I could have sworn I had already written my overview for North America’s largest documentary event, Hot Docs’, but as with last year, April just became so busy between Tribeca and advising my students on the Wallabout Film Festival that I’m finding myself “previewing” the festival on its opening day.
Between tonight and May 6, the festival will screen nearly 200 films for its 19th edition. This will be my fourth year at Hot Docs, and this time I’m pulling double duty – covering the event (and the accompanying Hot Docs Forum) for Indiewire again, but also serving on the jury for the Canadian Spectrum competition. I’m honored to have been asked, and look forward to seeing the films in that section – out of impartiality, I won’t single ant of them out below, but the full list may be found here. Thanks to these two roles, I am planning to see a lot of docs while I’m in Toronto, and the section-by-section rundown that follows in this post and the next one (the festival is too big to cover in one round!) represents some of those for which I’m most in anticipation.
The fest opens tonight with Sundance winner AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY. Other Special Presentations include additional highlights from Sundance (including Canadian standout INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE, the gripping THE IMPOSTER, and the evocative DETROPIA, among others), IDFA (such as the impressive BALLROOM DANCER), and SXSW (like the charming BROOKLYN CASTLE), as well as a few titles that just premiered at Tribeca and elsewhere. I’ve already seen but not yet written about a couple that I’d recommend: SOLDIER/CITIZEN and PRIVATE UNIVERSE, and am hoping to finally see THE BETRAYAL (pictured) after missing it at IDFA.
Of the 23 films in the International Spectrum, I’d single out a few that I’ve already viewed that are must-sees: IDFA winner PLANET OF SNAIL, the Ross Brothers’ newest TCHOUPITOULAS, and from the makers of STEAM OF LIFE, CANNED DREAMS. Of the titles I’ve not yet seen, I’m especially keen on ONLY THE YOUNG, MADE IN CHINA, MY THAI BRIDE, G-DOG, JAI BHIM COMRADE (pictured), and CALL ME KUCHU.
Highlights from the 33-film World Showcase include Hamptons winner LAURA and SXSW winner LOW & CLEAR, as well as the impressive verité THE WAITING ROOM, the oddly compelling, experimental THE YOUNG MAN WAS (PART 1: UNITED RED ARMY), and the intriguingly candid OUTING. Films at the top of my list to check out in this section include: DESPITE THE GODS (pictured), OMA & BELLA, MY NAME IS FAITH, MEET THE FOKKENS, THE WORLD’S MOST FASHIONABLE PRISON, THE JOB, and COLOMBIANOS.