Navalny, directed by Canadian Daniel Roher, rounds out Sundance's U.S. Documentary Competition. Photo courtesy of Sundance.

Hot Docs Adds Navalny, Exiles to Special Presentations Line-up

8 mins read

Hot Docs has released its second wave of Special Presentations titles for this year’s festival. The marquee title on the slate is Daniel Roher’s loudly acclaimed Navalny, which profiles Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny as he holds Putin accountable and investigates an attempt on his life. The announcement comes mere hours after Russian courts sentenced Navalny to nine years in prison. Navalny debuted as a surprise addition in Sundance’s American documentary line-up and went on to win both the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary and the citation as the overall festival favourite as determined by the audience. Roher previously opened the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival with Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band.

This announcement, like last week’s first wave, features more Sundance favourites, including the Grand Jury Prize winner for U.S. documentary, The Exiles. The doc directed by Ben Klein and Violet Columbus features a breakneck interview with filmmaker Christine Choi as she reflects on her legacy as an iconoclastic filmmaker and her work in documenting the stories of China’s Tiananmen Square massacre. Also coming to Hot Docs is Chase Joynt’s award winning collaborative work Framing Agnes, which explores the hidden history of trans stories voiced by a chorus of transgender actors. Similarly, Sundance winner Midwives, directed by Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing, brings its acclaimed cinema verité portrait of midwives in Burma to Toronto. The German-Canadian co-production credits EyeSteelFilm’s Bob Moore and Mila Aung-Thwin among its producers.

World premieres on the slate include director Cody Sheehy’s Make People Better about a rogue Chinese biophysicist. Star power, meanwhile, comes in Jono McLeod’s inventive hybrid doc My Old School, which features actor Alan Cumming in performance as the film’s mysterious subject. The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks brings the story of the titular comedic group to Hot Docs, while Academy Award winning director Ron Howard makes a splash with his latest documentary We Feed People and arthouse favourite Ramin Bahrani joins the line-up with the Canadian premiere of his doc debut 2nd Chance.

Hot Docs will announce its full line-up, including Canadian programming, at its main press conference on March 30. The festival runs in a hybrid format April 28 to May 8.

 

The most recent additions to the Hot Docs 2022 Special Presentations line-up are:

 

2nd Chance

D: Ramin Bahrani | P: Daniel Turcan, Johnny Galvin, Charles Dorfman, Ramin Bahrani, Jacob Grodnik | USA | 2022 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere

American Richard Davis went from bankrupt pizzeria owner to multi-millionaire after inventing the modern-day bulletproof vest—proving it worked by shooting himself 192 times—in this larger-than-life study of American entrepreneurial madness, in acclaimed filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s feature documentary debut.

 

The Exiles

D: Ben Klein, Violet Columbus | P: Maria Chiu, Ben Klein, Violet Columbus | USA | 2022 | 95 min | International Premiere

Following the Tiananmen massacre, Chinese American filmmaker Christine Choy began a documentary project about student protest leaders forced to flee to the United States. Guided by Choy herself amidst her unseen footage, The Exiles reflects on the very nature of displacement.

 

Framing Agnes

D: Chase Joynt | P: Samantha Curley, Shant Joshi, Chase Joynt | Canada, USA | 2022 | 75 min | International Premiere

With genre-blurring storytelling and re-enactments featuring an all-star cast of transgender artists, the story of a young trans woman who entered a sex disorders study in 1958 seeking gender-affirming care revives untold stories of those who redefined gender in the mid-twentieth century.

 

The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks

D: Reg Harkema | P: Nick McKinney, Kim Creelman | Canada, USA | 2022 | 95 min | Canadian Premiere

Through never-before-seen archival footage and interviews with the “Kids” themselves, delve into the group’s mid-1980s post-punk origins and their 40-year legacy as a renowned, cult comedy troupe in the leadup to their iconic show’s impending reboot for Prime Video.  A Blue Ant Studios production.

 

Make People Better

D: Cody Sheehy | P: Samira Kiani, Cody Sheehy, Mark Monroe | USA | 2022 | 83 min | World Premiere

A rogue Chinese biophysicist disappears after developing the first designer babies, shocking the world and the entire scientific community, but an investigation shows he may not have been alone in his attempts to create a “better” human being.

 

Midwives

D: Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing | P: Bob Moore, Ulla Lehman, Mila Aung-Thwin, Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing | Myanmar, Germany, Canada | 2022 | 91 min | Canadian Premiere

Threatened by the locals, two courageous midwives, one Buddhist and the other Muslim, serve pregnant women in a makeshift clinic in Western Myanmar where Rohingya are persecuted. United by empathy and hope, they collaborate to deliver new life.

 

My Old School

D: Jono McLeod | P: John Archer, Olivia Lichtenstein | UK | 2022 | 104 min | Canadian Premiere

Alan Cumming marvellously re-enacts the jaw-dropping scandal of an odd 16-year-old boy enrolled in a posh Glasgow high school whose unbelievable secret became shocking front page news.

 

Navalny

D: Daniel Roher | P: Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Shane Boris | USA | 2022 | 98 min | Canadian Premiere

In this riveting doc-thriller that won the audience award at Sundance, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny partners with international news organizations in the months after his attempted assassination by a poisonous nerve agent in 2020 to uncover proof of the Kremlin’s involvement.

 

The Smell of Money

D: Shawn Bannon | P: Shawn Bannon, Jamie Berger | USA | 2022 | 85 min | International Premiere

A century after her grandfather claimed his freedom from slavery, Elsie Herring and her rural North Carolina community fight the world’s largest pork corporation for their freedom to enjoy fresh air, clean water and a life without the stench of manure.

 

Still Working 9 to 5

D: Camille Hardman, Gary Lane | P: Camille Hardman, Gary Lane | USA | 2022 | 97 min | International Premiere

The highest grossing comedy of 1980, 9 to 5 delivered a serious message about American working women. Forty years later, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton discuss why workplace inequality is no laughing matter.

 

We Feed People

D: Ron Howard | P: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Sara Bernstein, Justin Wilkes, Meredith Kaulfers, Walter Matteson | USA | 2022 | 89 min | International Premiere

Director Ron Howard spotlights chef José Andrés and his nonprofit World Central Kitchen’s evolution from a scrappy group of grassroots volunteers to a highly regarded humanitarian aid organization, snapping into action to combat hunger by serving over 60 million meals to date.

 

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association.

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