Hot Docs, Canada's very own documentary film festival, is North America's largest documentary festival running for 11 days and presenting over 170 films. I hate to use the cliche "this is the Mecca..." for anything, but by golly this is the Mecca for documentary film lovers!
Now, I originally wanted to list every film screening at Hot Docs, but I figured most of you would lose interest about 25 summaries in (trust me, I would). Thankfully, the festival has a special category featuring the premier documentaries for this year (appropriately titled "Special Presentations"), so I'll just wet your appetite with this list and if you want to learn more, head to www.hotdocs.ca. (Note: all summaries are from the Hot Docs website.)
Hot Docs runs from April 29 - May 9 in the fabulous city of Toronto. Tickets and passes are available so book now!
12th & Delaware - In Fort Pierce, Florida, a pro-life centre opens up directly across from an abortion clinic, igniting America’s most uncompromising war in unexpected ways. 12th & Delaware delivers unprecedented access to behind the frontlines and to the women caught in the crossfire.
And Everything Is Going Fine - Meticulously crafted entirely from archive footage, Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh’s And Everything is Going Fine is a poignant final monologue for his long-time friend and collaborator, the late theatre artist and master storyteller Spalding Gray.
Babies - A visually stunning and joyful chronicle of the lives of four of the world’s newest human inhabitants - in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, and Tokyo - from first breath to first steps, on a journey at once universal and amazingly original.
Bhutto - Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s remarkable life and last days are exquisitely unraveled in this epic biographic documentary. Featuring exclusive interviews with the Bhutto family, this riveting portrait is as bold as the controversial figure herself.
Budrus - Through peaceful protest and skillful leadership, one man heroically struggles for 10 months to protect his small Palestinian village from being arbitrarily divided by an Israeli-built barrier in this gripping and inspirational tale.
Casino Jack and the United States of Money - Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney delivers a powerful essay on the dysfunctional processes of the U.S. political system, told through the scandalous story of lobbyist-turned-convicted-fraudster Jack Abramoff.
Enemies of the People - On his 10-year journey to reveal the truth about the Cambodian genocide, journalist Thet Sambath attempts to come to terms with the loss of his family by befriending Pol Pot’s enigmatic lieutenant in this Sundance prize winner.
Farewell - Through stunning archival footage and intimate journal entries, Lady Grace Drummond-Hay’s exhilarating yet tumultuous journey around the world is recreated, revealing her experiences as the only female passenger on board the 1929 maiden voyage of the Graf Zeppelin.
Joan Rivers - A Piece Of Work - Can we talk? Joan Rivers may be the butt of as many jokes as she tells. Outrageously funny and brutally honest, like the raunchy comedienne herself, this all-access exposé peels back her nipped 'n tucked public mask with surprising results.
Kings of Pastry - Sixteen top chefs, three intense days, and one chance at France’s top pastry honour the Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Frosting flies as documentary legends D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus serve up this epic battle for sweet victory. Bon appétit!
Neighbors - Architecture, history, and a diverse cast of international characters star in this stunningly shot journey through the once-opulent homes and abandoned gardens of Cairo's bygone colonial elite, creating a powerful allegory of contemporary Egypt.
Nénette - A captivating study of an enigmatic animal and our relationship to her, Nénette asks us what we can learn from an orangutan, and what she can teach us about ourselves.
RUSH: Beyond The Lighted Stage - Canada's greatest rock band, the revered and iconic Rush, get the musical bio they deserve: a hard-driving, immensely engaging, heavy on the hits chronicle of the world's most popular cult band.
Secrets of the Tribe - Academic bickering has never been as luridly scandalous as between the anthropologists studying the Yanomami, an isolated tribe in the Amazon basin. Jaw-dropping ethical breaches leave generational scars on the world's last "pure" society.
Seltzer Works - In the early 1900s, thousands of seltzer deliverymen criss-crossed the nation, schlepping heavy glass bottles of fizzy water to millions of thirsty customers. The siphon machines at Gomberg Seltzer Works don’t turn like they used to, but third-generation seltzer filler Kenny Gomberg is fending off the supermarket seltzer takeover, honouring the simple drink’s place in history.
Space Tourists - This Sundance award winner deftly probes the new space race - space tourism - and all its ramifications for those on left on the ground as it follows an American woman’s $20-million trip aboard a Russian rocket.
Teenage Paparazzo - Who better to expose the world of the paparazzi and star-worship than a celebrity? Actor Adrian Grenier turns the camera onto 13-year-old shooter Austin Visschedyk, and stalks famous friends Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon and Paris Hilton.
The Kids Grow Up - Doug Block focuses his lens on his only child Lucy, now 17, as she leaves home for college in this tender, funny, and endearing exploration of the complexities of modern-day parenting and the hardship of letting go.
The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island - A pioneering group of Greenpeace activists, the crew of the famous ship The Rainbow Warrior, form a community on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Best described as a "rest home for burnt-out greenies", the friends revisit their legacy of protest.
Time’s Up - For Jan Peters and Marie-Catherine Theiler, looming deadlines, extended to-do lists, and buzzing cell phones form the pressure cooker that is their modern urban life. Upon news of Marie-Catherine’s pregnancy, the two decide it’s time to slow down. Time’s Up is their “experiment in time management.” Seeking out experts from physicists to yoga instructors, they examine with wit and irony the indefinable concept of time.
Waste Land - Already a multiple award winner on the fest circuit, Lucy Walker's transcendent doc follows artist Vik Muniz and his work with pickers of recyclable materials in Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill site.