Burning topics, boundary-pushing formats, and films by and about women take center stage at the 2016 edition of Hot Docs, North America’s premier doc-cinema festival and confab, which raised the curtain on its full 232-pic slate this morning in Toronto.
The 11-day event opens April 28 with the world premiere of Rama Rau’s “League of Exotique Dancers,” which exposes the golden era of North American burlesque through the real stories of legendary performers.
The marquee program Big Ideas presents the world premieres of U.S. director Beth Murphy’s “What Tomorrow Brings,” about the founder of an Afghan girls’ school, and Tiffany Hsiung’s “The Apology,” a portrait of “comfort women” in Japanese-occupied Asia circa WWII. Other films include SXSW headliner “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru,” Tribeca-premiering “Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four” and “The Happy Film,” and ESPN’s “O.J. Simpson: Made in America,” with film subjects, experts and directors set to engage in extended post-screening conversations.
Matt Johnson’s Sundance-headturner “Operation Avalanche” (Lionsgate), a live, collaborative rock’n’roll documentary cinema performance by Oscar-nominated director Sam Green and artist Brent Green, interactive installations, and a slew of virtual-reality films are among the attractions of the festival’s newly expanded Doc X sidebar.
The competitive international spectrum program includes the world premieres of U.S. directors Todd Wider and Jedd Wider’s “God Knows Where I Am,” Catalina Mesa’s “The Infinite Flight of Days,” Mike Day’s “The Islands and the Whales,” and Juan Mejia Botero and Jake Kheel’s “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”
World Showcase, the fest’s global centerpiece, screens 38 features, among them the world premieres of U.S. director Jessie Deeter’s “A Revolution in Four Seasons,” about two young, opposing female leaders shaping Tunisia’s emerging democracy; Alon and Shaul Schwarz’s historical investigation “Aida’s Secret”; Jonny von Wallstrom’s “The Pearl of Africa”; Antony Butts’ look at pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, “DIY Country”; Maria Arlamovsky’s exploration of the in-vitro fertilization debate, “Future Baby”; Katja Gauriloff’s “Kaisa’s Enchanted Forest”; and Susan Gluth’s “Urmila: My Memory Is My Power.”
The tech-savvy generation of “sealfie”-snapping Inuit activitists (Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s “Angry Inuk”), a real-life pinball wizard (Nathan Drillot and Jeff Petry’s“Wizard Mode”), a highly skilled all-female Kurdish liberation brigade (Zayne Akyol’s “Gulistan, Land of Roses”), and a daredevil stunt driver who inspired a bizarre concept album (John Bolton’s “Aim for the Roses”) are among the subjects explored in films receiving their world premieres in the competitive Canadian spectrum program.
In addition to “League,” special presentations screens 30 high-profile premieres, hits from the fest circuit and master works. World-premiering titles include Jared P. Scott’s “The Age of Consequences” (climate change), Brendan Byrne’s “Bobby Sands: 66 Days,” Darby Wheeler’s “Hip-Hop Evolution,” Reuben Atlas and Jerry Rothwell’s “Sour Grapes” (vintage wine fraud) and Kevin McMahon’s “Spaceship Earth.”
This year’s Made In sidebar turns the spotlight on new documentaries from Australia.
As previously announced, Steve James (“Hoop Dreams,” “Life Itself”) will be the recipient of the Hot Docs outstanding achievement award, with the celebration including a showcase of his work.
The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festivals runs April 28 to May 8 in Toronto.