Jennifer Baichwal’s Into the Weeds is the opening night film of this year’s Hot Docs Festival. The Toronto documentary festival revealed the full slate for its 2022 hybrid event. Baichwal’s film led the Canadian crop of Hot Docs selections this year. Into the Weeds tells the David and Goliath story of a farmer and his landmark fight against an American agrichemical giant. Mongrel Media will release the film theatrically on May 20 following its Hot Docs rollout. The selection makes Baichwal the first filmmaker to open Hot Docs twice after kicking off the 2009 festival with Act of God.
The festival announced films selected from over 2500 submissions. 110 are world or international premieres. 49% of the official selection titles are directed by women and 4% of titles from non-binary filmmakers. The festival announced further details for the hybrid format, which include in-person screenings at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Cineplex Varsity and VIP, TIFF Bell Lightbox, and the Isabel Bader. Free daytime screenings are back for students and seniors.
Other notables in the Hot Docs 2022 line-up included the world premiere of Barri Cohen’s Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children. The doc is Cohen’s personal exploration of the horrors of Huronia Regional Centre, an Orillia facility with a notorious history of neglect and abuse for patients with developmental disabilities. The film traces Huronia’s history of violence that claimed many lives, including two of Cohen’s half-brothers.
Also on tap for the Canadian front is the world premiere of Andrew Moir’s Don’t Come Searching, which builds upon his 2017 short doc Babe, I Hate to Go, a portrait of a Jamaican migrant worker named Delroy as he worked in Canada to provide for his family despite a terminal cancer diagnosis. The new film observes Delroy during his final days with his wife, Sophia.
Shane Wilson’s Beautiful Scars, meanwhile, uses the rocker’s memoir as a springboard to explore his discovery of his Mohawk identity. The film is among the more notable titles bringing some star power to the festival thanks to the presence of the musician known for his work with bands Junkhouse and Blackie and the Roadie Kings. Wilson also contributes an original score for the doc. The stories of artists are also on display in Joannie Lafrenière’s Gabor, which profiles acclaimed Hungarian-Canadian photographer Gabor Szilasi. The film was the cover story of POV’s fall/winter 2021 issue and was the closing night selection of RIDM.
Sean Stiller’s Returning Home, meanwhile, brings an acclaimed Indigenous film to Hot Docs with its study of the residential schools and the parallels with the contemporary threat to salmon populations. Among the film’s participants is Phyllis Jack-Webstad, a residential school survivor whose experiences inspired the Orange Shirt Day movement. Returning Home won Best Canadian Feature at festivals in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Chilliwack.
Toronto filmmaker Mike Hoolboom returns to the festival with Freedom from Everything, a deeply personal experimental essay about surviving two epidemics: AIDS and COVID. Experimental Canadian works at the festival also include Jacquelyn Mills’ Geographies of Solitude about researcher Zoe Lucas, Lina Rodriguez’s Mi dos voces about the experiences of Colombian-Canadian women, and Miryam Charles’ This House, a doc-fiction hybrid that explores a 2008 suicide case in Bridgeport. All three films premiered at Berlin. Also premiering at the festival and displaying a truly cinematic eye is Stacey Tenenbaum’s Scrap. The latest doc from the Pipe Dreams and Shiners director explores the beauty and ugliness of discarded objects.
Other formal invention can be found in the animated doc Eternal Spring directed by Jason Loftus. The film explores the story of a comic book artist and Falun Gong practitioner who fled China after the group hacked a TV station. Noura Kevorkian’s Batata, meanwhile, is a film ten years in the making that observes a Syrian migrant worker as she survives as a potato farmer in a refugee camp in Lebanon. Other Canadian docs at the festival include, but are not limited to, the basketball doc Handle with Care, the political animals study Hunting in Packs by Chloe Sosa-Sims, while Louie Palu’s Zero Position goes to the front lines of Ukraine, and in Category: Woman, former Olympian Phyllis Ellis unpacks gender and racial inequalities in sports. Abenaki legend Alanis Obomsawin, finally, returns with the short doc Bill Reid Remembers, her 54th film.
Rogers Award and Scotiabank Big Ideas Return
The festival also announced the return of the Rogers Audience Award, which rewards the top Canadian features at the festival with $50,000. First place will receive a cash prize of $25,000, second place will receive $15,000 and third place will receive $10,000.
Titles announced for the marquee Scotiabank Big Ideas screenings are docs previously unveiled in the festival. The big ticket is Daniel Roher’s Navalny, Sundance’s audience award winner about the Russian politician and political prisoner. Nalvany’s daughter Daria will join Roher for the screening. Abigail Disney and Kathleen Hughes’ The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales will engage audiences with a study of income inequality, and Academy Award winner Ron Howard’s We Feed People brings the story of José Andrés and his non-profit World Central Kitchen. Reginald Harkema’s The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks revisits the iconic Canadian comics, and TikTok, Boom explores the explosion of the popular video app.
The thematic programs at Hot Docs 2022 include a spotlight on Chilean film in Made in Chile, and Hidden Histories, which showcases stories buried by bureaucracy and injustice. The festival brings the return of The Changing Face of Europe, a partnership with European Film Promotion, which spotlights diverse stories from contemporary European artists. Also returning are the experimental programme Markers and the episodic programming series Deep Dive.
Hot Docs also announced three retrospective programmes. This year’s Focus On series showcases the work of Quebecois filmmaker Raymonde Provencher. She was previously tapped for celebration at Hot Docs 2020, but the festival deferred the retrospective until audiences could engage with Provencher’s work in person. The 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award goes to Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan, while the festival will offer theatrical screenings for last year’s recipient Stanley Nelson, including his Oscar nominee Attica. The Redux series spotlights Canadian classics from Isuma Films and the duo of Janis Cole and Holly Dale.