Hot Docs 2017 Overview

The 24th annual Hot Docs

April 27-May 7

The Toronto event, the largest nonfiction fest in North America, offers nearly 150 new feature docs.

Special Presentations include: Opening Night selection BEE NATION (pictured), Lana Šlezic’s look at a Canada-wide spelling bee competition for First Nations youth; Karin Jurschick’s PLAYING GOD, a portrait of Ken Feinberg, tasked with compensating victims of major tragedies; and Matthias Heeder and Monika Hielscher’s PRE-CRIME, about controversial technology to identify likely future criminals.

Among the dozen titles in the International Spectrum competition are: Chris Kelly’s A CAMBODIAN SPRING, which profiles activists speaking out against corruption in Cambodia; Pau Ortiz’s THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL (pictured), about teen immigrants forced to support their family in Mexico; Julia Dahr’s THANK YOU FOR THE RAIN, following a Kenyan farmer’s mission to address climate change; and Maso Chen’s THE SILENT TEACHER, about a Taiwanese man who donates his wife’s body for medical research.

Eighteen films face off in the Canadian Spectrum competition, including: Kalina Bertin’s MANIC, the filmmaker’s investigation into her father’s mysterious background; Tasha Hubbard’s BIRTH OF A FAMILY, which follows the reunion of indigenous siblings forcibly separated and adopted as children; Jesse McCracken’s MOTEL, a portrait of a Niagara Falls motel-turned-low-income-housing; Elisa Gonzalez and Daniel Froidevaux’s THE QUIET ZONE, about those drawn to an area devoid of radio and other transmission signals; Ali Weinstein’s MERMAIDS (pictured), exploring a subculture obsessed with emulating the fabled creatures; and François Jacob’s A MOON OF NICKEL AND ICE, a portrait of a remote Siberian mining community.

Over forty features appear in the World Showcase, including the world premieres of Vanessa Stockley’s THE GENIUS AND THE OPERA SINGER (pictured), a sort of GREY GARDENS in the West Village; Yang Wang’s WEAVING, about the family drama that ensues among the children of an elderly Chinese couple compensated for a forced relocation; Darren Mann’s THIS COLD LIFE, about the world’s northernmost town; and Dylan Howitt’s OUT OF THIN AIR, on an infamous 1974 Icelandic murder mystery.

Other non-competitive sections include the outré Nightvision, including work like Florian Habicht’s SPOOKERS, on a New Zealand fright amusement park, and Anthony&Alex’s SUSANNE BARTSCH: ON TOP, about the legendary NYC nightlife producer; Focus on Japan, with Koki Shigeno’s RAMEN HEADS, an inside look at the popular cuisine; and Takashi Nishihara’s ABOUT MY LIBERTY, about a millennial-led anti-militarization protest against Japanese President Abe; and Artscapes, featuring Jody Hassett Sanchez’s MORE ART UPSTAIRS (pictured), about a Midwestern city-wide art competition that aims to democratize culture; and Hope Litoff’s 32 PILLS: MY SISTER’S SUICIDE, following the filmmaker’s attempt to make sense of the loss of her sister.

Additional sections include Magnificent Obsessions, with Eefje Blankevoort and Arnold van Bruggen’s BRING THE JEWS HOME, following a fanatical Christian organization determined to get all Jews to move to Israel; and Ilija Cvetkovski’s AVEC L’AMOUR, about a Macedonian man and his obsession with vintage cars; Democrazy, with Marc Eberhardt’s MEUTHEN’S PARTY, following a quiet German economics professor as he tries to counter the rise a far-right political party; and Luke Walker’s PACMEN, a behind-the-scenes look at Dr Ben Carson’s super PAC-backed run for the presidency; and Singular Sensation(s), which offers Reetta Aalto’s GREY VIOLET – ODD ONE OUT, about a queer Russian activist in exile in Finland; and Vaishali Sinha’s ASK THE SEXPERT (pictured), profiling a popular nonagenarian sex advice columnist in conservative India.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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