‘Woman’ not forgotten by Hot Docs

Canadian distributors use festival to bow films

TORONTO — Canadian distributors are increasingly choosing Hot Docs as a launch pad for theatrical releases, solidifying the growing reputation of the largest documentary fest in North America as a world-class event.

“The Forgotten Woman” world preems at Hot Docs on Thursday and opens in Toronto and Vancouver the following day.

Directed by photographer Dilip Mehta, the doc is a non-fiction follow-up to sister Deepa Mehta’s “Water,” about an 8-year-old bride widowed in 1930s India and sent to live at a secluded religious retreat.

“The Forgotten Woman,” written and exec-produced by Deepa Mehta, looks at the state of millions of widows similarly shunned by society in India today.

Hot Docs expects to attract a record 80,000 admissions by its Sunday close.

The Toronto film audience, which supports Hot Docs’ monthly Doc Soup series and a year-round offering of small film festivals culminating in the Toronto Intl. Film Festival in September, is a dependable buzz generator, not to mention ever increasing national media coverage of the event.

“Hot Docs has reached a stage where the demand it generates for documentaries among audiences is at a level we think we can parlay into a theatrical release immediately afterwards,” said Mongrel Media founder and president Hussain Amarshi, whose company is releasing “The Forgotten Woman” and is the Canadian distributor of box office hits including “The Corporation” and “Winged Migration.”

Mongrel will release “Standard Operating Procedure,” Errol Morris’ Abu Ghraib doc, in Canada on May 2 after its Canadian preem at Hot Docs, and drops “Planet B-Boy,” U.S. director Benson Lee’s spin on breakdancing, in Toronto and Vancouver on May 16.

As for other Canadian distributors, Seville Pictures will open “The Last Continent,” Jean Lamire’s Antarctica follow-up to his Arctic doc “White Planet,” across English Canada this summer after it grossed over C$1 million ($992,000) in Quebec last winter. Film Option plans to release Montreal-based Howard Goldberg’s “S&M: Short and Male” next month.

Hot Docs includes a market and the Toronto Documentary Forum, a two-day international pitching event, which begins Wednesday. Documentarian Eugene Jarecki (“Why We Fight) will pitch “Informant T-10: Rogue Actor.”

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