Hot Docs film festival to spotlight Inuit rights, Lac Mégantic, Canucks riot

·3 min read

TORONTO — This year’s Hot Docs festival will open with a portrait of Inuit activist Aaju Peter and include Oscar-nominated director Philippe Falardeau’s four-part look at one of Canada’s worst rail disasters.

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival has revealed a slate of 214 films from 72 countries, and will kick off with “Twice Colonized” from Danish director Lin Alluna, which centres on Greenlandic lawyer and human rights advocate Peter.

Quebec filmmaker Falardeau, best known for dramas including “The Good Lie” with Reese Witherspoon and his Oscar-nominated classroom tear-jerker “Monsieur Lazhar,” will bring “Lac-Mégantic” to the Deep Dive program for long-form storytelling.

The Canadian Spectrum includes “I’m Just Here for The Riot,” about the “smartphone riot” that unfolded after the Vancouver Canucks lost the 2011 Stanley Cup final; “July Talk: Love Lives Here,” in which the band books a drive-in theatre amid the pandemic-born shutdown of live music; and “Someone Lives Here,” about a Toronto carpenter who builds shelters for unhoused people.

Canadian films in other programs include “Coven,” about three millennial women who identify as witches; “Satan Wants You,” about how a young woman and her Catholic psychiatrist ignited the global Satanic Panic in the 1980s with their bestselling memoir “Michelle Remembers;” and “The Lebanese Burger Mafia,” which chases clues through rural Alberta to uncover the origins of a rogue fast-food chain.

The 30th edition of Hot Docs – billed as North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market – runs April 27 to May 7 in Toronto.

“As Hot Docs has grown and evolved over the last 30 years, so too has the inventiveness, impact and craft of documentary filmmaking,” Hot Docs’ artistic director Shane Smith said Tuesday in a release that also touted 53 per cent female directors in the official selection.

The Big Ideas Series marks its 10th edition of conversations with celebrities by welcoming U.S. chef and food writer Ruth Reichl, Indigo Girls singer-songwriter Emily Saliers, and fashion model and “revolutionary” Bethann Hardison.

New this year is a program dubbed Human Kind, highlighting stories of kindness and collaboration. The inaugural edition includes the world premieres of “The Only Doctor,” about the only doctor in Georgia’s poorest county for 15 years and “Unsyncable,” about a group of seniors with a passion for synchronized swimming.

Also new is the Hot Docs Podcast Festival Showcase, which will offer a taste of the organization’s annual Podcast Festival, set to return for its seventh year this fall.

Five live events will feature WNYC Studios’ Peabody Award-winning “Radiolab”; Wondery’s hit series “Scamfluencers,” co-hosted by Canadian culture writers Scaachi Koul and Sarah Hagi; "The Story I Never Thought I Would Tell,” with CBC Podcasts’ hosts including Anna Maria Tremonti and Falen Johnston; “On With Kara Swisher” featuring Canadian YouTube comedian and author Lilly Singh; and “The Happiness Lab” with Dr. Laurie Santos, featuring author and podcaster Gretchen Rubin.

The Nightvision program includes the world premiere of “It’s Coming,” a found footage horror in which a woman returns to her family’s ancestral apartment; and the international premiere of “Another Body,” in which a student investigates deepfake technology after pornographic video surfaces showing her face on another body.

The Special Presentations program includes the previously announced Kremlin expose “The Rise of Wagner;” the story of the Indigenous guardians of the Brazilian Amazon, “We Are Guardians,”; director Barry Avrich’s "Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella," a portrait of Canada’s first female Jewish Supreme Court Judge; and a look at the posthumous theft of Albert Einstein's brain from award-winning Toronto journalist Michelle Shephard, with “The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain;”

Outside Toronto, organizers say non-fiction fans can stream more than 100 selections May 5 to 9 on the online subscription platform, Hot Docs at Home.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 28, 2023.

The Canadian Press