Hot Docs 2021 Overview

Festival:
The 28th Hot Docs

Dates:
April 29-May 9

About:
North America’s largest nonfiction event presents approximately 150 new and recent doc features, available online throughout Canada.

Among the offerings:
Canadian Spectrum

A.RTIFICIAL I.MMORTALITY
Director: Ann Shin
If computers could let you live forever, would you?

THE GIG IS UP
Director: Shannon Walsh
App developers lured a massive labor force by promising flexible hours with no offices or bosses, but the human cost of disruption runs deep.

GREY ROADS
Director: Jesse McCracken
A filmmaker returns to his declining hometown to reconnect with his father and grandfather, the two men who have shaped his life.

HELL OR CLEAN WATER
Director: Cody Westman
A diver devoted to cleaning up the ocean floors in Newfoundland’s harbors edges closer to financial ruin in his effort to save the planet, but his good deeds don’t go unnoticed.

MY TREE
Director: Jason Sherman
Forty years after receiving a tree for his bar mitzvah, planted in Israel in his name, the filmmaker searches it out, discovering many uncomfortable truths stemming from his gift.

ONE OF OURS
Director: Yasmine Mathurin
After a Haitian-born youth is racially profiled at an Indigenous basketball tournament, he wrestles with his shaken sense of belonging in his Indigenous adoptive family while attempting to heal from his past.

ZO REKEN
Director: Emanuel Licha
In Port-au-Prince, various citizens, shuttled in a vehicle through a city in crisis, speak candidly about the grim realities of colonialism, international aid, and 11 years of unkept promises after the earthquake.

International Spectrum

FOUR SEASONS IN ONE DAY
Director: Annabel Verbeke
As a ferry shuttles tourists and locals between British-controlled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, cameras eavesdrop on their frank conversations about the new/old border in this delightfully politics-free Brexit critique.

GAUCHO AMERICANO
Director: Nicolás Molina
When two Chilean gauchos of different generations leave to pursue their cowboy dreams on an Idaho ranch, a humorous and touching tale of clashing cultures unfolds.

MAGALUF GHOST TOWN
Director: Miguel Ángel Blanca
Every summer, a peaceful Spanish beach town explodes into a hellscape of budget European holidaymakers.

PEOPLE WE COME ACROSS
Director: Mia Halme
When 700 helpful Finnish tourists arrive in Benin to assist in a tropical disease vaccine study that could save the lives of millions of children, a unique cultural exchange reveals how humans can help and harm with the best of intentions.

THE SILENCE OF THE MOLE
Director: Anaïs Taracena
This gripping political mystery unravels how a courageous 1970s journalist dubbed “The Mole” risked his life to infiltrate Guatemala’s government and uncover the truths behind one of the most violent and repressive periods in the country’s history.

World Showcase

BETWEEN US
Director: Dorota Proba
An affair, a secret, a relationship on the verge of melting down—a simple box of cards posing questions on love sends three Polish couples on a deeply personal journey that unravels both tender and difficult truths.

BLUE BOX
Director: Michal Weits
Diary entries of one of the co-founders of the Jewish National Fund, which used Blue Boxes as a global fund to purchase land in Israel, and his descendants’ memories explore the myths that constructed a national icon.

THE COLONEL’S STRAY DOGS
Director: Khalid Shamis
Recounting his father’s dangerous life as an exile in London with a million-dollar bounty on his head, the director questions the cost of his decades-long opposition to Muammar Gaddafi and eventual return to an unrecognizable Libya on the brink of civil war.

MY MOHAMED IS DIFFERENT
Director: Ines Marzouk
Recently retired European women flock to Luxor, Egypt, in search of sun, sand, and love from local men interested in money and security.

NEIGHBOURING THE MOON 
Director: Reza Farahmand
In this lyrical coming-of-age story, two teenage girls dream of a life beyond the refuge they have with their mother in a cramped room inside an Aleppo hospital through the war, its aftermath, and now a pandemic.

A ONCE AND FUTURE PEACE
Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar
An exposé of the failings of the criminal justice system, and the promise of a more transformative approach through restorative justice and the Peacemaking Circle movement.

THE SAILOR
Director: Lucia Kasova
After a life of freewheeling adventure spent sailing all over the world, Paul Johnson, now 80 with a frail body, a liter of vodka, and a broken sailboat, contemplates his life and the cost of fulfilling an uncompromising dream.

Secrets from Putumayo
Director: Aurélio Michiles
In 1910, Roger Casement, British consul in Brazil, investigated atrocities against Indigenous Amazonians, his journals capturing a harrowing picture of their enslavement and murder by the rubber industry.

SUNNY
Director: Keti Machavariani
An intrepid social researcher goes door-to-door in Tbilisi, popping controversial questions on topics such as sexuality, minority rights, and nationalism on unsuspecting residents.

ZUHUR’S DAUGHTERS
Director: Laurentia Genske, Robin Humboldt
After escaping the war in Syria, a family learns to negotiate their new lives in Germany, but when the siblings begin to explore their transgender identities, their parents push back hard as they cling to strict religious and cultural ideologies.

Special Presentations

COME BACK ANYTIME
Director: John Daschbach
A year in the life of a self-taught Japanese ramen master, who considers his legendary noodle shop more than just a livelihood, but his life, and his die-hard customers more than just regulars, but true friends.

THE DEATH OF MY TWO FATHERS
Director: Sol Guy
A man turns the experience of watching videotapes that his terminally ill father recorded into an unforgettable contemplation of race, death, and the importance of family, composed as a letter to his own children.

DIRTY TRICKS
Director: Daniel Sivan
When the best player in the elite competitive level of the card game bridge—a million-dollar cut-throat business—is accused of cheating, the ensuing scandal confounds experts, criminal science, celebrities, and basic belief in this hilarious true-crime thriller.

NIKE’S BIG BET
Director: Paul Kemp
Did legendary running coach Alberto Salazar’s “Just Do It” attitude and questionable practices push the limits of human performance and technology too far?

THE RETURN: LIFE AFTER ISIS
Director: Alba Sotorra Clua
Women who uprooted their lives in the West to join ISIS in Syria, now infamous and reviled in the media, yearn for absolution and the homelands that bar their return.

ROCKFIELD: THE STUDIO ON THE FARM
Director: Hannah Berryman
The unlikely tale of how two Welsh brothers turned their dairy farm into one of the most successful recording studios of all time.

VIRAL
Director: Udi Nir, Sagi Bornstein
The innocent optimism and surprising resilience of seven young people from across the world are revealed through over a year’s worth of real-time posts and massive reality checks.

WUHAN WUHAN
Director: Yung Chang
A look at Wuhan, China, at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, revealing the emotions and resilience at the core of our shared humanity.

Artscapes

BANK JOB
Director: Daniel Edelstyn, Hilary Powell
When a mischievous filmmaking duo convinces a community to come together to create their own currency, they challenge an accepted economic system and dream up a debt-free future in which money works for us all.

FIRESTARTER: THE STORY OF BANGARRA 
Director: Wayne Blair, Nel Minchin
Against all odds and at great personal cost, three Aboriginal brothers turn a dance troupe into one of Australia’s leading performing arts companies, forging a language in dance that speaks to the burden of intergenerational trauma and the joyful reclamation of culture.

HIGH MAINTENANCE 
Director: Barak Heymann
Dani Karavan, a cocksure Israeli artist in his 80s, sets out on a riotous journey across Europe to say farewell to his deteriorating large-scale environmental sculptures, while also contemplating a decision on the most controversial piece of his career.

I’M WANITA
Director: Matthew Walker
After 25 years of hard partying and insane choices, can Australia’s “Queen of Honky Tonk” keep it together to record with a Nashville legend, or will she crash her sad country song of a life for good?

THE MAN WHO PAINTS WATER DROPS
Director: Oan Kim, Brigitte Bouillot
When the filmmaker turns his lens on his elderly father, a renowned Korean artist, volumes are revealed about their relationship.

NO HAY CAMINO: THERE IS NO PATH 
Director: Heddy Honigmann
Facing terminal illness, the legendary documentarian embarks on a self-reflective journey across the Netherlands and to her birthplace in Peru.

PORTRAYAL
Director: Billie Mintz
Haunted by a family secret revealed to him as a boy, a young man jeopardizes relationships and crosses continents to investigate the mystery behind the thousands of missing paintings his grandfather created during his lifetime.

SET!
Director: Scott Gawlik
Seven cut-throat competitive table setting hopefuls feverishly prepare their entries for a prestigious county fair, serving up artistry, hilarity, and serious frenemy vibes on a silver platter. 

YOU ARE THE DAYS TO COME
Director: Ronja Yu
A profile of six Chinese artists, whose late-20th century creations represented the revolutionary dreams of a generation soon to be violently silenced by the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Nightvision

ACTS OF LOVE
Director: Isidore Bethel, Francis Leplay
When his older boyfriend loses interest in him, the filmmaker relocates to Chicago and uses dating apps to cast new lovers in an amorphous project about romantic attraction, compatibility, and attachment that his mother hates.

BLOOM UP: A SWINGER COUPLE STORY
Director: Mauro Russo Rouge
An average middle-aged Italian couple by day, Hermes and Betta live out their unbridled sexual fantasies as swingers by night.

Persister

BANGLA SURF GIRLS
Director: Elizabeth D Costa
Three rebellious working-class teenage girls in Bangladesh escape daily hardships and stifling family lives by riding waves on their surfboards, chasing a fleeting and thrilling sense of freedom.

DYING TO DIVORCE
Director: Chloe Fairweather
As rates of femicide and domestic abuse soar in Turkey and democratic rights for women are increasingly eroded, a lawyer and her clients bravely risk everything for their freedom by standing up to the government and putting violent men behind bars.

FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK
Director: Bobbi Jo Hart
Ferocious female rockers Fanny, who shattered glass ceilings in the ’70s, collecting fans like David Bowie before being buried in retro record bins, reunite fifty years later with a new record deal and a chance to rewrite history.

LADY BUDS
Director: Chris J Russo
From a Latinx LGBTQ activist to a Black Catholic school principal, six small businesswomen hit California’s newly legal cannabis trade, but as aggressive regulations bogart the market, can they each keep their green American dream alight?

THE SPOKESWOMAN
Director: Luciana Kaplan
When healer and human rights activist María de Jesús Patricio becomes the first Indigenous woman to run for president in Mexico, her revolutionary platform advocating unity and a new approach to progress becomes mired in structural racism.

Deep Dive

THE CAVIAR CONNECTION
Director: Benoit Bringer
An investigative series exposing how Lady Gaga, luxury gifts, and scandalous private wealth are used by dictatorships like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to wield a new “caviar diplomacy” around the world.

Markers

RIFT FINFINNEE
Director: Daniel Kötter
On a journey through the periphery of Addis Ababa, engrossing architectural and landscape images provide the backdrop to a multi-voiced narrative that reveals rapid urbanization, socioeconomic disparity, and the seeds of civil war.

ZAHO ZAY
Director: Maéva Ranaïvojaona, Georg Tiller
A young female guard in an overcrowded Madagascar prison daydreams of her father, a murderer who abandoned her as a child, but when a new inmate brings news of him, her daydreams turn to nightmares.

Systems Down

APART
Director: Jennifer Redfearn
In the Midwest, plagued with opioid abuse and rising incarceration rates for women, three unforgettable mothers return home from prison to rebuild their lives after years of separation from their children.

DEAD MAN’S SWITCH: A CRYPTO MYSTERY
Director: Sheona McDonald
A riveting cryptocurrency thriller unraveling the story of a Canadian blockchain wizard who mysteriously died on his honeymoon in India and the fate of his investors’ $200 million.

THE FACE OF ANONYMOUS
Director: Gary Lang
This timely portrait of 21st century activism follows Commander X, an iconic and divisive figure in the “hacktivist” network who spends his days dodging authorities across North America while surfing the web and surviving the streets.

IT IS NOT OVER YET
Director: Louise Detlefsen
Inspired by Florence Nightingale’s methods from 150 years ago, a small Danish retirement home deploys a controversial new treatment for dementia patients, shifting the focus from pharmaceuticals to care.

SIEGED: THE PRESS VS DENIALISM
Director: Caio Cavechini
As Brazil’s COVID-19 death toll soars, President Bolsonaro unleashes a relentless media campaign of misinformation, undermining the efforts of journalists desperate to inform a nation during the darkest months of the pandemic.

The Changing Face of Europe

FAITH AND BRANKO
Director: Catherine Harte
United by their passion for Roma music, cosmopolitan Faith and shy, sweet Branko marry on a whim—but their unlikely love story begins to crack as their clashing cultural values and lifestyles slowly tear them apart.

A MARRIAGE
Director: Katerina Hager
Co-Director: Asad Faruqi
When Zdenka in the Czech Republic falls in love online with Tabish in Pakistan, they marry—but five years later, Czech immigration still refuses him entry.

MOLECULES
Director: Andrea Segre
In February 2020, locked down in Venice, his late father’s hometown, the grieving filmmaker—and the city—confront the fragilities of their foundations, finding extraordinary beauty in the powerful presence of absence.

THE NEW PLASTIC ROAD
Director: Myrto Papadopoulos, Angelos Tsaousis
A hard-working man from Tajikistan discovers the unexpected costs of trading with a global economic giant after China reopens Silk Road trading routes with impoverished former Soviet states.

RAISE THE BAR
Director: Gudjon Ragnarsson
With an unorthodox basketball coach, a tight-knit group of empowered eight-year-old Icelandic girls demand to play against boys and call time out on patriarchy.

WELCOME TO SPAIN
Director: Juan Antonio Moreno Amador
When Seville’s last brothel is repurposed into a refugee reception centre, cameras move in to capture the newcomers’ impressions of Spanish life.

Made in Colombia 

ON THE OTHER SIDE
Director: Iván Guarnizo
Seeking the truth behind his late mother’s two years in FARC-EP captivity, the director and his brother pore over her journals to map out an extraordinarily perilous journey through Colombia’s jungles and mountains, retracing her path to confront her captors.

REBEL LOVE
Director: Alejandro Bernal
Their relationship forbidden while in ranks of the FARC-EP, two Colombian rebels have a chance at a fresh start for their young love after the peace accords, but new daily demands, estranged families and fears for their safety burden their burgeoning life together.

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

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