299 Queen Street West | SXSW

Music Docs and Trans Trailblazers Lead Bell’s Upcoming Doc Slate

Russell Peters and Jackie Shane among celebs profiled in new docs

5 mins read

New documentaries featuring Russell Peters, Toronto DJs, Punjabi wrestlers, post-human science, and Canadians redefining gender identities lead the latest programming announcement for Crave. Bell Media announced today its original programming slate for the upcoming year. Titles include the SXSW premiere 299 Queen Street West, directed by Sean Menard, which chronicles the history of MuchMusic. The film features talking heads from this period of pop culture history including Rick Campanelli, Sook-Yin Lee, and George Stroumboulopoulos. 299 Queen Street West has its Canadian premiere in a special event at Roy Thomson Hall on September 22 ahead of its streaming debut on Crave.

Meanwhile, Canuck comic Russell Peters gets a documentary profile with a self-titled film. Russell Peters looks at the comic’s origin story in Brampton, Ontario to becoming one of the nation’s most widely recognized humourists. The film marks the documentary feature debut of director Thyrone Tommy, who previously helmed the jazz drama Learn to Swim. Also making his documentary debut is Akash Sherman, who at only 28 years old, is helming his third feature after the dramas Clara and The Rocket List. Sherman’s Singhs in the Ring tells the story of Punjabi immigrant Gama Singh and the wrestling dynasty he inspired. Also set to energize viewers is The Art of Dance from director Kevin John Fitzgerald. The film is a cinematic exploration of dance and the power to captivate audiences by displaying the body in motion.

A trio of music docs keeps the spirit of 299 Queen Street West alive with films like Smoke & Gifts: It’s All Gonna Break exploring Toronto’s music scene. Directed by Stephen Chung, the documentary offers an intimate look at the music collective Broken Social Scene with never-before-seen footage about the Toronto indie band. Meanwhile, director Ron Mann (Carmine Street Guitars) turns it up to eleven with Audiophilia – Adventures in the World of Hi-Fi. The documentary explores the “audio sanctuaries” of music lovers who seek the best stereos to maximize the audio experience. Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story profiles the titular Nashville-born singer who came out as transgender at the age of 13 and helped shape the sound of Toronto. The film is directed by Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee with actor Elliot Page as executive producer.

Any Other Way joins a selection of documentaries among a notable slate exploring LGBTQ issues. Also set for crave is Beauty Kings, directed by Gary Tutte, which follows contests in a male beauty pageant to observe how notions of masculinity are in transition. Meanwhile, Naked: Sex and Gender considers the gender binary and the ways in which it defines, shapes, and limits society. Director Stephanie Weimar looks beyond the binary to show how gender non-conformists rewrite notions of identity. Similarly, Modern Whore director Nicole Bazuin tackles story of sex work with an eye for breaking the stigma that surrounds it. Modern Whore adapts Andrea Werhun’s memoir of the same name.

Finally, the science of storytelling fuels two documentaries including PostNatural, directed by Brett Story and co-directed by Ben Travers. The film takes a cue from Richard Pell, who founded the Center for PostNatural History, and looks towards the future with a speculative eye for human nature. Training eyes to the sky, meanwhile, is director Lisa Jackson’s Wilfred Buck. The hybrid documentary focuses on the titular Cree Elder and Indigenous star knowledge keeper. Wilfred Buck won the pitch prize at the 2021 Hot Docs Forum.

On the series front, Bell announced a second season for We’re All Gonna Die (Even Jay Baruchel) following its wins at the Canadian Screen Awards this year, as well as second seasons for Pillow Talk and the RuPaul’s Drag Race spin-off Canada vs. the World, while Canada’s Drag Race is tapped to return for a fourth season. New series include The Squad, about the 1991 arrest of Wanda Holloway, and the four-parter Billionaire Murders about the shocking double homicide of Toronto couple Barry and Honey Sherman. It kicks off the slate on June 16.

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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