Another wave of films joins the line-up for this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival. Hot Docs announced the addition of 12 Special Presentations titles to its 30th anniversary line-up. The list includes world premieres of new documentaries by Canadian veterans Michelle Shephard and Barry Avrich. Shephard’s The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain, produced by Bryn Hughes, tells the true-crime caper about the guy who scooped the insides of Albert Einstein’s noggin. Meanwhile, Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella, directed by Avrich with Mark Selby, Rosemary Sadlier, and Jonas Prince joining Avrich as producers, invites Canada’s first Jewish Supreme Court Judge to reflect upon her legacy as an advocate for voices on the periphery.
Other titles joining the Hot Docs slate include the international premiere of Oscar nominee Nicole Newnham’s acclaimed The Disappearance of Shere Hite. The film explores the life of author and researcher Shere Hite, whose groundbreaking and controversial studies of gender and sexuality empowered women and incensed men. Similarly, Sundance’s opening night doc It’s Only Life After All, directed by Alexandria Bombach, lands a Canadian premiere at Hot Docs for its thorough—and thoroughly enjoyable—portrait of the Indigo Girls. The film has a fellow music doc with the Canadian premiere of Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky, and Maeve O’Boyle’s Joan Baez: I Am a Noise about the folk icon.
World premieres set for the festival include The Rise of Wagner, directed by Benoît Bringer. The film examines the violence wrought by the corporate mercenaries and their involvement with Russia. We Are Guardians, on the other hand, tells a story of forces working to serve and protect with its portrait of Indigenous guardians of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. The film is directed by Edivan Guajajara, Chelsea Greene, and Rob Grobman. Joe Piscatella (Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower) returns to stories of protest and power with Who is Afraid of Nathan Law?. The film takes audiences inside Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement with a look at one of the student leaders who inspired it. A portrait of China’s invasive surveillance practices, finally, fuels Total Trust from One Child Nation co-director Jialing Zhang. The film will have its North American premiere at Hot Docs.
Hot Docs will announce its full line-up on March 28. Get the list of docs previously announced for the festival here.
The newly announced Special Presentations are:
The Disappearance of Shere Hite
D: Nicole Newnham | P: Nicole Newnham, Molly O’Brien, R.J. Cutler, Elise Pearlstein, Kimberley Ferdinando, Trevor Smith | USA | 2023 | 118 min | International Premiere
Shere Hite’s 1976 bestseller, The Hite Report, liberated the female orgasm by revealing the private experiences of thousands of anonymous women. While her findings rocked the patriarchy, they also ignited an unforgiving backlash that led to her erasure from history.
D: Bernardo Ruiz | P: Bernardo Ruiz, Gabriela Alcalde, Fabian Caballero | USA | 2023 | 80 min | Canadian Premiere
Follow an epic and harrowing 40-year journey through the work of a resilient team of forensic scientists led by the legendary Dr. Clyde Snow as they uncover and identify the victims of authoritarian regimes across Latin America and the world.
Is There Anybody Out There?
D: Ella Glendining | P: Janine Marmot | UK | 2023 | 87 min | Canadian Premiere
While navigating daily discrimination, a filmmaker who loves her unusual body searches the world for another person like her, as she explores what it takes to love oneself fiercely despite the pervasiveness of ableism.
It’s Only Life After All
D: Alexandria Bombach | P: Kathlyn Horan, Jessica Devaney, Anya Rous, Alexandria Bombach | USA | 2023 | 123 min | Canadian Premiere
In this poignant reflection from Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, the iconic folk-rock duo Indigo Girls offer a timely look into the obstacles, activism and life lessons of two queer friends who never expected to make it big.
Joan Baez: I Am Noise
D: Karen O’Connor, Miri Navasky, Maeve O’Boyle | P: Miri Navasky, Karen O’Connor | USA | 2023 | 113 min | Canadian Premiere
In this searingly honest and intimate look at a living legend, Joan Baez brings us into her world both on and off the stage—from lifelong emotional struggles to her civil rights work with MLK and a heartbreaking romance with Bob Dylan.
The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain
D: Michelle Shephard | P: Bryn Hughes | Canada | 2022 | 78 min | World Premiere
On April 18, 1955, the pathologist performing the autopsy on Albert Einstein covertly steals the genius’s brain, hoping to uncover the secret of brilliance. His good intentions and scientific ambitions collide with harsh realities as his world crumbles.
The Rise of Wagner
D: Benoît Bringer | P: Laurent Richard | France | 2022 | 104 min | World Premiere
Wagner Group mercenaries contracted to fight Russia’s proxy wars have never been prosecuted for suspected human rights violations—until now. In this chilling expose, journalists crack open secret killings and Kremlin collusion that have kept the business of dirty wars above the law.
Time Bomb Y2K
D: Marley McDonald, Brian Becker | P: Brian Becker | USA | 2023 | 80 min | Canadian Premiere
As the year 2000 approaches, the tech industry discovers a computer flaw that could ignite the largest technological disaster in human history. Crafted entirely through archival footage, examine the rising hysteria and concerning fragility of the technological world we have created.
D: Jialing Zhang | P: Knut Jäger, Jialing Zhang | Germany, Netherlands, China | 2023 | 97 min | North American Premiere
China is creating a comprehensive, digitally controlled state using Big Data, biometrics and voice recognition technology to track its citizens. Total Trust explores the transformation of social behaviours under an all-seeing eye and how people are fighting against its abuse.
We Are Guardians
D: Edivan Guajajara, Chelsea Greene, Rob Grobman | P: Maura Anderson, Zak Kilberg, Fisher Stevens, Chelsea Greene | Brazil, USA | 2023 | 85 min | World Premiere
In this expansive character-driven exposé, Indigenous guardians of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil fight to protect their territories from the ravages of extractive industries, confronting deforestation by illegal loggers, corrupt politicians and profit hungry global corporations.
Who’s Afraid of Nathan Law?
D: Joe Piscatella | P: Matthew Torne, Mark Rinehart, Joe Piscatella | USA, Hong Kong, UK | 2023 | 90 min | World Premiere
Revolutionary at 21. Lawmaker at 23. Most Wanted at 26. With intimate access to the leaders of Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution, Who is Afraid of Nathan Law? chronicles one of the world’s most famous dissidents in his fight for democracy against a superpower.
Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella
D: Barry Avrich | P: Mark Selby, Barry Avrich, Rosemary Sadlier, Jonas Prince | Canada | 2023 | 84 min | World Premiere
Canada’s first Jewish Supreme Court Judge reflects on a career that made her a human rights hero. As a passionate advocate for the disabled community and visible minorities, she commands respect across the political spectrum.
Hot Docs runs April 27 to May 7.