Diverse Stories Shine at Hot Docs

What Tomorrow Brings
What Tomorrow Brings

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival has announced its full film line-up for the upcoming 23rd edition, April 28–May 8, at a press conference this morning at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. From 2,735 film submissions, this year’s slate will present 232 titles from 51 countries in 12 screening programs, with work by female filmmakers representing close to 40% of the 2016 program.

“With films from a Festival-high of 51 countries, this year’s Hot Docs truly does span the globe, bringing Toronto audiences the best in documentaries from at home and abroad,” says Hot Docs director of programming Shane Smith. “With the expansion of our adventurous new program DocX into its own venue, an enhanced focus on short docs and the inclusion of long-form documentary work, Hot Docs continues to recognize and support masterful documentary storytelling in all of its forms. We can’t wait to share this year’s outspoken and outstanding program with Toronto audiences.”

This year’s Scotiabank Big Ideas Series will welcome such notable guests as: Emmy-award winning director Ezra Edelman and American sports journalist Robert Lipsyte (O.J. Simpson: Made in America); director Tiffany Hsiung, Director of Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Slavery Meehyang Yoon and subject Gil Won-Ok (The Apology); co-director Ben Nabors, psychotherapist Sheenah Hankin and renowned graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister (The Happy Film); director Beth Murphy and Zabuli Education Center founder Razia Jan (What Tomorrow Brings); producer Sam Tabet, director Deborah S. Esquenazi, Director of the Innocence Project of Texas Mike Ware and the San Antonio Four (Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four); and celebrated director Joe Berlinger and world renowned life and business strategist Tony Robbins (Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru).

League of Exotique Dancers
League of Exotique Dancers

This year’s newly expanded DocX program, an interdisciplinary section of the Festival celebrating documentary work that lives outside of the traditional format, will feature one-night-only live performances of Brent Green And Sam Green: Live Cinema and Cyrus Sundar Singh’s Brothers In The Kitchen, and the Canadian premiere of Matt Johnson’s Operation Avalanche. Festival audiences will also have the opportunity to experience: interactive installations The World In Ten Blocks by Robinder Uppal and Marc Serpa Francouer, and Digital Me by Sandra Gaudenzi and Mike Robbins; a collection of iconic photographs by George Zimbel, subject of 2016 Festival film Zimbelism by Matt Zimbel and Jean-François Gratton; and numerous virtual reality and 360° videos, free at Hot Docs House and as pop-ups at select venues.

In addition to the opening night world premiere of Rama Rau’s League of Exotique Dancers, a testament to an empowering and timeless form of artistic expression and sexuality, other notable films in the Special Presentations program include: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s Sonita, which captures a young Afghan’s rebellion against patriarchal familial tradition with her rap lyrics; Brendan Byrne’s emotive retelling of Bobby Sands’ hunger strike in Bobby Sands: 66 Days; Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen’s Audrie & Daisy, which explores the cycle of trauma caused by cyberbullying and sexual assault in a modern age; Jared P. Scott’s The Age of Consequences, an exposé about US national security and climate change; Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross’ Contemporary Color, a sensational portrait of the vibrant art form known as colour guard; and Sour Grapes, a baffling crime-documentary set in the world of fine wine helmed by Jerry Rothwell and Reuben Atlas.

In the competitive Canadian Spectrum program, notable films include: Nettie Wild’s Konelīne: Our Land Beautiful, which showcases the striking contradictions of disputed land in northwestern British Columbia; John Bolton’s Aim For The Roses, which weaves together three stories, each their own ethos of Canadian culture; Min Sook Lee’s Migrant Dreams, which reveals the systemic exploitation two women caught in Canada’s migrant worker program; Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk, an authentic portrait of a misunderstood and unheard culture; Matt Gallagher’s How To Prepare For Prison, which looks at the lives and families of those on trial; and Christy Garland’s Cheer Up, which mirrors the emotions of teenage cheerleaders through the highs and lows of their routines.

Nuts!
Nuts!

In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films include: Juan Mejia Botero and Jake Kheel’s Death By A Thousand Cuts, which bears witness to an alarming cycle of ethnic civil conflict and violence between two nations; Mike Day’s The Islands and the Whales, which highlights the devastating effect marine pollution has on locals in the remote Faroe Islands; Jonny von Wallström’s The Pearl of Africa, a powerful portrait of one transgender woman’s fight for love in a transphobic country; Catalina Mesa’s The Infinite Flight of Days, an intimate glimpse into the lives of eight women in the Andes Mountains; and Alma Har’el’s LoveTrue, an artful exploration of love and heartache.

In the World Showcase program, notable films include: Jessie Deeter’s The Revolution Won’t Be Televised, which highlights an unlikely uprising led by two hip-hop artists; Mehrdad Oskouei’s Starless Dreams, which captures the lives of seven young women incarcerated near Tehran; Maria Arlamovsky’s Future Baby, which investigates the growing complexity of human reproduction; Toby Oppenheimer and Dana Flor’s Check It, which follows a fierce gang made up of black LGBT youth; Lou Pepe and Keith Fulton’s The Bad Kids, an honest portrait of America’s vulnerable youth; Yun Ye’s Look Love, a striking look at circumstance and class; Susan Gluth’s Urmila: My Memory Is My Power, a riveting story of the pursuit of freedom; Antony Butts’s DIY Country, an explosive on-the-ground look at one of the deadliest wars in modern Europe; and Katja Gauriloff’s Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest, about one man’s feverish dreams inspiring an unlikely journey and a lifelong friendship.

The Made In Australia program includes: Eva Orner’s Chasing Asylum, which uncovers a terrifying truth about the treatment of asylum-seekers in Australia; Hollie Fifer’s The Opposition, a behind-the-scenes look at a battle for land in Papua New Guinea; Nicole Ma’s Putuparri and the Rainmakers, a fascinating look at a man torn between two identities; and Aaron Petersen’s Zach’s Ceremony, a coming-of-age tale that highlights the importance of culture.

Fear Itself
Fear Itself

The Artscapes program includes: Nimisha Mukerji’s Tempest Storm, a tantalizing snapshot of America’s oldest living sex icon; Kirsten Johnson’s Cameraperson, a cinematic memoir that explores power and permission; Laura Dunn’s The Seer, a vivid depiction of evolving landscapes; Christian Sønderby Jepsen’s Natural Disorder, which puts uncomfortable but essential questions of ability center stage; and Pierre Bismuth’s Where Is Rocky II?, a Hollywood-style caper about the hunt for a counterfeit rock.

The Nightvision program includes: Penny Lane’s Nuts!, a stranger-than-fiction tale of an extraordinary con man; Charlie Lyne’s Fear Itself, an eerie investigation into horror movies; and Colm Quinn’s Mattress Men, which captures a curious story of one man’s re-invention.

The Command + Control program includes: Vitaly Mansky’s Under the Sun, a shocking journey into the heart of a propaganda machine; Nanfu Wang’s Hooligan Sparrow, a riveting portrait of a revolutionary activist; David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s Tickled, a disturbing investigation into a strange “sport”; and Andreas Koefoed’s At Home in the World, an intimate story on finding home while seeking asylum.

Dugma
Dugma: The Button

The Pursuit of Happiness program includes: Paul Refsdal’s Dugma: The Button, which captures the final missions of two martyrdom-seekers; Mattia Epifani’s The Successor, a haunting exploration of familial ties; Dean Fleischer-Camp’s The Fraud, a meditation on the American Dream; and Gabe Spitzer and David Terry Fine’s Hit It Hard, a foray into the highs and lows of the “rock star of golf.”

The Redux program will highlight nine films that deserve another outing on the big screen.

Additionally, Hot Docs is pleased to present two retrospective programs: Focus On Rosie Dransfeld, a mid-career retrospective of the filmmaker’s work; and the Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective, honouring the timeless work of documentary filmmaker Steve James.

Also a premier documentary conference and market, Hot Docs will be welcoming over 2,000 industry delegates who will partake in a wide array of industry events and services, including conferences sessions, receptions and parties, Hot Docs Deal Maker, The Doc Shop and the Hot Docs Forum, May 2 to 6.

Ticket information and the full list of titles screening at the festival can be found at the Hot Docs website.