More than half of the films playing at Hot Docs, North America’s largest documentary festival, are directed by women, the Canadian event said Tuesday. The festival’s 26th edition, which runs April 25-May 5, will screen 234 films, with 54% of the directors being women.
In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films receiving their world premieres include Nicole Schafer’s “Buddha in Africa,” about a Malawian boy raised in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage, who’s torn between his heritage and upbringing; Pailin Wedel’s “Hope Frozen,” which profiles a grief-stricken Bangkok family and their unorthodox decision to cryopreserve their deceased daughter; Marcela Arteaga’s “The Guardian of Memory,” a film that reveals the desperate stories of Mexicans fleeing the violence of their country toward an unfriendly U.S. border; and Jolanta Dylewska and Andrzej Wajda’s “Marek Edelman… and There Was Love in the Ghetto,” an artful recreation of the Holocaust memoir of the leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
The Special Presentations program will screen the world premieres of Laurie Lynd’s “Killing Patient Zero,” which looks at the devastating impact of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and clears the name of the Québécois flight attendant known as “Patient Zero,” and Mark Franchetti and Andrew Meier’s “Our Godfather,” about the family of a high-ranking Sicilian mob boss that came out of hiding to reveal how he helped convict over 400 Mafioso.
The program will also screen the international premiere of “American Factory,” a new film by this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Julia Reichert, with co-director Steven Bognar, about an abandoned General Motors factory in Ohio that’s reopened by a Chinese billionaire.
Other pics making their international premieres are Rachel Lears’ “Knock Down the House,” which follows four progressive female politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as they campaign for Congress during the 2018 U.S. midterms; and a tribute to the life and career of Michael Hutchence, lead singer of rock band INXS, who died 1997, in Richard Lowenstein’s “Mystify: Michael Hutchence.”
In the World Showcase program, notable films include the world premiere of “Dear Brother,” about a man who tries to keep his comatose brother alive through a one-sided dialogue of music, videos and touch; “Midnight Traveler,” which captures an Afghan filmmaker’s quest to seek asylum for his family after the Taliban puts a bounty on his head; the world premiere of “Massacre River,” which details how thousands of Dominicans of Haitian descent were left stateless after their citizenship is ruled invalid; the world premiere of “When We Walk,” in which the filmmaker is confronted with the inequity of the U.S. Medicaid system as he battles multiple sclerosis; “Inside Lehman Brothers,” a detailed account of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, highlighting the female mortgage brokers and accountants whose whistleblowing fell on deaf ears; and the international premiere of “Last Breath,” about a rescue mission to save a diver stranded 100 meters underwater with only five minutes of oxygen.
The Persister program, which features female-directed films about women speaking up and being heard, includes the world premieres of “Maxima,” about a fearless Indigenous woman in Peru who refuses to cower to a multi-billion-dollar mining corporation, “Because We Are Girls,” the story of Indo-Canadian sisters from small-town British Columbia who, haunted by a childhood secret, finally face their abuser in court, and “Haydee and the Flying Fish,” where a Chilean woman who was tortured under Pinochet’s regime 40 years ago awaits a potentially historic court verdict; as well as the international premiere of “A Woman’s Work: The NFL’s Cheerleader Problem,” in which former cheerleaders alleging sexism and labor violations face off with the NFL corporation.
The Changing Face of Europe program includes the international premieres of “To Share or Not to Share,” about a squash coach who abandons his successful career in London to launch a barter-based community in Estonia, and “The Reformist – A Female Imam,” in which a strong-willed Muslim woman opens one of Europe’s first mosques run by female imams in Denmark; as well as “Easy Lessons,” the story of a Somali child bride who flees to Hungary to build a new life; “Scheme Birds,” in which a scrappy soon-to-be mother struggles to find peace and a future in a Scottish steel town riddled with gang violence; and “#Female Pleasure,” a rousing feminist film in which five women from around the world risk their lives to question the patriarchal barriers oppressing female sexual pleasure.
“The work of documentary filmmakers in their unrelenting pursuit of the truth is as necessary as ever, and we’re honored to be sharing their vital, vibrant and creative films with Toronto audiences,” Shane Smith, director of programming for Hot Docs, said.