53 Hot Tickets at Hot Docs 2014

Hot Docs 2014 Logo

There are 197 films from around the world playing this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival. Once again showcasing some of the best in documentary filmmaking, the 21st annual festival certainly doesn’t have a dearth of topics, stories, polemics, and visual essays to choose from. As with any festival, it can be a bit overwhelming to pick and choose from such a stacked line-up, and it’s impossible to see everything the festival has to offer.

So we’re here to help. We surveyed 50 people of various different backgrounds – Dork Shelf staff, outside film writers, filmmakers, editors, journalists, and a blend of Hot Docs patrons who were picking up ticket packages at the festival box office – to list off their ten most anticipated films from this year’s festival.

The Overnighters

The resulting answers speak to the varied nature of what Hot Docs has to offer, but there was a clear winner for the most anticipated film from this year’s selections. Jesse Moss’ Sundance Special Jury Prize winning The Overnighters looks to be the biggest must see of this year’s festival even from those polled who have already seen the film at previous festival appearances earlier in the year. Moss’ film looks at the small town of Williston, North Dakota, a sleepy hamlet where out of work and often homeless travellers come looking for work in the communities newfound oil fields, and one local pastor who allows these travellers to stay on his property. The film examines how Pastor Jay Reinke shelters these migrants while facing a strain on personal resources and potentially damaging backlash from an increasingly skeptical local community. (Screens Friday, April 25th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 9:00pm, Saturday, April 26th, ROM, 1:00pm, and Friday, May 2nd, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 7:00pm.)

But aside from that front-runner we also got a plethora of other responses with nearly every film in the line-up being mentioned at least once. So here now are 52 other films (we were going to do 50, but there was a six way tie for the last slot) that our poll saw the biggest interest in, presented in alphabetical order. For a full line-up of Hot Docs films, screening times, and tickets, check out the Hot Docs website. And stay tuned to Dork Shelf for our extensive review and interview coverage when this year’s festival kicks off on Thursday, April 24th and runs to Sunday, May 4th.

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Absences

Absences

Back-to back winner for Best Canadian Film at Hot Docs on 2002 and 2003 for The Fiancée of Life and The Moon and the Violin, filmmaker Carole Lananiere returns to the festival this year with a deeply personal look at emotional losses in people’s lives. Using her mother’s battles with Alzheimer’s as a starting point, the film also deals with the scars of parental abandonment, estranged siblings, and the search for personal roots. (World Showcase)

Screens

Friday, April 25th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 6:00pm

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Saturday, April 26th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 1:00pm

Saturday, May 3rd, Scotiabank 7, 9:00pm

Actress

Actress

Actress Brandy Burre (best known for her work on HBO’s The Wire) finds her life in upheaval shortly after starting a family when she decides to go back into acting. Directed by Robert Greene, whose previous documentary Fake It So Real made the year end best lists of Roger Ebert and New Yorker critic Richard Brody in 2012. He was also the editor for Alex Ross Perry’s latest feature Listen Up Phillip and the offbeat and recent ReFocus selection Hellaware. (International Spectrum, international premiere)

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Screens

Wednesday, April 30th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 6:30pm

Thursday, May 1st, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 3:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, Hart House Theatre, 7:00pm

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The Agreement

The Agreement

EU negotiator Robert Cooper is tasked with mediating a discussion between representatives from Kosovo and Serbia in this political, real life black comedy about a very serious and consistently intense dispute. (Made in Denmark, international premiere)

Screens

Wednesday, April 30th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 6:15pm

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Thursday, May 1st, ROM, 1:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 12:30pm

Ai Weiwei The Fake Case

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case

After being the subject of Hot Docs opening night film two years ago, Chinese master artist and political firebrand Ai Weiwei becomes the subject of a new film (this year as part of the Made in Denmark series, where filmmaker Andreas Johnsen hails from) documenting his struggles following his high profile arrest for charges that couldn’t possibly exist. (Made in Denmark, North American premiere)

Screens

Saturday, April 26th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 4:30pm

Sunday, April 27th, Hart House Theatre, 1:00pm

Friday, May 2nd, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 6:00pm

 Beyond Clueless

Beyond Clueless

Film critic Charlie Lyne and narrator Fairuza Balk take a look at the complex social history of the modern teen movie with a look at 200 different films (not just, you know, Clueless). (Nightvision)

Screens

Tuesday, April 29th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 10:00pm

Thursday, May 1st, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 11:30pm

Sunday, May 4th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 12:30pm

Bronx Obama

Bronx Obama

What kind of success can you gain from looking like the most powerful man in the world? In his first feature, director Ryan Murdock looks at Louis Ortiz, an unemployed Puerto Rican father from The Bronx, who just so happens to look quite strikingly like Barack Obama. (World Showcase, international premiere)

Screens

Tuesday, April 29th, Scotiabank, 7:00pm

Wednesday, April 30th, Hart House Theatre, 12:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 1:30pm

Captivated The Trials of Pamela Smart

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart

In 1990, Pamela Smart was the centre of one of the most salacious news stories of the decade. Convicted of conspiracy to commit first degree murder and witness tampering, New Hampshire native Smart had coerced younger men into killing her husband. It was the first ever trial to be fully televised and it inspired Gus Van Sant’s To Die For, but looking back on the case now did the media do right by the trial or did they skew it to their own aims? Filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar looks back on one of the 90s great “trials of the century” and media influence. (Special Presentation, international premiere)

Screens

Friday, April 25th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 9:30pm

Sunday, April 27th, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 11:00am

Sunday, May 4th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 11:00am

The Case Against 8

The Case Against 8

Over five years in the making, filmmakers Ben Cotner and Ryan White look at the fight to overturn California’s same sex marriage ban as told by the couples who started the suit and the highly unlikely former political rivals from both the left and the right who fought for equality. (Love, Factually/Scotiabank Big Ideas Series)

Screens

Tuesday, April 29th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 6:30pm

Wednesday, April 30th, Isabel Bader Theatre, 10:30am

Children 404

Children 404

It sucks being a teenager. It’s even worse being one of the estimated 2.5 million gay teenager in Putin’s Russia today. Askold Kurov and Pavel Loparev look at giving voice to the voiceless by following an 18 year old LGBT activist who is about to attend university in Canada (and who plans to move here full time), in addition to other subjects who would understandably prefer to remain anonymous thanks to sadly all too real safety concerns. (Special Presentation, world premiere)

Screens

Monday, April 28th, Isabel Bader Theatre, 9:30pm

Tuesday, April 29th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 3:30pm

Thursday, May 1st, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 9:00pm

Saturday, May 3rd, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 8:30pm

Come Worry With Us

Come Worry With Us!

Musical front-man Efrim Menuck and violinist Jessica Moss from Montreal indie rock outfit Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra try to balance the crazy life of touring musicians with raising their son Ezra on the road in this film from Helene Klodawsky. (Next)

Screens

Sunday, April 27th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 6:00pm

Monday, April 28th, Scotiabank 3, 2:00pm

Thursday, May 1st, Hart House Theatre, 1:00pm

 Concerning Violence

Concerning Violence

Following up the splash that he made at the festival a couple of years ago with The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, filmmaker Goran Hugo Olsen takes a look at the African move towards independence in the late 1960s and early 1970s after decades of colonial rule. Based loosely on the text The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon and narrated by music superstar Lauren Hill, the film takes an archival look at the important development of an entire continent. (Special Presentation)

Screens

Sunday, April 27th, Isabel Bader Theatre, 4:00pm

Monday, April 28th, TIFF Bell Lightbox, 4:15pm

Friday, May 2nd, Hart House Theatre, 3:30pm

 The Condemned

The Condemned

In the middle of a forest roughly the size of Germany lies Penal Colony 56: one of the most dangerous and infamous Russian gulags. Nick Reid and Mark Franchetti take an uncensored and never before seen look inside the walls where almost 260 men guilty of almost 800 murders rot away in brutal obscurity. (World Showcase, North American premiere)

Screens

Monday, April 28th, Scotiabank 3, 7:15pm

Wednesday, April 30th, ROM, 11:00am

Sunday, May 4th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 3:30pm

The Darkside

The Darkside

Australian actors Bryan Brown, Jack Charles, Michael Liddle and many more lend their storytelling abilities to filmmaker Warwick Thornton in this multimedia look at some of the spookiest, funniest, saddest, and most absurd ghost stories from the land down under. (Mystery, Myth, & Legend, North American Premiere)

Screens

Friday, April 25th, ROM, 9:00pm

Saturday, April 26th, Scotiabank 3, 1:30pm

Sunday, May 4th, The Royal, 9:30pm

Divide in Concord

Divide in Concord

In the hometown of notable American historical figures like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and ground zero for the country’s famed revolution, there’s a new battle brewing as 84 year old Jean Hill seeks to ban wasteful bottled water from the town of Concord, Massachusetts. (World Showcase, world premiere)

Screens

Saturday, April 26th, Scotiabank 4, 9:30pm

Monday, April 28th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 1:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, Isabel Bader Theatre, 11:00am

Doc of the Dead

Doc of the Dead

From the people who brought you The People Vs. George Lucas comes this look at the history, mythology, and lasting impact of the always present zombie film with chats with such undead related luminaries as Simon Pegg, Bruce Campbell, Robert Kirkman, Max Brooks, and that Romero guy. (Nightvision, international premiere)

Screens

Saturday, April 26th, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 11:59pm

Sunday, April 27th, Hart House Theatre, 9:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, The Royal, 9:45pm

A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution

A Dress Rehearsal for an Execution

Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Bahman Tavoosi takes a look at one of history’s most infamous Pulitzer winning photographs – a 1917 picture of an execution of political prisoners in Iran taken by a man who shielded his identity for decades – and an artist’s attempt to recreate the photo using actors. (Canadian Spectrum)

Screens

Friday, April 25th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, 8:30pm

Sunday, April 27th, Scotiabank 7, 5:00pm

E-Team

E-Team

A quartet of renowned human rights workers and detectives comprise “The E-Team,” one of the most respected humanitarian groups in the world. The subjects of this veritie documentary investigate of some of the world’s greatest human rights abuses in this portrait of the select few who do incredibly dangerous work to give the voiceless a voice. (Special Presentation)

Screens

Friday, April 25th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 7:00pm

Saturday, April 26th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 1:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 4:00pm

Everything Will Be

Everything Will Be

Award winning Canadian filmmaker Julia Kwon makes the jump from fictional films to documentary with this look at merchants in Vancouver’s Chinatown as they struggle to keep up with a fledgling economy and increased gentrification of urban spaces. (Canadian Spectrum, world premiere)

Screens

Tuesday, April 29th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, 7:00pm

Wednesday, April 30th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 1:00pm

Friday, May 2nd, Hart House Theatre, 1:00pm

From the Bottom of the Lake

From the Bottom of the Lake

British filmmaker Claire Young follows her mentor and boss, esteemed and award winning filmmaker Jane Campion, around as she creates the acclaimed BBC miniseries Top of the Lake from inception to premiere. (Next, North American Premiere)

Screens

Friday, April 25th, Scotiabank 4, 1:00pm

Saturday, April 26th, Scotiabank 7, 8:30pm

Saturday, May 3rd, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 3:00pm

ON TO PAGE 2

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