Luther: Never Too Much | Hot Docs

Hot Docs Announces Full 2024 Line-up

Fest to screen 168 documentaries from 64 countries.

9 mins read

The show must go on for Hot Docs. Toronto’s documentary festival announced its full line-up today on the heels of a mass exodus in the programming department. 10 programmers left, citing breached contracts and a toxic work culture, with the festival subsequently announcing the departure of former artistic director Hussain Currimbhoy and that director of festival programming Heather Haynes would lead the team instead.

Haynes was present at the press conference, as was president Marie Nelson, who went off script and spoke from the heart to address the situation. “I continue to believe in this organization,” said Nelson.

Nelson likened the situation to this morning’s  collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore after a ship struck it, noting that her mother crossed that bridge to get to work every morning. “Hot Docs is a bridge,” said Nelson. “For three decades, it has been a home and it continues to be a home to bring stories to millions of audiences.”


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Nelson added that Hot Docs “was a bridge in need of repair,” citing the four-year roller-coaster of COVID-19 related complications, inflation, funding shortfalls, and the baggage that an institution brings after operating for three decades.

Hot Docs’ president also acknowledged that some mistakes were made in the process of repairing said bridge. “There are times when you try to bring changes and you don’t get it right,” Nelson said, adding that she felt they had to try something new.

However, she also spoke directly to the departed programmers, noting that Hot Docs values their work and hopes that audiences will come to see the films they programmed and support the filmmakers who chose to premiere their docs at the festival. “Take care of your people and the rest will fall into place,” she advised. Nelson and Haynes both welcomed the return of the ten departed programmers at this year’s festival or during a future iteration.

Film Announcements

Hot Docs soldiered on with the announcement that the festival would open with Dawn Porter’s Luther Vandross documentary Luther: Never Too Much. The film drew critical acclaim at Sundance.

Porter was on hand at the conference and acknowledged the unusual atmosphere, saying she expected a change of tune from her home in the USA. “I was really excited to come to Canada where there’s no drama,” she said, drawing a laugh from the crowd.

The doc headlines a slate comprised of 168 documentaries representing 64 countries. Hot Docs again maintains a commitment to gender parity with 54% of titles directed by women.

Canadian Programming

On the Canadian front, Hot Docs includes 26 homegrown feature documentaries. Docs in the competitive Canadian Spectrum, presented by MUBI, include Karuara, People of the River, director Stephanie Boyd and Miguel Araoz Cartagena’s look at Indigenous resistance in Peru and the sacred relationship with water; Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story, director Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee’s portrait of singer Jackie Shane, who blazed a trail as a Black trans performer in 1960s’ Toronto; Adrianne & the Castle, director Shannon Walsh’s hybrid love story; and My Dad’s Tapes, director Kurtis Watson’s personal study of his father’s death and his revelations about his own identity that arise while exploring home movies.

Premieres and New Programmes

In the Oscar-accredited International Spectrum, documentaries among the 10 features in competition include Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner Porcelain War, a look at artists on the front lines in Ukraine. World premiering in competition is the Chilean/Dutch co-production The Fabulous Gold Harvesting Machine, directed by Alfredo Pourailly De La Plaza, which sees a son assist his father in self-funding his own retirement when social assistance fails him. Also world premiering is XiXi, a Taiwanese/Filipino/South Korean co-production directed by Fan Wu that chronicles a free-spirited woman coming into her own voice.

Canadian docs appearing elsewhere in the programming include A Mother Apart in the woman-forward Persister slate. The doc directed by Laurie Townshend offers an empowering profile of poet and LGBTQ+ activist Staceyann Chin. Also screening in Persister is the North American premiere of An Unfinished Journey, directed by Aeyliya Husain and Amie Williams, about women who continue the fight for freedom in Afghanistan. In the new Land | Sky | Sea competition, Tasha Hubbard’s Singing Back the Buffalo faces off with Jennifer Wickam, Brenda Michell, and Michael Toledano’s Yintah. The former considers the reintroduction of buffalo to the plains while the latter offers a portrait of land defenders on Wet’suwet’en territory. Also screening in the environmental competition are Sundance docs The Battle for Laikipia and Nocturnes.

In the new music doc section Pop/Life, Larry Weinstein gets personal in Beethoven’s Nine, which sees a study of the iconic composer take an unexpected turn. Meanwhile, Omar Majeed and Peter Mishara’s Disco’s Revenge offers a portrait of underground disco scenes. And in the new Emergence strand, which considers our relationship with technology, Ari’s Theme, directed by Nathan Drillot and Jeff Lee Petry, award-winning composer Ari Kinarthy takes audiences on a journey through his experience creating music while living with type-2 spinal muscular atrophy.

Europe and Big Ideas

On the international front, the Changing Face of Europe offers nine documentary features. They include the animated Hungarian documentary Pelikan Blue, about train ticket forgers; Norwegian Demokrazy, about the fight for democracy against a growing backdrop of racism and Islamophobia; and Such a Resounding Silence, French actress and director Emmanuelle Béart’s disclosure of surviving incest as she and co-director Anastasia Mikova speak with women who share her experience.

In terms of headliners, the Scotiabank Big Ideas series includes five marquee events, most of which were previously announced in the Special Presentations line-up. They include Lucy Lawless’s appropriately fearless portrait of cameraperson Margaret Moth, Never Look Away; Gary Hustwit’s shape-shifting look at musician Brian Eno in Eno; and Barry Avrich’s account of Indian-Canadian Sash Simpson and his journey from runaway child to top chef. Lawless, Hustwit, Avrich, and Simpson will participate in extended conversations following their screenings.

The series invited additional controversy to the presser as the No Arms in the Arts campaign protested outside Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema while patrons were exiting the press conference. The demonstration sought to raise awareness of Scotiabank’s sizable shareholder status in Elbit Systems, which is Israel’s largest military and arms company.

This year’s festival runs April 25 to May 5. The full line-up is available at

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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