Hot Docs 2019 Overview

The 26th Hot Docs

April 25-May 5

Approximately 150 new features, in addition to several retrospective presentations, make up the lineup of North America’s largest documentary festival.


The Canadian Spectrum includes the fest’s opening night film, Tasha Hubbard’s NÎPAWISTAMÂSOWIN: WE WILL STAND UP, which spotlights systemic bias in the Canadian legal system following the acquittal of the killer of a Cree man; Ariella Pahlke, Nance Ackerman, and Teresa MacInnes’ CONVICTION, which gives voice to incarcerated Canadian women; Chris Flanagan’s SHELLA RECORD: A REGGAE MYSTERY, following a reggae fanatic’s obsessive search for a mysterious singer; Rama Rau’s THE DAUGHTER TREE, which addresses the consequences of Indian society’s preference of male babies; Matt Gallagher’s PREY, about a survivor of sexual abuse who sues the Catholic Church; and Ingrid Veninger’s THE WORLD OR NOTHING, which follows the celebrity dreams of twin brothers from Cuba.


In the International Spectrum, titles include: Nicole Schafer’s BUDDHA IN AFRICA, a portrait of a Malawian boy raised in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage; Maya Newell’s IN MY BLOOD IT RUNS, the coming of age story of an Aboriginal boy in Australia; Marcela Arteaga’s THE GUARDIAN OF MEMORY, which focuses on the stories of Mexican migrants seeking asylum in the US; Nadir Bouhmouch’s AMUSSU, on the resistance efforts of a Moroccan village against a polluting mining company; Bahman Kiarostami’s EXODUS, which follows the bureaucratic hurdles facing Afghan migrants attempting to leave Iran; and Pailin Wedel’s HOPE FROZEN, about a Bangkok family that controversially cryopreserves their deceased toddler.


Special Presentations at the festival include the world premieres of Laurie Lynd’s KILLING PATIENT ZERO, which aims to vindicate the Québécois man blamed for spreading AIDS in the early 1980s; Phyllis Ellis’ TOXIC BEAUTY, which investigates the harmful consequences of the unregulated cosmetics industry; and Mark Franchetti and Andrew Meier’s OUR GODFATHER, in which a Mafioso turned state’s witness breaks his silence after three decades.


Among the debuts in the World Showcase are: Mijie Li’s CONFUCIAN DREAM, following a young woman who tries to spread her newfound Confucianism; Aisha Jamal’s A KANDAHAR AWAY, a culture clash about an Afghan family in Saskatchewan; Lily Zepeda’s MR TOILET: THE WORLD’S #2 MAN, about an entrepreneur’s quest to solve the world’s global sanitation crisis; Hye-Ryeong Park’s THE WANDERING CHEF, in which a well-known Korean chef pays tribute to a maternal figure’s passing via a special banquet; Julia Horn’s DEAR BROTHER, about the touching relationship between a man and his catatonic brother; Alban Teurlai and Thierry Demaizière’s LOURDES, a portrait of the French pilgrimage site; Jason DaSilva’s WHEN WE WALK, a follow up to the filmmaker’s WHEN I WALK, as he must navigate the broken US healthcare system to be closer to his son following his divorce; and Andrei Kutsila’s STRIP AND WAR, an odd couple portrait of a former Soviet military officer and his stripper grandson.


Work appearing in Artscapes includes Jamie Kastner’s THERE ARE NO FAKES, about a forgery ring involving one of Canada’s most notable First Nations artists; Yang Sun and S Leo Chiang’s OUR TIME MACHINE, on an artistic collaboration between a Peking Opera director with Alzheimer’s and his son; Annekatrin Hendel’s BEAUTY AND DECAY, about a bouncer whose photography captured East Berlin’s 1980s punk scene; and Stacey Tenenbaum’s PIPE DREAMS, on a Canadian organ competition; while the Making Believe section, which explores truth and lies, includes Shamira Raphaëla and Clarice Gargard’s DADDY AND THE WARLORD, in which Gargard investigates her father’s connections to Liberian strongman Charles Taylor; Matthew O’Connor and Barnaby O’Connor’s THE PICKUP GAME, an inside look at the disturbing world of pickup artists; and Larry Weinstein’s PROPAGANDA: THE ART OF SELLING LIES, an exploration of the rise and power of manipulation.


This year’s event offers a special focus on female filmmakers and subjects, including the Focus on Canadian filmmaker Julia Ivanova, who enjoys a retrospective of her work as well as screenings of her latest doc, MY DADS, MY MOMS AND ME, which revisits the subjects of her earlier film, FATHERHOOD DREAMS, about gay men raising families. Women are also at the core of the new Persister section, which presents work like: Yu Gu’s A WOMAN’S WORK: THE NFL’S CHEERLEADER PROBLEM, about former cheerleaders facing off in court against the NFL; Claudia Sparrow’s MAXIMA, which focuses on an indigenous Peruvian woman’s standoff with a mining corporation; Tülin Özdemir’s RED MOON, in which the filmmaker explores the life of her aunt, who was forced to become a child bride; and Baljit Sangra’s BECAUSE WE ARE GIRLS, about sisters from an Indian-Canadian family who bring their own cousin to court for childhood sexual abuse.


European nonfiction is also a focus of this year’s slate, with Made in Italy, a showcase of Italian work like Gustav Hofer and Luca Ragazzi’s DICKTATORSHIP: MACHO MADE IN ITALY, which explores the nation’s propensity for chauvinism and misogyny; Brunella Filì’s ALLA SALUTE, which follows a celebrity chef on a culinary odyssey after he receives a cancer diagnosis; and Claudia Tosi’s I HAD A DREAM, a reflection on Italy’s past decade of political turmoil through the eyes of two female politicians; while The Changing Face of Europe spotlights work from Latvia, Estonia, and Sweden, among others, including Kaspars Goba’s INGA CAN HEAR, about a teenager who is the only hearing member of her family; Minna Hint and Meelis Muhu’s TO SHARE OR NOT TO SHARE, about a Londoner who relocates to Estonia to start a barter-based sharing community; and Ellinor Hallin and Ellen Fiske’s SCHEME BIRDS, focused on an expectant teen mom seeking a way out of her dead-end surroundings.


Among the remaining sections are Animal Magnetism, which presents work like Mincheol Wang’s GARDEN, ZOOLOGICAL, an observational film about a small South Korean zoo and the impact of confinement on its inhabitants; and Nightvision, with Rodney Ascher and David Lawrence’s THE EL DUCE TAPES, about a notorious shock-rock band from the 1980s and ’90s.

Leave a comment

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.