaborations with the Sunny Side team always brought great personal and professional rewards, a testament to Yves’ ability to attract great people to pursue his vision.
I haven’t mentioned here Yves many professional achievements: his executive roles in French television, leadership of production companies, and his list of credits that includes the 2002 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
My deepest sympathies to Yves’ family and friends, the Sunny Side team, France’s documentary and television professionals, Sunny Side’s funders and partners, and all of us everywhere who have benefited from Yves’ vision and passion.
(Sunny Side Photos: Jean-Francois Auge)