Hot Docs Announces 15 Special Presentations Titles

Assholes: A Theory

By Pat Mullen

The first wave of Hot Docs titles is out! The festival announced today 15 docs that are set to play in the 2019 Special Presentations line-up. Among the selections are six Canadian productions or co-productions, including the world premieres of Laurie Lynd’s Killing Patient Zero, which re-examines the AIDS epidemic and the story of the Quebecois man who was dubbed “patient zero” amidst the outbreak. Also making its world premiere is Toxic Beauty, directed by Phyllis Ellis, which offers an incisive study of the devastating health consequences posed by the cosmetics industry. Other Canadian docs announced are Fred Peabody’s The Corporate Coup d’Etat, a penetrating study of political theory come to fruition in the age of Trump that joins Toxic Beauty in representing Toronto’s White Pine Pictures at the fest, and John Walker’s provocatively titled NFB doc Assholes: A Theory, which asks relevant questions when huge, er, assholes are coming to power in places like the USA and Ontario. Canadian co-pros Advocate and Gaza have their Hot Docs homecoming after debuting to strong debuts at Sundance earlier this year. Subscribe today to read about several of these titles in the upcoming issue of POV.

Other Sundance hits coming to Hot Docs include the thunderously well-received audience award winner Knock Down the House, directed by Rachel Lears, which profiles a new generation of politicians, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, shaking up the system. Petra Costa’s The Edge of Democracy also makes its Canadian debut at Hot Docs after bowing at Sundance. Covering the timely political doc for POV, Jason Gorber called it, “a harrowing cautionary tale told with a sense of grandeur.” Read more about Sundance docs like Knock Down the House and The Edge of Democracy here.. Other notable international names tapped for Hot Docs include, but are not limited to, Heddy Honigmann (Buddy) and Fredrik Gertten (Push) on the filmmaker front, and author N. Scott Momaday and chef Diana Kennedy as subjects. Additional titles will be announced in the coming weeks with the main chunk of the line-up dropping March 19.

The first Special Presentations titles are:

D: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaiche | P: Joëlle Bertossa, Paul Cadieux | Canada, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland | 2019 | 105 min | Canadian Premiere
As one of the few Israeli human-rights lawyers willing to defend Palestinians, Lea Tsemel has been defying hostility and vitriol from the public and press for nearly 50 years to fight for clients in a stacked system.

Always in Season
D: Jacqueline Olive | P: Jacqueline Olive, Jessica Devaney | USA | 2019 | 88 min | International Premiere
The unresolved case of a Black teen found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina in 2014 is the lens through which this searing doc examines the lingering trauma of more than a century of lynching and continued racial violence.

Assholes: A Theory
D: John Walker | P: Ann Bernier, Annette Clarke, John Walker | Canada | 2019 | 81 min | North American Premiere
Inspired by the New York Times bestselling book, this lively philosophical investigation into the rise of asshole behaviour across the world asks: What does it mean to be an asshole, and more importantly, how do we stop their proliferation?

D: Heddy Honigmann | P: John Appel | Netherlands | 2018 | 86 min | Canadian Premiere
Master documentarian Heddy Honigmann turns her eye for authenticity and genuine interview to the complex relationships between service dogs and their owners. Witness canine humanity and life-altering trust at work in this observational marvel.

The Corporate Coup d’Etat
D: Fred Peabody | P: Peter Raymont | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere
Piercing insights from journalist Chris Hedges and philosopher John Ralston Saul dissect America at a troubling crossroads, exposing Trump’s MAGA doctrine as a symptom of a broken democracy where power now lies with corporations, not citizens.

The Edge of Democracy
D: Petra Costa | P: Joanna Natasegara | Brazil | 2019 | 112 min | Canadian Premiere
Featuring unprecedented access to former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva, the personal and political brilliantly combine in this unflinching exploration of one of the most dramatic and polarizing periods in Brazilian history.

D: Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell | P: Paul Cadieux, Brendan J. Byrne | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere
Fully blockaded and home to almost two million people, the Gaza Strip is portrayed in the news as the world’s largest open-air prison—but this rare immersion into everyday Palestinian life reveals the pressures of occupation and the humanity straining to flourish.

Human Nature
D: Adam Bolt | P: Sarah Goodwin, Meredith Desalazar, Elliot Kirschner | USA | 2019 | 107 min | Canadian Premiere
In a brave new world in which science fiction collides with fact and DNA sequences can be edited with ease, this provocative examination forces us to reconsider what it means to be human.

Killing Patient Zero
D: Laurie Lynd | P: Corey Russell | Canada | 2019 | 100 min | World Premiere
Skilfully revealing the homophobia behind the headlines, this doc traces the devastating impact of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and clears the name of the Québécois flight attendant who was infamously known as “patient zero.”

Knock Down the House
D: Rachel Lears | P: Rachel Lears, Robin Blotnick, Sarah Olson | USA | 2019 | 85 min | International Premiere
This rollercoaster ride follows four progressive women—including Bronx bartender Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—behind the scenes and in the streets as they grind through long-shot grassroots campaigns for Congress during the 2018 US midterms.

N. Scott Momaday: Words from a Bear
D: Jeffrey Palmer | P: Jeffrey Palmer, Youngsun Palmer | USA | 2018 | 85 mins | International Premiere
The life and career of Pulitzer Prize–winning Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday, one of Native America’s most celebrated literary figures, is explored in this spiritual journey through the expansive landscapes of the West and New Mexico.

Nothing Fancy: Diana Kennedy
D: Elizabeth Carroll | P: Elizabeth Carroll, Dan Braun, Gina Abatemarco | USA | 2019 | 82 min | International Premiere
Dubbed “the Mick Jagger of Mexican cooking,” a 96-year-old firebrand chef who’s spent her career celebrating the country’s regional cuisines rushes to solidify her hard-earned legacy in the face of her own mortality.

D: Fredrik Gertten | P: Margarete Jangård | Sweden | 2019 | 92 min | North American Premiere
As skyrocketing housing prices and stagnant incomes squeeze families out of cities worldwide, a newly appointed UN specialist from Ottawa travels from Toronto to Barcelona to London and beyond, fighting to have affordable housing recognized as a human right.

Toxic Beauty
D: Phyllis Ellis | P: Peter Raymont, Barri Cohen | Canada | 2019 | 90 min | World Premiere
Cancer, diabetes, developmental delays and more—the cosmetics industry’s ugly secrets are exposed through exclusive interviews with scientists, whistleblowers and consumer survivors who raise pressing questions about risks, regulations and the true cost of beauty.

The Trial of Ratko Mladic
D: Henry Singer, Rob Miller | P: Henry Singer, Rob Miller, Ida Bruusgaard | UK, Norway | 2018 | 100 min | Canadian Premiere
Accused of horrific war crimes, the “Butcher of Bosnia” finally faces a verdict in the biggest trial since Nuremberg. Embedded with both the prosecution and defense, this courtroom thriller reveals the troublingly nuanced Serbian–Bosnian conflict that still rages on.

Hot Docs runs April 25 – May 5, 2019.
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