Photo by Joseph Michael Howarth

Hot Docs Forum: 19 Projects to Compete at Industry Event

Pitch teams represent 21 filmmakers across 18 countries

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15 mins read

19 projects will compete at this year’s Hot Docs Forum. The festival announced today the slate for the marquee industry day that invites film teams to pitch their documentaries to a room full of decision makers and industry peers with hopes of securing financing for their docs. The Hot Docs Forum will take place on April 30 and May 1 at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus.

“In light of our marketplace realities, the security is in the Hot Docs Forum to discover talent and the next batch of films which are garnering momentum to propel into our audiences’ sphere. The projects in the Forum and Dealmaker are the next doc-stars. It is our collective commitment as a community to support the work and bring it to audiences around the world,” said Elizabeth Radshaw, Hot Docs Industry programs director, in a release.

Projects participating in the Forum were chosen by Hot Docs Industry programmer and Forum producer Dorota Lech and the selection committee comprised of Yoko Imai, Jeff Seelbach, Abby Sun, and Leah Giblin. Selections for the Hot Docs Deal Maker, set to be announced March 20, were curated by Lauren Clarke.

“In 2023, the Hot Docs Forum participants pitched to 70+ key commissioning editors and funders and over $78,000 in cash prizes were awarded,” added Lech. “At a time when politics cannot be separated from art and vice versa, we are thrilled to be presenting a powerful and timely programme for the 25th edition of Hot Docs Forum.”

This year’s Forum projects represent a diverse snapshot of the film industry with 18 countries and 21 filmmakers among the selections. Hot Docs notes in a release that 15 of these filmmakers identify as women, while 11 of the participants identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour.

Three Canada projects are among the selections. Ba’s Book, directed by Ashley Da-Lê Duong and produced by Ina Fichman, sees a father and daughter in a creative dialogue about experiences in the Vietnam War and the Iranian Revolution. This Land of Ours, directed by Ngardy Conteh George and produced by George and Alison Duke, depicts life on the Caribbean island of Barbuda in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. Meanwhile, the Canadian-American co-production #WhileBlack, directed by Jennifer Holness and Sidney Fussell and produced Ann Shin, Geeta Gandbhir, and Tara Jan, turns its lens towards Darnella Frazier, who helped spark a cultural revolution by filming the death of George Floyd.

This year’s Forum offers two cash prizes: the first look prize, which provides a minimum of $25,000 and is funded by philanthropic supporters of and investors in documentary film; and the CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize, presented in partnership with the Canada Media Fund, which provides a $ 10,000 to the best Canadian pitch.

Recent success stories from the Forum include Brett Story and Stephen Maing’s Union, which won the CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize in 2022. The doc about the fight of the Amazon Labour Union won a prize at Sundance following its premiere earlier this year and was among the titles announced yesterday for Hot Docs’ 2024 line-up. Last year’s CMF-Hot Docs Forum Canadian Pitch Prize winner, Oksana Karpovych’s Intercepted, recently premiered at the Berlin Film Festival.

Arguably the most popular event on the industry side of Hot Docs, the Forum gives film teams seven minutes to pitch their stories to the crowd and then receive eight minutes of feedback from industry peers, including commissioning editors, executive producers, distributors, and broadcasters. Hot Docs notes that the participants confirmed to date represent A24, Al Jazeera Documentary Channel, Amazon MGM Studios, ARTE France, ARTE G.E.I.E., ARTE – La Lucarne, BBC Storyville, Catapult Film Fund, CBC – Documentary Channel, CBC/Radio-Canada, Chicken & Egg, Doc Society, Doha Film Institute, EBS Korea, ESPN, Field of Vision, Firelight Media, Impact Partners, Independent Television Service, International Documentary Association, iQIYI North America, Knowledge Network, Minderoo Foundation, National Geographic, Netflix, NHK Enterprises, NY Times Op Docs, Paramount, PBS – POV, Points North Institute, Sandbox Films, SBS Australia, the Sundance Institute, The deNovo Initiative, The Redford Center, SVT, SWR, TVO, The Whickers, VRT, WORLD Channel WGBH, YLE, and ZDF.

 

The projects selected for the 2024 Hot Docs Forum are:

(credits and synopses supplied by Hot Docs)

 

Anatomy of a Life
Production Company: Anatomy of a Life LLC (USA)
Director: Emma Francis-Snyder
Producers: Tiffany Fisher Love

Anatomy of a Life is a hybrid film that explores the end of life, as imagined by the dying and as experienced by the ones they are leaving behind.

 
Arrest the Midwife (working title)
Production Company: Underdog Films, Inc. (USA)
Director: Elaine Epstein
Producers: Elaine Epstein, Robin Hessman, Ruth Ann Harnisch

The arrest of three midwives serving Amish and Mennonite communities spurs an unlikely group of activists to join the fight for reproductive rights.

 

Autumn of the Patriach
Production Companies: Piraya Film AS (Norway), Little Big Story (France), IV Films (Finland), Nukleus Film (Croatia)
Director: Anna Bogoliubova
Producers: Torstein Grude Ruwê Yuxinawá, Oddleiv Vik, Raphael Pëlissou, Valérie Montmartin, Iikka Vehkalahti, Sinisa Juricic

A documentary dystopia that explores the survival strategies of people who live inside the modern Russian dictatorship which itself has become a formidable force of mass murder.

 

Ba’s Book
Production Company: Intuitive Pictures Inc. (Canada)
Director: Ashley Da-Lê Duong
Producer: Ina Fichman

As a father writes a memoir to his daughter about his harrowing experiences of both the Vietnam War and the Iranian Revolution, the daughter responds by making a film. Through their creative dialogue, this hybrid documentary offers a disarming look at the legacy of war.

 

Imago
Production Companies: Triptyque Films SARL (France), Need Productions SPRL (Belgium)
Director: Déni Oumar Pitsaev
Producers: Alexandra Mélot, Anne-Laure Guégan, Géraldine Sprimont

I was offered land in Pankisi, Georgia, on the other side of Chechnya, my homeland. I contemplate building a house in this secluded region, known as the “Jihadists’ valley.”

 
Jaripeo
Production Companies: Jaripeo Documentary LLC (USA), BHD Films (Mexico)
Directors: Rebecca Zweig, Efraín Mojica
Producers: Sarah Strunin, Efraín Mojica, Rebecca Zweig

At the rural rodeos in Michoacán, México, a hypermasculine tradition is rife with hidden queer encounters. Guided by director Efraín, Jaripeo follows two rancheros as they navigate desire, machismo, and mass migration from one rodeo season to the next.

 

Landscapes of Memory
Production Companies: Space Time Films LLC (USA), Meerkat Media LLC (USA)
Director: Leah Galant
Producer: Elijah Stevens

Who do our memories belong to? Weaving personal essay and intimate character studies, Landscapes of Memory explores the weaponization of Holocaust memory, and those fighting against it.

 

Power & Light
Production Company: Actual Films (USA)
Director: Kelly Duane de la Vega
Producers: Jessica Anthony, Justine Nagan, Jon Shenk

In Miami, Power & Light follows two journalists embroiled in a top-secret investigation exposing how the state’s largest utility ruthlessly undermined democracy and stalled climate action to protect profits.

 

Power, Elaine (working title)
Production Companies: Poppy Pictures doo (Serbia), Survivance (France)
Director: Mila Turajlić
Producers: Mila Turajlić, Carine Chichkowsky

Tracing more than half a century of the rise and fall of progressive struggle, Elaine Mokhtefi revisits her days of radical activism across the Third World in this memoir documentary.

 

Pülö, Bloodstream of the Kirike
Production Companies: IMBUU Media Limited (Nigeria), Ethnos Snc (Italy)
Director: Christina Ifubaraboye
Producers: Christina Ifubaraboye, Ufuoma Ogagarue, Olawale Ogundein, Elisa Mereghetti, Yvonne Welbon

Pülö means blood and oil. Oil is the blood of Kirike, it keeps the people going. Blood is the stream of life, what happens when this stream is poisoned? The Kirike people, who rely on the island’s water, are under threat!

 

Reckoning
Production Companies: Insight Film Ltd. (UK), Come on Die Young Films (Brazil)
Director: Mauricio Monteiro Filho
Producers: Charlie Rosser, Clive Patterson, Hugh Davies, Mauricio Monteiro Filho

Reckoning follows a Brazilian federal prosecutor as he leads a landmark investigation into crimes against humanity, perpetrated by the previous Bolsonaro government against the Yanomami people of the northern Amazon.

 

Rehearsing for Justice
Production Companies: Integral film og Litteratur as (Norway), Sirdab Studio Ltd (Palestine)
Director: Dalia Al-Kury
Producers: Ola K. Hunnes, Jørgen Lorentzen, Nefise Lorentzen

What is at stake when one Palestinian filmmaker from the diaspora takes on the challenge of imagining justice and reparations in a free Palestine?

 

Tea with the Taliban
Production Companies: Faction Media Ltd. (UK), Nadcon GmbH (Germany)
Director: Ovidio Salazar
Producers: Rishi Ghosh-Curling, Peter Nadermann, Petra Wersch, Sylvia Stevens, Peter Day

As Taliban leaders strive to rebuild Afghanistan in their own image, pulled between the demands of The West and their own ideology, pressures mount on the ground for the people.

 

There’s Only One Shirley
Production Company: That Girl Productions LLC (USA)
Director: Isadora Kosofsky
Producers: Isadora Kosofsky, Amanda Mustard

After three difficult marriages, inimitable octogenarian Shirley engages in internet dating and pursues a successful career in the porn industry. In this ten-year portrait, Shirley defies all conventions on her quest to find the love and meaning she has searched for her entire life.

 

This Land of Ours
Production Company: Oya Media Group Inc. (Canada)
Director: Ngardy Conteh George
Producers: Ngardy Conteh George, Alison Duke

The cost of paradise, but for whom?

 

Under the Flags, the Sun
Production Companies: Cine Mio / Ivana Urízar (Paraguay), MaravillaCine S.R.L. (Argentina), Sabaté Films S.R.L. (Paraguay), Juanjo Pereira (Paraguay)
Director: Juanjo Pereira
Producers: Paula Zyngierman, Ivana Urízar, Gabriela Sabaté, Leandro Listorti, Juanjo Pereira

Using film material found around the world, Under the Flags, the Sun reconstructs Paraguay’s untold history, delving into Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship—among Latin America’s longest—with traces still felt today.

 

Unfiltered
Production Companies: Intensity Films LLC (USA), Himaphiliac CineLabs LLC (USA), Tell It Media INC (USA)
Director: Chelsi Bullard
Producers: Chelsi Bullard, Hima B., Jacqueline Olive

Generational trauma and unflinching courage collide in Unfiltered, a raw yet joyous coming-of-age story, where 15-year-old Tamia McArthur is determined to disrupt family cycles and reclaim her youth in a world that forces Black girls to grow up too soon.

 

#WhileBlack
Production Companies: Fathom Film Group Ltd. (Canada), WhileBlackFilm LLC (US)
Directors: Jennifer Holness, Sidney Fussell
Producers: Ann Shin, Geeta Gandbhir, Tara Jan

Darnella Frazier, who filmed the death of George Floyd, steps forward in this ground-breaking documentary about viral videos that have ignited global movements. We hear the firsthand stories of Darnella and other citizen journalists as we dive deep into the technology platforms that deliver and profit from these images.

 

Who Moves America (working title)
Production Company: Sidereal Time LLC (USA)
Director: Yael Bridge
Producers: Yael Bridge, Jeremy Flood, Yoni Golijov, Mars Verrone

Weaving together intimate character-driven verité and essayistic narration, Who Moves America elucidates the theory and practice of solidarity through the organizing efforts of the Teamsters labor union.

 

Hot Docs runs April 25 to May 5.

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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