Striking an optimistic note about the state of non-fiction film, the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival unveiled its 17th year lineup with 170 films from 41 countries (including 20 from the U.S.) slated for 10 different screens in downtown Toronto. This year’s lineup will feature 166 official selections and retrospective titles in ten programs, as well as nine films by young filmmakers aged 14 to 18 screening in this year’s Doc It! showcase.
Opening this year’s event, taking place April 29 – May 9, is the Canadian debut of Thomas Balmès’ “Babies” (France, 79 min), which simultaneously follows four babies from around the world – from remote locations in Namibia and Mongolia to the urban metropolises of Tokyo and San Francisco. Also on opening night, Hot Docs will also present the Canadian premiere of Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn’s “Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage” (Canada, 106 min), which chronicles one of Canada’s greatest rock bands, the influential and iconic Rush.
Nineteen selections will play in the fest’s Special Presentations section, including “And Everything is Going Fine” (USA, 89 min) a documentary about late theatre artist Spadling Gray by Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh; “Casino Jack and the United States of Money” (USA, 120 min), Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney’s powerful essay on the dysfunctional processes of the U.S. political system; Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg’s “Joan Rivers – A Piece of Work” (USA, 89 min), an exposé that peels back Rivers’ nipped ‘n tucked public mask.
Also in the section are Nicolas Philibert’s “Nenette” (France, 70 min), a captivating study of an enigmatic orangutan and our relationship to her; José Padilha’s “Secrets of the Tribe” (UK, Brazil, 94 min), which exposes severe ethical breaches by anthropologists studying an isolated tribe in the Amazon Basin. Actor Adrian Grenier’s “Teenage Paparazzo” (USA, 101 min), which turns the camera onto a 13-year-old paparazzo, and Lucy Walker’s “Waste Land” (UK, Brazil, 99 min), a transcendent doc that follows artist Vik Muniz and his work with pickers of recyclable materials in Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill site.
Thirty-two films will screen in Hot Docs’ International Spectrum including the world premiere of Jan Tenhaven’s “Autumn Gold” (Austria/Germany, 94 min), which chronicles a group of top senior track and field athletes aged 80 and up as they train for the World Masters Championships; the North American premiere of David Sieveking’s “David Wants to Fly” (Germany/Austria/Switzerland, 96 min), which follows filmmaking idol David Lynch’s search for enlightenment through Transcendental Meditation; Thorkell Hardarsson and Orn Marino Arnarson’s “Feathered Cocaine” (Iceland, 80 min), in which a falconer enters into a world of international intrigue and obsession.
Also slated is SXSW doc winner Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol” (USA, 83 min), which follows the discovery of instant “artist” Mark Hogencamp and the miniature WWII-era town he has constructed in his backyard; Laura Poitras’s “The Oath” (USA/Yemen, 97 min), a complex, mysterious portrait of Abu Jandal, a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden; Joonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen’s “Steam of Life” (Finland, 82 min), which sees naked men in saunas talking straight from the heart, and Alexander Gentelev’s “Thieves By Love” (Israel/Germany, 90 min), a raw look into the world’s most notorious criminal organization via three former kingpins of the Russian Mafia.
Canadian Spectrum will have 23 films including the world premieres of Maya Gallus’ “Dish – Women, Waitressing And the Art of Service” (70 min); Shelley Saywell’s “In the Name of Family” (90 min), a powerful and sensitive investigation into the killing of young girls in the name of family honour in North America; John Zaritsky’s “Leave Them Laughing” (Canada/USA, 89 min), about mother, performer, and darkly funny smart-ass Carla Zilbersmith and her battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease; John Kastner’s “Life With Murder” (93 min), which captures the ordeal of small-town-Ontario parents who steadfastly stand by their son after he is convicted of killing his sister, and the Toronto premiere of Mike Hoolboom’s “Mark” (Canada, 70 min), a personal homage to the filmmaker’s friend and collaborator, Mark, a punk, activist and transsexual-loving humanist.
Hot Docs’ other sections include 10 films exploring “acts of kindness,” while 10 others will highlight film in documentary’s “New Wave” in its Ripping Reality sidebar. Twelve films will center on South America, and the Outstanding Achievement and Focus On retrospective programs will revisit the works of internationally-acclaimed vérité filmmaker Kim Longinotto and Canadian documentarian Tahani Rached, respectively.
Also on tap are 26 titles in the World Showcase, a mix from around the world, while the Next program will highlight 19 films which spotlight “the arts, creativity and pop culture.”
Hot Docs will again host international buyers and industry in a series of conference and makret events, including the renowned Toronto Documentary Forum.
“We are coming off of the strongest year for documentary filmmaking in recent memory, and 2010 delivers another rich harvest for doc lovers,” commented Chris McDonald, executive director of Hot Docs in a statement. “These films chronicle the lives of the ordinary and extraordinary, the heroes and monsters, the impossible and unimaginable, and, of course, the sublime and the ridiculous. Sharing these films with our audiences and welcoming these filmmakers to our festival is a great honour.”
[Individual film descriptions provided by the festival.]