American Cats | Hot Docs

Hot Docs Announces First Titles for 2024 Festival

Line-up includes Martin Scorsese, Canadian docs, and cats, cats, cats

12 mins read

It will be raining cats and docs at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival. Hot Docs announced the first wave of official selections for the 2024 festival with the release of 14 documentaries in the Special Presentations programme. Tapped for a world premiere at Hot Docs is American Cats: The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly. Directed by Todd Bieber, American Cats features Amy Hoggart from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee in a deep dive on the world’s most beloved pet. The film should attract the many cat lovers who helped make Kedi a box office hit.

Also among the titles are two Canadian docs from festival favourites: Red Fever and Born Hungry. The former is Neil Diamond and Catherine Bainbridge’s exploration of the growing interest in Indigenous life in popular culture. The duo previously tackled Indigenous representation in Hollywood films in the award winner Reel Injun, while Bainbridge won the Audience Award for Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, which paid tribute to Indigenous voices in rock music. Red Fever will have its world premiere at Hot Docs.

Red Fever | Hot Docs

Born Hungry, meanwhile, brings the prolific Barry Avrich back to Hot Docs with the Canadian premiere of his portrait of Sash Simpson and his journey from living on the streets of India to delighting Toronto diners at his acclaimed restaurant Sash. Avrich screened his Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella in last year’s Big Ideas series at the festival.

Other world premieres tapped for Hot Docs include the racing documentary Le Man 55: The Unauthorized Investigation. The film tackles the race track tragedy that claimed 84 lives including driver Pierre Levegh. Meanwhile, Hot Docs performs a feat of sleight of hand with Lost in the Shuffle and its portrait of magician Shawn Farquhar. The Canadian doc directed/produced by Jon Orner and produced by Ana Carrizales also has its world premiere. So too does The Ride Ahead in which Samuel Habib and Dan Habib expand upon their Hot Docs 2023 short My Disability Roadmap.

Big names appearing in the marquee Special Presentations programme include Academy Award winner Martin Scorsese, who recaps the legacy of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in Made in England and the influence of films like The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. The career of French filmmaker Michel Gondry, meanwhile, serves as the subject for Michel Gondry: Do It Yourself in which François Nemeta examines the career of the arthouse favourite behind films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Special Presentations line-up also includes the Canadian premiere of Lucy Lawless’s feature directorial debut Never Look Away. The documentary drew critical acclaim at Sundance earlier this year for its fearless portrait of cameraperson Margaret Moth.

Chris Smalls appears in Union by Brett Story and Steve Maing, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. | Photo by Martin DiCicco

Also coming to Hot Docs after Sundance debuts are Union, Black Box Diaries, and Power. Union comes from hometown favourite Brett Story and director Stephen Maing. It offers a cinema verité portrait of the fight to mobilize support for a labour union at Amazon. Black Box Diaries, meanwhile, is Shiori Ito’s self-portrait of her decision to come forward with an allegation of sexual assault. Power, finally, is Yance Ford’s follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Strong Island and an incisive study of the creation of the police state in the USA.

The news of Hot Docs first titles comes on the heels of a report published in The Globe and Mail last week that said the institution was in financial crisis. The festival’s new leader Marie Nelson also sent an appeal to members and patrons asking them to support Hot Docs in a time when arts organizations are still in crisis due to the long-term shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, theatrical lockdowns, and shift to at-home viewing habits. Hot Docs offers an optimistic look for a return to moviegoing this year with festival events happening exclusively in theatres.

Hot Docs will announce the full slate of titles for this year’s festival on March 26 with titles rolling out in the interim. The fest previously revealed that Spain would serve as the spotlight country for its Made In programme. Hot Docs runs April 25 to May 5.


The first Special Presentations titles for Hot Docs are:


American Cats: The Good, the Bad, and the Cuddly
D: Todd Bieber | P: Grace Leeson | USA | 2024 | 88 min | World Premiere
Ontario is the only province in Canada without a ban on cat declawing. Amy Hoggart, the hilarious correspondent from Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, cracks jokes, cuddles kittens and attacks this controversial practice using satire to expose a heart-wrenching catspiracy.


Black Box Diaries
D: Shiori Ito | P: Eric Nyari, Hanna Aqvilin | Japan, UK, USA | 2024 | 104 min | Canadian Premiere
Journalist Shiori Ito takes on one of the most powerful institutions in Japan to prosecute her high-profile sexual assailant in a landmark legal case. Using personal footage and hidden cameras, Ito puts it all on the line for justice.


Born Hungry
D: Barry Avrich | P: Jay Hennick, Mark Selby, Barry Avrich | Canada | 2024 | 77 min | Canadian Premiere
The true rags to riches tale of Sash Simpson, a runaway child from the streets of India, who was adopted into a Toronto family with 31 siblings before becoming a world-renowned chef.


D: Shaul Schwarz, Christina Clusiau | P: Christina Clusiau, Shaul Schwarz | USA | 2023 | 106 min | International Premiere
To stand on the edge and jump into the wind, one must be willing to lose everything. That could mean the love of your life, or the life you love. Three couples in the world of BASE jumping risk everything to feel alive.


Le Mans 55: The Unauthorized Investigation
D: Emmanuel Reyé | P: Isabelle Dagnac | France | 2023 | 90 min | World Premiere
The Le Mans race in 1955 made history through tragedy when more than 80 spectators were killed. Uncover the story of the crash that took the lives of so many and, to this day, looms over the world of motorsports.


Look Into My Eyes
D: Lana Wilson | P: Kyle Martin, Lana Wilson | USA | 2023 | 105 min | Canadian Premiere
In this unique journey into the human desire for connection, acclaimed filmmaker Lana Wilson follows an eclectic group of New York City psychics whose intimate readings reveal a kaleidoscopic view of loneliness, connection and healing with humour and intrigue.


Lost in the Shuffle
D: Jon Ornoy | P: Jon Ornoy, Ana Carrizales | Canada | 2024 | 100 min | World Premiere
Pick a card, any card! World champion magician Shawn Farquhar delves into a medieval murder cold case among Jacks, Queens and Kings as he devises a new trick inspired by the world’s best sleight-of-hand artists.


Made in England: The Films of Powell and Pressburger
D: David Hinton | P: Matthew Wells, Nick Varley | UK | 2024 | 131 min | Canadian Premiere
Martin Scorsese tells of his lifelong love affair with the movies of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and their “subversive commercial movies.” Drawing on a rich array of archival material, Scorsese explores their collaboration that thrived in the adversity of WWII.


Michel Gondry, Do It Yourself
D: François Nemeta | P: Olivier de Bannes, Robin Accard, Philippe Savine | France | 2023 | 80 min | North American Premiere
French filmmaker Michel Gondry re-invented the music video and challenged Hollywood with his distinctive handmade visual style. Intimately documented, Gondry’s career and playful creative process receive an overdue review, from his earliest music videos to his latest feature film at Cannes.


Never Look Away
D: Lucy Lawless | P: | New Zealand | 2024 | 85 min | Canadian Premiere
CNN camerawoman Margaret Moth was facing down war’s inhumanity when one bullet changed everything but her resolve. Debut filmmaker Lucy Lawless turns the camera’s gaze on this groundbreaking woman and her legacy.


D: Yance Ford | P: Sweta Vohra, Jess Devaney, Yance Ford, Netsanet Negussie | USA | 2024 | 87 min | Canadian Premiere
Part essay, interview and archival collage, POWER traces the explosion of police power from the founding of the U.S. to our present. POWER makes the historical continuity of unchecked police power legible—examining who’s policed, who’s protected and why.

Red Fever
D: Neil Diamond, Catherine Bainbridge | P: Lisa M. Roth, Rebecca Lessard | Canada | 2024 | 104 min | World Premiere
Cree filmmaker Neil Diamond travels to the four corners of Turtle Island and across Europe to explore the world’s fascination with Native Americans, recognizing the profound impact Indigenous people have had in shaping modern Western culture.

The Ride Ahead
D: Samuel Habib, Dan Habib | P: Dan Habib, Erica Lupinacci | USA | 2024 | 97 min | World Premiere
An expansion of his short film My Disability Roadmap, Samuel Habib is a typical 21-year-old, itching to move out, start a career and find love. But “no one tells you how to be an adult, let alone an adult with a disability.”
D: Brett Story, Stephen Maing | P: Samantha Curley, Mars Verrone, Martin DiCiccio | USA | 2024 | 104 min | Canadian Premiere
The Amazon Labor Union (ALU)—a group of current and former Amazon workers on New York City’s Staten Island—takes on one of the world’s largest and most powerful companies in the fight to unionize.


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, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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