The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival began in Toronto last night with the Canadian premiere of Sundance hit “Al Weiwei: Never Sorry.” The screening, at the festival’s newly renovated hub The Bloor Cinema, kicks off 10 days and nights of North America’s largest documentary festival.
While plenty of breakout films from Sundance and other major festivals will certainly be a big part of the festival, Hot Docs also offers plenty of opportunity for discovery. So here’s 10 films you might not have heard of yet with buzz heading into Hot Docs. Check them out over the next 10 days in Toronto or — quite likely — at many doc film festivals to come:
Affair Of The Heart (directed by Sylvia Caminer)
A Rick Springfield documentary! Sylvia Caminer’s “Affair of the Heart” takes on the “Jesse’s Girl” singer, checking in with the now sixtysomething Springfield (who still does 100+ concerts a year) and his rabid fans. And yep, Springfield will indeed attend the film’s premiere screening on April 29th.
Beauty is Embarrassing (directed by Neil Berkeley)
“Beauty is Embarrassing” is a portrait of American artist Wayne White, who began his career as a puppeteer and got his break as one of the creators of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse.” Director Neil Berkeley follows White’s career through its various highs and lows, offer what Hot Docs calls “a reminder to us all that we should follow our passion.” “Beauty” has its international premiere the first Saturday of Hot Docs.
El Huaso (directed by Carlo Guillermo Proto)
One of the many notable Canadian titles at the festival, “El Huaso” follows Gustavo Proto, a Chilean immigrant living in Toronto who is contemplating suicide. But before he makes the decision, he wants to live out his childhood dream of returning to Chile and becoming a huaso, a Chilean cowboy. “El Huaso” has its Hot Docs debut this April 28th.
Laura (directed by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa)
With a main character described “somewhere between Grey Gardens’ Little Edie and Breakfast at Tiffany’s Holly Golightly,” Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa’s doc looks like a whole lot of fun. Following Laura, a South American socialite and hoarder living in New York, the film screens this Sunday, April 29th.
The Mechanical Bride (directed by Allison de Fren)
One of the most anticipated world premieres at the fest, Allison de Fren’s doc takes a look at the bizarre world of artificial love dolls. Her subjects in the film include a man who takes his doll out on dates and keeps her photo in his wallet, and a widower who bought a “divorcée” on eBay so as not to burden a real woman with his failing health. Sure to be provocative, the film premieres this Sunday night.
My Name is Faith (directed by Tiffany Sudela-Junker, Jason Banker and Jorge Torres-Torres)
Another world premiere, this Adrian Grenier-produced film looks at Faith, a young girl who suffers from Attachment Disorder, a condition associated with neglect from a parent in a child’s first few years. Her newly adopted parents are trying to gain Faith’s trust, but the film asks whether or not this is possible in light of the damage already done. “Faith” premieres May 2nd.
Only The Young (directed by Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet)
After having a very well-received preview screening at True/False last month, first time filmmakers Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet are bringing their “Only The Young” to Hot Docs. The film follows three American teenagers — Garrison, Kevin and Skye — over their last summer of high school. Gaining intimate access to a particularly tumultuous moment in these young lives, “Only The Young” is sure to be a festival favorite. It first screens on Tuesday, May 1.
Summer of Giacomo (directed by Alessandro Comodin)
Another debut film, Alessandro Comodin’s “Summer of Giacomo” also tells a tale of youth, this time in Northeast Italy. Following Giacomo, a 19-year-old deaf boy on a summer’s day spent with his childhood friend Stefania, the film is having its Canadian premiere April 30th after screening at fests like Locarno and Rotterdam. It should work as a lovely companion piece to “Only The Young” if you’re looking for a double feature.
United in Anger: A History Of ACT UP (directed by Jim Hubbard)
You might have heard of David France’s “How To Survive a Plague,” which debuted at Sundance earlier this year. But there’s another worthy AIDS documentary on the festival circuit this year in Jim Hubbard’s “United in Anger: A History of Act Up,” which is coming to Hot Docs on May 2nd after a premiere in MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight in February.
Wildness (directed by Wu Tsang)
After screening at SXSW, Wu Tsang’s “Wildness” makes its way to Hot Docs on May 2nd. In the film, Tsang plays homage to an East Los Angeles bar called the Silver Platter, a safe space in the Latino-LGBT community since 1963 where Tsang himself began a weekly party called “Wildness” in 2008. The film works as a portrait of a unique piece of LGBT history that often goes ignored.
For more information on all screenings, check out Hot Docs’ website.