Hot Docs Announces Full Line-Up

Bee Nation opens Hot Docs 2017
Courtesy Hot Docs

By Pat Mullen

Hot Docs announced its full line-up this morning. North America’s largest documentary film festival is bigger and better than ever with a massive programme that covers 230 films from 58 countries. In another notable coup for Hot Docs, 48% of the festival’s impressively diverse programme is directed by women.

The festival opens with the feature film debut of Canadian photographer and filmmaker Lana Slezic’s Bee Nation. The film is an uplifting and sumptuously shot doc about an Indigenous spelling bee. The festival highlights Indigenous stories on several levels, including the addition of the music docs The Road Forward and Sundance award winner Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World and a special focus on Indigenous content and storytellers in the Hot Docs Industry’s Doc Summit.

The Canadian front is particularly promising. In addition to Bee Nation and Rumble, Hot Docs debuts Alan Zweig’s hotly anticipated Hope, which is a follow-up to his acclaimed film Hurt about runner and fallen Canadian icon Steve Fonyo. Hurt won TIFF’s inaugural Platform competition and the Canadian Screen Award for best documentary feature. Also coming to the festival on the Canadian front is Ann Shin’s feature-length follow-up to My Enemy, My Brother, which expands upon her Oscar-shortlisted short, while Mila Aung-Thwin teams up with acclaimed cinematographer Van Royko for Let There Be Light and Charles Officer returns with the Toronto-set doc Unarmed Verses. (Read more about Unarmed Verses in the POV feature Neighbourhood Watch.)

New Canadian filmmakers debuting at the festival include Ali Weinstein, daughter of doc veteran Larry Weinstein, with her lyrical and poetic Mermaids, and Kalina Berton, whose raw and personal Manic is bound to connect with audiences with its fearless study of family secrets and mental illness. Joseph Clement brings a uniquely Toronto story to Hot Docs with the premiere of Integral Man, about late mathematician, writer, and philanthropist Jim Stewart’s innovative Rosedale home, while newcomer Stacey Tenenbaum trots the globe in the shoe shiners doc Shiners.

One major talking point of the Canadian programming promises to be the world premiere of A Better Man. Executive produced by Sarah Polley, A Better Man sees a brave on-camera conversation between first-time filmmaker Attiya Khan and her ex-boyfriend who abused her twenty years ago. The film, which is co-directed by Lawrence Jackman engages with our conceptions of domestic violence in a new light. A Better Man already has a great deal of support behind it with a major crowdfunding campaign that drew support from musicians such as Leslie Feist and Owen Pallett.

On the international side of the spectrum, Hot Docs offers the themed programme (and an appropriately timed one at that) Democrazy, which tackles the shifting winds of politics in a diverse slate of docs. Other spotlights include the programme Made in Japan, which offers eight docs including the world premiere of Ramen Heads and Ukiyo-e Heroes.

The films selected for the prime slots of the Scotiabank Big Ideas series are City of Ghosts from Cartel Land director Matthew Heineman, Chasing Coral from Chasing Ice director Jeff Orlowski, Brian Knappenberger’s Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, and Bill Nye: Science Guy, featuring every kid’s favourite scientist. These screenings bring filmmakers and special guests to the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema for extended conversations.

The full programme and schedule is available at
Hot Docs runs April 27 to May 7.