Hot Docs Special Presentation Line-up Includes Sundance Favourites

Nanfu Wang’s In the Same Breath joins Hot Docs line-up after an acclaimed Sundance premiere

By Pat Mullen

The second wave of Hot Docs Special Presentations titles includes a number of highlights from this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Among the 13 titles announced this morning for the 2021 festival include Nanfu Wang’s COVID-19 study In the Same Breath, which looks at the effect of propaganda in spreading false information about the pandemic. Also on the ticket are Homeroom, Rebel Hearts, and Street Gang, which all screened to positive notices at Sundance. The selections include a “special screening” of Stanley Nelson’s latest work Crack: Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy. Nelson was tapped to be last year’s Outstanding Achievement Award winner at Hot Docs, with the retrospective postponed due to the pandemic, and this year’s screening includes an exclusive conversation with the honouree. On the Canadian front, Paul Kemp’s Nike’s Big Bet tackles a doping scandal that stained the popular sports brand.

Last week’s Hot Docs announcement offered Special Presentations titles including, but not limited to, Subjects of Desire by Jennifer Holness and Wuhan Wuhan by Yung Chang. The full festival line-up will be announced next Tuesday.

Today’s list of Special Presentations for Hot Docs 2021 are:

*_Behind the Headlines_
D:: Daniel Andreas Sager | P: Marc Bauder | Germany | 2021 | 90 mins | North American Premiere

For the first time, cameras embed with the German investigative unit that broke the explosive Panama Papers story, following the journalists’ pursuit of the truth behind the political assassination of a Maltese reporter and yet another history-making financial scandal.

Crack: Cocaine, Corruption, Conspiracy
D: Stanley Nelson | P: Stanley Nelson, Cameo George, Naimah Jabali-Nash, Keith Brown, Nicole London | EP: Marcia Smith | USA | 2020 | 90 mins | Special Screening

A cheap, powerful drug emerges during a recession, igniting a moral panic fueled by racism. Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson explores the complex history of crack in the 1980s. Includes exclusive Q&A with Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Stanley Nelson.

D: Peter Nicks | P: Sean Havey | USA | 2020 | 90 mins | International Premiere

The resilience and optimism of Oakland High School’s 2020 senior class is captured in verité footage and social media videos as they confront anxieties over test scores, growing demands for social justice and the unprecedented uncertainty of a rapidly spreading pandemic.

D: Andrea Nevins | P: Rebecca Evans, Carolina Groppa, Ross M. Dinerstein | USA | 2021 | 88 mins | International Premiere

_Hysterical_ is a backstage pass into the lives of the hilarious, boundary-breaking women shattering stand-up comedy’s glass ceiling. Featuring Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Jessica Kirson, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger, and more. Premiering on FX Canada this summer.

In the Same Breath
D: Nanfu Wang | P: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn | USA | 2021 | 95 mins | International Premiere

Nanfu Wang’s (director of One Child Nation, winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize) searing investigation into COVID-19’s origins and spread exposes not only a global crisis of misinformation, but the leadership that misled the world about a still-unfolding emergency.

D: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann | P: Karol Martesko-Fenster | Austria, USA | 2021 | 76 mins | International Premiere

Revolutionary Canadian designer Bruce Mau reveals truths that have shaped his long and expansive career, from designing sustainable platforms to social movements. His way of seeing could be just what’s needed in this critical time in history.

Nike’s Big Bet
D: Paul Kemp | P: Corey Russell, Paul Kemp | Canada | 2021 | 80 mins | North American Premiere

Alberto Salazar was a coaching legend until his recent doping ban shocked the running world. Did his “Just Do It” attitude and questionable practices push the limits of human performance and technology too far?

Rebel Hearts_
D: Pedro Kos | P: Shawnee Isaac-Smith, Kira Carstensen, Judy Korin | USA | 2021 | 103 mins | International Premiere

A group of pioneering nuns in 1960s Los Angeles stood up to the patriarchy in such revolutionary ways, demanding pay cheques, marching on Selma and making political pop art, they would change Catholicism and the face of faith forever.

Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
D: Marilyn Agrelo | P: Trevor Crafts, Ellen Scherer Crafts, Lisa Diamond | USA | 2021 | 107 mins | International Premiere

Featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, this inspiring journey takes us inside the minds and hearts of Sesame Street creators, artists, writers and educators, who together established one of the most influential and enduring children’s programs in television history.

Through the Night
D: Loira Limbal | P: Loira Limbal, Jameka Autry | USA | 2020 | 72 mins | Ontario Premiere

Working multiple jobs, desperate to make ends meet for their families, two New York mothers drop off their children at a 24-hour daycare centre run by a woman that binds the neighbourhood together.

D: Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir | P: Christian Beetz, Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir | Germany, Israel | 2021 | 75 mins | World Premiere

Seven young people from across the world were innocently uploading shiny bright 2020 plans when “virus” started trending. Over a year’s worth of real-time posts and massive reality checks chart their innocent optimism and surprising resilience to a global change no one saw coming.

We Are As Gods
D: David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg | P: David Alvarado, Kate McLean, Jamie Meltzer, Jason Sussberg | USA | 2021 | 95 mins | Canadian Premiere

Environmental iconoclast Stewart Brand believes re-engineering woolly mammoth DNA and “de-extinction science” could reverse climate change. Is he an oracle envisioning a brave new world or will his controversial views cement him as eco-pariah?

Wework: or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn
D: Jed Rothstein | P: Ross Dinerstein | USA | 2020 | 101 mins | International Premiere

Utilizing interviews with journalists, experts, high-ranking former employees and former members Wework: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn explores the rise and fall of one of the biggest corporate flameouts and venture capitalist bubbles in recent years—the story of WeWork, and its hippie-messianic leader Adam Neumann.