When Kelly e-mailed me about Bloor Cinema’s Hot Docs 20 series, I (along with about a dozen of our friends) jumped on the opportunity to get a pass. The series spans through April and May and is a curated selection of the best and most well-received documentaries screened over the past 20 years of Hot Docs International Film Festivals. I spent a better part of this Easter long weekend in the Bloor Cinema learning about the dangers of brain surgery and the state of medical care in the Ukraine, the political war on drugs in the United States, and funk music in the 1970’s U.S.
All these documentaries are perfectly timed to wet my whistle and get me ready for Hot Docs 2013. Did you know that Hot Docs is North America’s largest documentary film festival? This year’s festival is running from April 25 – May 5, 2013 and is screening over 200 selections. The diversity of documentary topics and spotlight programs is astounding, as always, and guarantees that there are films to fit anyone’s interests. Browse the schedule by topic, by date, or by Program (like this year’s spotlight on Poland or “Rule Breakers & Innovators”).
Synopsis and trailers are all available on the Hot Docs website. Here is a sample of some of the screenings that have caught my eye this year:
In The Shadow of the Sun: A Tanzanian island is home to a community of people with albinism. Hunted by witch doctors and hated by an ignorant public, two outcasts fight for their dreams in this truly unforgettable study of courage.
Free The Mind: In science’s ongoing quest to solve the mysteries of the brain, renowned neuroscientist Richard Davidson works with veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and children with attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder to explore the possibility of changing the brain through the power of thought.
Just the Right Amount of Violence: In this emotionally gripping verité film, documentary and dramatic interpretation combine as troubled teens in suburban Los Angeles are ripped from their beds by intervention specialists and involuntarily taken to a reform school in Utah.
Mercy Mercy: a portrait of true adoption: A tragic story of two Ethiopian children caught in the business of international adoption. In this rare glimpse of both the adoptive and the birth parents’ perspectives, we confront the difficult, sometimes ugly truths of the adoption market.
Maidentrip: At just 14 years old, Laura Dekker sets out to become the youngest person ever to sail solo around the world. Braving waves and loneliness for two years, she shoots her own amazingly intimate coming-of-age story on the wide open sea.
Another Night on Earth: Filmed shortly after the 2011 revolution, casual conversations between passengers and taxi drivers in Cairo reveal a fascinating picture of Egyptians’ hopes and worries for the future at a time of unprecedented social change.
Chimeras: Wang Guangyi, international art star and founding father of Chinese contemporary art, and Liu Gang, a promising young photographer, imagine a world shaped by Eastern thought and culture without Western influence, and wrestle to realize it.
I Will be Murdered: When a Guatemalan lawyer is found dead days after recording a YouTube video predicting his murder and accusing the country’s president, the subsequent investigation unravels a complex, twisted story of love and conspiracy.
Muscle Shoals: Mick Jagger, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Gregg Allman, Bono and more share how the tiny backwater town of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, made them stars in one of the greatest untold American music stories.
Just like the Toronto International Film Festival, you’ll find that most of the film makers and film subjects make the trip to Toronto to present their films and participate in a Q&A at the end of the screening. Always my favorite part, the interactive discussion is a great chance to get perspective and insight as to how the film has affected both the subjects and the audience. So plan to stay a few minutes after the screening and just listen or jump right in and participate!