Like non-fiction books, documentaries have at least one very distinct advantage over their fictional filmic counterparts: even so-so docs send viewers away having learned something new. That’s certainly not something a middling rom-com can claim.
This year’s instalment of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival — Hot Docs for short — is once again poised to inform, educate, delight, and dazzle while underscoring that old chestnut that truth really is stranger than fiction. Happening in Toronto April 26 to May 6, Hot Docs (this year fêting its 25th anniversary) has a crazy-broad slate of films sure to inspire the conscious among us.
That this year’s festival will present 246 films and 16 interdisciplinary projects from 56 countries in 14 screening programs, with work by female filmmakers representing 50 per cent, augurs well for its success both commercially and, more tangentially perhaps, as an agent of change.
So where to begin in putting together a wish-list of films to see, many enjoying world premieres?
Perusing the Hot Docs site with a mug of java and a spare hour or two is a good place to start. Indeed, almost every title in the 2018 line-up touches a subject that might broadly be categorized as having a charitable (or at least agit-prop) component:
Of Fish and Foe, the story of Scotland’s last traditional fishing family battling animal activists on the high seas.
The Blue Wall, a searing examination of the police killing of Laquan McDonald, tracing the conspiracy of silence that extended up to the Chicago mayor’s office and revealing the journalists, activists and lawyers whose perseverance exposed the truth.
Active Measures, a deep-dive into Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 US presidential election.
Andy Irons: Kissed By God, which profiles the legendary surfing champion and his struggles with mental illness.
Love, Scott, a heart-breaking film about a young gay musician’s brave recovery after a vicious attacked left him paralyzed.
Commander Arian: A Story Of Women, War And Freedom, whereby a 30-year-old commander on the frontline of the Syrian war leads her female battalion to retake an ISIS-controlled city.
The Feeling of Being Watched, which uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11.
The Reckoning: Hollywood’s Worst Kept Secret, director Barry Avrich’s examination of Harvey Weinstein’s spectacular fall and the insidious circumstances that allowed him to operate for so long.
Exit Music, a look at Ethan Rice who was born with cystic fibrosis and has been preparing to die all his life. Interweaving his father’s home videos and his own original music and animation, the film captures death’s transformative influence.
Call Her Ganda, exploring the case of a U.S. Marine who brutally murdered a transgender woman in the Philippines, thrusting transphobia and American military impunity into the spotlight.
The Accountant of Auschwitz, which follows the 2015 trial of 94-year-old Oskar Gröning, known as the "Accountant of Auschwitz," who was charged with the murder of 300,000 Jews during WWII.
The Guardians, an exposé on the rampant corruption that has transformed Nevada’s guardianship system into a con game where seniors invariably lose money and well-being.
Blowin’ Up, a vérité look inside an experimental “special intervention” court, created in NYC to help sex workers escape an unjust cycle of arrests.
Phew! Note that Hot Docs offers free same-day tickets for all screenings before 5 pm to seniors and students with valid photo I.D. at the venue box offices. For the rest of us, tickets can be purchased in person, online at www.hotdocs.ca, or by phone at 416-637-3123.
Single tickets to screenings are $17 each, and $19 -$24 each to special events. Tickets to Food & Film are $60-$75. A Festival 6-Pack is $99, a Festival 10-Pack is $149, a Festival 20-Pack is $249, and a Premium Pass is $359.THE SNEAKER BULLETIN