"This year’s festival is about looking back and celebrating our 20th anniversary, and also looking forward,” said Hot Docs director of programming Charlotte Cook. “This year we are celebrating, big ideas, innovation and the future. We will have many new and exciting experiences at the festival to give back to the local, and filmmaking, community that have supported us for two decades. This festival is for them."
The festival will open with the world premiere of Shawney Cohen’s "The Manor," a first-time filmmaker’s intimate tragi-comic family portrait. Cohen was a strip club manager before taking on the film. As described by Hot Docs: "When he was six years old his father bought 'The Manor,' a strip club attached to a seedy 32-room motel in Guelph, Ontario. Years later, his father has seen his weight balloon to 400 pounds, while his mother struggles to survive at 85 pounds. Hoping to understand what happened to his once-recognizable family, Shawney spends three years filming in a shadowy world of sex, drugs and family feuds. His role as filmmaker and son provides an astonishingly intimate and rarely seen perspective on a family facing the consequences of their livelihood, dependence and love."
“I could not be more thrilled that we are opening the Festival with 'The Manor,'” said Cook. “This is an incredible story and a stunning film. To be able to open the Festival with a film by a new talent in Canadian filmmaking, Shawney Cohen, is a real joy.”Other films in the program include: Gus Holwerda’s "The Unbelievers," which follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss advancing the importance of science and reason; AJ Schnack’s "Caucus," a behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 Iowa Caucus; Malcom Ingram’s "Continental," a stylish portrait of the legendary NYC gay bathhouse; Lucy Walker’s "The Crash Reel," a high adrenaline look at snowboarder Kevin Pearce’s fighting for his life; Penny Lane’s "Our Nixon," a revealing look at one of the most controversial presidencies in US history; Marta Cunningham’s "Valentine Road," depicting a heartbreaking tragedy in which at an eighth-grader fatally shoots his LGBTQ classmate; and Raoul Peck’s "Fatal Assistance," a portrayal of the failure and corruption behind international aid post-disaster.
In the competitive Canadian Spectrum program, notable films include (with descriptions provided by the festival): Michelle Latimer’s "Alias," which illuminates the lives, music, and dreams of five rapper’s in Toronto’s street hip-hop scene; John Kastner’s "NCR: Not Criminally Responsible," a compassionate portrayal of the dilemma between the rights of the mentally ill and the safety of others; Charles Wilkinson’s "Oil Sands Karaoke," the story of oil sands workers easing their loneliness at their local karaoke bar; Hans Olson’s "The Auctioneer," a charming portrayal of a man helping his rural Alberta neighbours deal with a transforming culture; Anne Wheeler’s "Chi," following actress Babz Chula’s journey to India in hopes of finding a cure for her cancer; Liz Marshall’s "The Ghosts in Our Machine," which captures the sentience of animals through stunning images; and Nimisha Mukerji’s "Blood Relative," the story of a man’s fight to obtain life-saving medical treatment for young people in India.
In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films include (with descriptions provided by the festival): Lotfy Nathan’s "12 O'Clock Boys," the story of a young boy longing to join a notorious dirt-bike gang; Matt Wolf’s "Teenage," a look at the rise of teenage culture; Inigo Westmeier’s "Dragon Girls," a glimpse at the young female warriors-in-training at an ancient Shaolin Kung Fu school outside Beijing; Jessica Oreck’s "Aatsinki: The Story of Arctic Cowboys," a wholly absorbing portrait of reindeer herders in Lapland; Jon Bang Carlsen’s "Just The Right Amount of Violence", the story of troubled teens ripped from their beds by intervention specialists and involuntarily placed in reform school; Zhu Yu’s "Cloudy Mountains," which follows a father and son working in the toxic cloudy mountains of Western China; and Ran Tal’s "Garden of Eden," a look the revealing interaction between a diverse group of vacationers in an Israeli national park.
The festival will also present two retrospective programs: Focus On Peter Mettler, a mid-career retrospective of the filmmaker’s work; and the Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective, honouring the influential work of masterful filmmaker Les Blank. They also announced the launch of the Scotiabank Big Ideas Series, a new speaker series featuring some of the high-profile subjects appearing in this year’s films. The inaugural series will present best-selling authors evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss, the Honourable LGen Roméo Dallaire, and Prof. Anita Hill.
“Hot Docs’ audiences have always embraced the idea that great documentaries should be a starting point for great conversations,” says managing director Brett Hendrie. “With the launch of this year’s Scotiabank Big Ideas series, we are showcasing three of the most compelling films in the Festival in a way that provides Toronto audiences a special opportunity to hear from leading thinkers who are shaping our shared dialogue on important social, scientific and cultural topics. We expect lively and thought-provoking conversations that hold true to the Festival’s motto of being outspoken and outstanding.”
For information on the Big Ideas series, and a list of all of the 205 films heading to Hot Docs, click here.