By Paula Bernstein and Peter Knegt | Indiewire April 24, 2014 at 4:03PM
Hot Docs launches in Toronto tonight with the Canadian premiere of Sundance hit "The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz." The screening -- at the festival's hub The Bloor Cinema -- kicks off 11 days and nights of North America's largest documentary festival. And while plenty of other breakout films from Sundance and the like will certainly be a big part of the festival, Hot Docs also offers plenty of opportunity for discovery with dozens of world premieres. So here are 10 films you might not have heard of yet with buzz heading into Hot Docs that we're particularly excited to see. Check them out at Hot Docs, or at many doc film festivals to come (and hopefully theaters soon after that):
"112 Weddings," directed by Doug Block
Over the past two decades, Doug Block has supported his career as a documentary film director ("51 Birch Street," "The Kids Grow Up") by moonlighting as a wedding videographer. In his latest film, his two careers intertwine as Block tracks down and interviews some of the most memorable couples whose weddings he filmed to see how their relationships are faring. Given Block's tendency to delve (sometimes painfully so) into tender emotional territory, we're looking forward to seeing how he mines the field of marriage.
"Advanced Style," directed by Lina Pliopyte
We're hoping to age gracefully, which is why we're planning to take some tips from the grand dames featured in this documentary about sophisticated women of a certain age. Based on Ari Seth Cohen's blog and then book of the same name, the film, directed by Lina Pliopyte, profiles 7 of New York's most stylish women. The silver-haired set has never looked so chic. With popular culture celebrating youth and super models starting out in middle school, it's about time we appreciated the style that comes from a life well lived.
"Before The Last Curtain Falls," directed by Thomas Wallner
2010, a group of aging drag queens and transsexuals (between the ages of 58
and 67) were asked by famed Belgian choreographer Alain Platel to return
to the spotlight for a new show titled Gardenia. It became a huge success, playing over 200 shows in 25 countries. It also resulted in this documentary, which follows 7 of the show's performers as they find the courage to try something new in your golden years. Blending dance cinema with character study, it gives the folks behind Gardenia yet another new chance at the spotlight -- and audiences a chance to meet them.
"Children 404," directed by Pavel Loparev and Askold Kurov
The timely topic of LGBT rights in Russia is depicted in "Children 404," Askold Kurov and Pavel Loparev’s firsthand account of the impact of Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law on the LGBT youth of the country. The law -- which forbids “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” -- has left an estimated 2.5 million LGBT children and teenagers in Russia without support. Psychologists, teachers and even parents can be fined or imprisoned for supporting them. This film, having its world premiere at Hot Docs, lets 45 Russian teens and tweens share their stories through anonymous interviews and video diaries.
"Everyday Rebellion," directed by Arash T. Riahi
Arash T. Riahi travels to various hot spots (and we don't mean the beach) around the world to capture the innovative ways average people are turning themselves into political activists and rebels through non-violent means. From the Occupy Movement in New York City, the Ukraine and Spain to Iran and Syria, "Everyday Rebellion" shows how civil disobedience takes many forms and creativity can sometimes be the most powerful means of resistance.
"Harmontown," directed by Neil Berkeley
Whether or not you're a fan of "Community," you should be intrigued by "Harmontown," in which Dan Harmon, the notoriously difficult, self-destructive and self-hating showrunner, takes his live podcast on the road across the country after being fired from his own show. Along the way, Harmon performs sets with special guests such as Patton Oswalt and Jason Sudeikis (so we're expecting some big laughs). Neil Berkeley's documentary (which previously screened at SXSW) delves into the man behind the myth, his hardcore fan base and his relationships with his girlfriend Erin McGathy, former writing partner Rob Schrab and Sarah Silverman (with whom he co-created "The Sarah Silverman Program" and then had a well-publicized falling out). "I'm his biggest fan. And I fired him," Silverman says -- which gives you a good idea of just what a pain in the ass Harmon must be. We're looking forward to finding that out for ourselves.
"Hotline," directed by Tony Shaff
From famed fortune teller Ms. Cleo to the folks behind phone sex lines and suicide prevention numbers, Tony Shaff's documentary "Hotline" gives us an inside look at the folks behind the millions of calls to hotlines that are made every year. But it also aims to explore what is happening in this new world where voice-to-voice communication and actual human interaction are becoming increasingly replaced with the screens of our laptops and smart phones.
"Songs For Alexis," directed by Elvira Lind
"Songs For Alexis" follows two teenagers, Ryan and Alexis, as they struggle with being different in suburban American. Alexis’ parents severely disapprove of her relationship with Ryan, a transgendered musician, which forces her to choose between her family and the man she loves. A coming of age story unlike anything you’ll see in mainstream narrative cinema, this documentary is as lovely as it gets.
"Tough Love," directed by Stephanie Wang-Breal
Stephanie Wang-Breal's doc takes on the incredibly broken system of child welfare system, which seems to be hurting as much as it is helping. Focusing on two families stuck in a struggle of bureaucracy and prejudice, "Tough Love" takes an intimate look at just two examples of the roughly 250,000 American children taken into foster care every year -- most of them because their parents have insufficient housing and family support, not because of abuse.
"The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaya," directed by Jessica Oreck
We've been intrigued by the concept of Jessica Oreck's latest project since hearing about it at The True/False Film Festival and New Directors/New Films. Part fairytale, part anthropological study, "The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaya" is a meditation on our relationship with the natural world -- a topic that has clearly interested Oreck in her earlier works, such as "Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo," the web series "Mysteries of Vernacular" and, most recently, her feature-length documentary (and accompanying online project), "Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys." Describing "The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaya" to Indiewire's "Women and Hollywood" blog, Oreck said it is "about the way that humans look at and interact with wilderness. It's about memory, folklore, traditions, war, human nature. The usual." Sign us up.