On an unusually dreary, cold, and lightly snow covered Tuesday morning in Toronto Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival announced the majority of its 2013 line-up, pretty much signifying the start of the Spring movie season in the city. The festival, celebrating its landmark 20th anniversary this year, kicks off on Thursday, April 25th and runs through to Sunday, May 6th. With an overarching theme of Rule Breakers and Innovators, Hot Docs looks to push boundaries more than ever with stories of those willing to go outside the margins for greatness and noteriety
One need not look further than the festival’s opening film. The Manor focuses on an unusual Jewish family trying to keep their own lives in order while running, of all things, a strip club. It’s a Canadian film from first time director Shawney Cohen taking a look inward at his own family. The film will screen twice on the opening night of the festival at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (celebrating it’s first anniversary under the festival’s ownership during the festival and it’s 100th anniversary overall at the end of the year) on Thursday the 25th at both 7:00pm and 9:30pm.
The Canadian Spectrum programme brings 45 home grown and created documentaries (including 27 features) to the festival, including the David Cronenberg narrated look at illicit black market transplants Tales From the Organ Trade, Alan Zweig’s take on Ray Robertson in 15 Reasons to Live, Michelle Latimer’s look at T-Dot hip-hop ALIAS, Emmy winner John Kastner’s look at the criminally insane NCR: Not Criminally Responsible, and Jason DaSilva’s When I Walk, a personal reflection on living with MS.
Also coming from a Canadian perspective is a look at filmmaking icon Peter Metler as part of the festival’s Focus On retrospective – which has previously honoured the likes of the aforementioned Kastner and Zweig in recent years. Eastern Avenue (1985, showing with his 2009 short Petropolis), Picture of Light (1994), and his beloved Gambling Gods, and LSD (2002) will all be screened as part of the series.
The International Spectrum which includes titles in competition for the special jury award includes 36 films from 24 countries including the inner city Baltimore coming of age film 12 O’Clock Boys (which had a trailer play during the press conference that made it look pretty damned great), a look at the rise of teenagers told through various forms of archival footage in Teenage, and vastly darker kind of teenage experience as Los Angeles teens are uprooted and taken to a reform school in Utah in Just the Right Amount of Violence. There are also looks at Chinese asbestos mines in Cloudy Mountains, young female Shaolin disciples in Dragon Girls, and honest to God Bulgarian Pirates in The Last Black Sea Pirates.
The World Showcase programme includes looks at two very different and noteable thieves – prolific jewel thief Doris Payne in The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne and Bernie Madoff (from his assistant’s point of view) in In God We Trust. Here One Day follows the struggle of a family to understand their deceased daughter’s mental illness via her recorded diaries. The Devil’s Lair takes viewers to the mean streets of Cape Town to tell the story of one gangster struggling to keep his family afloat in the middle of a dangerous turf war.
These announcements were made in the wake of 28 other Special Presentation titles in the festival being made public earlier in the month, including Sundance favourite and current hot topic Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, Gael Garcia Bernal playing a young man attempting to recreate an illegal Mexican border crossing (Who is Dayani Cristal?), the latest from former Canadian military giant Romeo Dallaire (Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children), the highly anticipated Anita Hill documentary Anita, Sebastin Junger’s look at the life of close friend and dearly departed journalist Tim Hetherington in Which Way is the Front from Here?, and a special 20th anniversary showing of the landmark inside politics film The War Room, where filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker – the only documentarian to ever win an honorary Academy Award – will be in attendance.
Fight Like Soldiers, Die Like Children and Anita will also be a part of the newly implemented Scotiabank Big Ideas series, where Dallaire (and his film’s director Patrick Reed) and Anita Hill will join audiences in conversation about the film. Also, in the programme is Gus Holwerda’s The Unbelievers, which will bring evolutionary biologist (and all around atheistic soundboard) Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss to town to talk about the importance of educating people in the ways of science and reason.
The festival’s focus on Rule Breakers and Innovators also leads to the implementation of a new series of the same name looking at those aiming to “bring us into the future.” Included in this programme are Alex Winter’s Downloaded (about the formation of Napster) and Simon Klose’s similarly minded TPB AFK: The Pirate Bay Away From Keyboard. The Human Scale looks at rapidly rising urban populations and where we might all end up by 2050. Menstrual Man looks at one man’s efforts to create cheap feminine products and jobs in impoverished sections of India. An expectional 14 year old kid from Malawi who has already created his own homemade wind turbine wonders where his life can go from there in William and the Windmill. There’s also a bit of fun to be had in the programme as actor and comedian Charlie Todd takes a look inside the famed flash mob comedy troupe Improv Everywhere in We Cause Scenes.
This year’s always popular Made In programme that looks at cinema from one specific country takes a look at Poland this year with ten titles screening (11 if one counts the Nightvision selection Fuck for Forest) and examining cultural, social, and political issues from within the country. The two features, four mid-length shorts, and four shorts are presented in part by the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Toronto and the Polish Film Institute.
Speaking of Nightvision, the late night screening series returns once again for the more off kilter, crowd pleasing, campy, and sometimes potentially disturbing films in the festival. Furever takes a look at petrified pets made for owners who can’t seem to let go. The Great Hip-Hop Hoax follows a pair of Scottish emcees who try to fake being Californians for hopes at a recoring contract. Bigfoot hunters finally get their day in the spotlight with Shooting Bigfoot. Actor Tom Berringer follows his brother’s band (The National) around in the touring doc Mistaken for Strangers. James Franco also marks his second year in a row with a film in the festival with Interior: Leather Bar, which finds him reimagining the famed lost footage from William Friedkin’s highly divisive 1980 film Cruising.
The more pop culturally minded Next series also returns with a new slate of films focusing on art, music, movies, and usually just generally having a good time (mostly). The musical minded will get a kick out of looks at Bikini Kill and Le Tigre frontwoman Kathleen Hanna (The Punk Singer), Questlove from The Roots narrating a film about the history of Funk (Finding the Funk), and a look back at The Beatles’ fan club from the perspective of its former gatekeeper (Good Ol’ Freda). Moving image buffs will finally get a glimpse inside the only film school in North Korea in The Great North Korean Picture Show and a look at the history of NYC in Cheryl Dunn’s Everybody Street. There’s even a look at the seedier side of the capital of all things wholesome, Branson, Missouri, in We Always Lie to Strangers.
Shooting off of the Next programme will also be a free outdoor screening of Brothers Hypnotic – a look inside a 8-brother strong hip-hop brass ensemble – on May 2nd at 9pm on the Victoria College Burwash Quad at the University of Toronto as a way to give back to the people who have supported the festival for twenty largely unforgettable years.
For a full list of programmes and all 205 films screening during the festival, more information, and tickets, head on over to their website. Also, for the latest updates, be sure to follow Hot Docs on Twitter. Tickets are also available at the Hot Docs box office, this year located on the lower level of the Hazelton Lanes shopping centre (87 Avenue Road).