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Hot Docs Celebrates Its 18th Year With More Films On More Screens Than Ever Before

Written by: FFT Webmaster | March 28th, 2011

Toronto – Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, proudly returns for its 18th annual edition from April 28 to May 8, 2011.  Showcasing the best Canadian and international documentaries, Hot Docs is prepared to welcome delegates, filmmakers and audience members to Toronto for this 11-day event.  This year, Hot Docs will screen over 200 documentaries from 43 countries on 16 different screens across Toronto’s downtown core and in neighbourhoods outside of the traditional Festival village.

“This year is something of a game-changer for Hot Docs,” says executive director Chris McDonald. “We are expanding the number of film presentations by one third, we are screening in new neighbourhoods across the city, and we will be providing more direct financial support to filmmakers. The doc-making marketplace has changed dramatically, and so has our role within it. We are not just screening great work, we are helping to finance and distribute films in a meaningful way. Stay tuned for the announcement of a major new international initiative in the coming weeks.  Until then, we look forward to sharing a staggering array of quality docs with our unbeatable Toronto audiences at this year’s Festival.”

In addition to screenings, international buyers and industry professionals will attend the Festival to participate in a full slate of conference and market events.  These events include the world-renowned Hot Docs Forum (formerly the Toronto Documentary Forum), May 4 and 5, which will feature 27 project presentations showcasing the many faces of the documentary form for a table of both broadcast and non-broadcast funding sources. Hot Docs 2011 will also feature conference sessions, filmmaker discussions, professional development programs, and a vast number of other market and networking opportunities. Hot Docs will welcome a record nine official delegations from Brazil, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Nordic region, South Africa, the UK and USA. These delegations will be featured participants during this year’s International Co-Production Day, an intensive, day-long series of presentations, targeted one-on-one meetings and social events aimed at sparking international co-productions. Hot Docs will present IDFA’s Ally Derks with the 2011 Doc Mogul Award, recognizing an individual who, over the course of her or his career, has made an essential contribution to the creative vitality of the documentary industry, both at home and abroad. Derks will be presented the Doc Mogul Award at a luncheon in her honour, to be held on Tuesday, May 3, at The Sutton Place Hotel’s Stop 33 Rooftop Ballroom (955 Bay Street).

This year’s Festival will feature 199 official selections and retrospective titles in ten programs, as well as eight films by young filmmakers aged 14 to 18 screening in this year’s Doc It! showcase, and films selected as finalists in the International Documentary Challenge.  Official selections were chosen from a total 2146 films submitted to the Festival.

“Every year we start with the goal of showing everything documentary can do,” says director of programming Sean Farnel. “Yet, more so than ever, what documentary is doing is re-inventing itself, expanding our notions of its capacity to communicate contemporary stories and ideas. So let’s call 2011 the year that docs broke wide open.”

Hot Docs will open with the Canadian premiere of Morgan Spurlock’s POM WONDERFUL PRESENTS: THE GREATEST MOVIE EVER SOLD (USA, 90 min), a “doc-buster” financed entirely by product placement, marketing and advertising.

A high-profile collection of world and international premieres, award-winners from the recent international festival circuit, and works by master filmmakers, and featuring some star subjects, the Festival’s Special Presentations program offers 27 feature film selections. World premieres include Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir’s Dolphin Boy (Israel, 70 min), the inspiring tale of a boy being healed by dolphin-assisted therapy; Dylan Nelson and Dan Sturman’s THE Hollywood Complex (USA, 85 min), a look at the spring migration of thousands of hopeful child actors who flock to Hollywood for TV’s pilot season; and THE National Parks Project (Canada, 127 min), a stunning exploration of our country’s rugged wilderness by fifty-two filmmakers and musicians. International premieres include actor Michael Rapaport’s directorial debut Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (USA, 98 min), charting the band’s triumphant and turbulent 20-year career; Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Becoming Chaz (USA, 85 min), a revealing look at Chaz (formerly Chastity) Bono’s journey through gender reassignment; Constance Marks’s BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer’s Journey (USA, 76 min), sneaking behind the scenes at Sesame Street to reveal the inspirational story of a shy puppeteer; Lee Hirsch’s THE Bully Project (USA, 94 min), a shocking year on the front lines of America’s bullying epidemic; Dori Berinstein’s Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (USA, 87 min), profiling the expansive career of the iconic Broadway powerhouse; Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein’s FIGHTVILLE (USA, 85 min), which reveals the raw power behind some of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s fierce competitors; and Britta Wauer’s In Heaven, Underground. The Jewish Cemetery in Berlin-WeiSSensee (Germany, 90 min), an enchanting portrait of a 130-year-old Jewish cemetery.

Compelling homegrown stories and perspectives are showcased in this year’s Canadian Spectrum, a competitive program of 26 films, including the world premieres of Rohan Fernando’s The Chocolate Farmer (Canada, 70 min), the story of a Belizean cocoa plantation farmer following in the footsteps of his Mayan ancestors; Trish Dolman’s Eco Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson (Canada, 110 min), about the founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and co-founder of Greenpeace; Matt Gallagher’s Grinders (Canada, 75 min), a high-stakes journey through the bizarre world of professional poker; Thomas Selim Wallner’s The Guantanamo Trap (Germany, Canada, Switzerland, 90 min), following four lives forever changed by the infamous U.S. detention camp; Jaret Belliveau’s Highway Gospel (Canada, 97 min), racing down mountain highways alongside B.C. renegades on customized longboards; Igal Hecht’s The Hilltops (Canada, 58 min), an astute observation of the challenges to achieving Middle East peace; Mia Donovan’s Inside Lara Roxx (Canada, 81 min), in which a Montrealer makes sesnsational headlines for being the first female porn star to contract HIV while on the job; Joel Heath’s People of a Feather (Canada, 90 min), a stunning look at the Inuit of the Belcher Islands and their dependance on a species of duck now suffering mass die-offs; Matvei Zhivov, Roger Singh, Andrew Moniz, and Rock Baijnauth’s The Pirate Tapes (Canada, 72 min), the riveting tale a Somali-Canadian journalist who risks his life to infiltrate a Somali pirate cell; and Shannon Walsh’s St-Henri, The 26th of August (Canada, 85 min), in which a new generation of Quebec filmmakers revisits the storied neighborhood.

Thirty-four thought-provoking stories from around the world are shared in the competitive International Spectrum program. World premieres include Jet Homoet and Sharog Heshmat Manesh’s DAUGHTERS OF MALAKEH (Netherlands, 85 min), about a blushing Iranian bride of 45 navigating the public expectations of a traditional Sharia marriage; Tanaz Eshaghian’s LOVE CRIMES OF KABUL (USA, 72 min), a look at Afghanistan’s Badam Bagh women’s prison; and Matt Boyd’s A RUBBERBAND IS AN UNLIKELY INSTRUMENT (USA, 135 min), the astute observation of a struggling Brooklyn musician and occasional rubber-band busker. International premieres include Tristan Patterson’s DRAGONSLAYER (USA, 74 min), following Californian skate-punk Skreech as he stretches out his adolescence; Bulmaro Osornio’s FLY (Mexico, 97 min), a stirring story of unconditional love from the streets of Mexico City; Lotte Stoops’s GRANDE HOTEL (Belgium, 70 min), a last look at the decay of Mozambique’s once glorious monument to colonialism; Danfung Dennis’s HELL AND BACK AGAIN (UK, USA; 88 min), a visually arresting and intimately powerful story of soldiers in Afghanistan and at home; Peter D. Richardson’s HOW TO DIE IN OREGON (USA, 108 min), the immensely moving Sundance winner which sees terminally ill patients courageously seize control of their lives and deaths; Thomas A Østbye’s IMAGINING EMANUEL (Norway, 52 min), in which a refugee claimant in Norway finds himself at the centre of an embarrassing bureaucratic scandal; Steve James’s THE INTERRUPTERS (USA, 142 min), the inspirational story of three brave and compassionate “violence interrupters” working to put an end to gang warfare in their Chicago neighbourhood; and Limor Pinhasov’s MELISSA–MOM AND ME (Israel, 52 min), the reunion of an American girl and an Israeli girl discovering the heartbreakingly divergent paths their lives have taken.

The 2011 Festival will also include 39 films in the World Showcase program, an eclectic mix of the best the world has to offer. World premieres include Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley’s Battle for Brooklyn (USA, 94 min), the story of a reluctant activist’s seven-year battle against a greedy corporate Goliath; Jenifer McShane’s Mothers of Bedford (USA, 93 min), following five mothers inside New York’s only maximum security women’s prison; Steve Lickteig’s Open Secret (USA, 70 min), a shocking family memoir; Linda Goldstein Knowlton’s Somewhere Between (USA, 94 min), following four remarkable Chinese-born adoptees as they come of age between two cultures; Marc H. Simon’s Unraveled (USA, 80 min), which offers unprecedented access to a trickster’s deceptions and downfall; and Anthony Baxter’s You’ve Been Trumped (UK, 95 min), a David meets coiffed Goliath tale of Donald Trump versus the bonniest village in Scotland. International premieres include Antony Butts’s After the Apocalypse (UK, 65 min), in which two mothers living near a nuclear testing site fight for the right to keep their unborn children; Katie Galloway and Kelly Duane de la Vega’s Better This World (USA, UK; 95 min), the story of a controversial entrapment case involving domestic terrorism and two earnest activists; Aaron Walker’s Bury the Hatchet (USA, 86 min), following the descendants of runaway slaves as they honour the Native Americans who gave them refuge; Susan Saladoff’s Hot Coffee (USA, 92 min), a jaw-dropping account of the infamous McDonald’s scalding-coffee case; Roberts Rubins’s How Are You Doing, Rudolf Ming? (Latvia, 60 min), a look at a creative 12 year old with a passion for gore; Sue Bourne’s Jig (Scotland, 93 min), a look at the Irish Dancing World Championships in Glasgow; Greg Barker’s Koran by Heart (USA, 77 min); in which one hundred bright kids arrive in Cairo for the world’s oldest Koran-reciting contest; Vikram Gandhi’s Kumaré (USA, 84 min), a sharp and humorous postmodern analysis of New Age culture; Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen’s People in White (Netherlands, 64 min), a turning upside down of the complex dynamics of the psychiatric doctor-patient relationship; and Maria Raduan’s The Valley of the Forgotten (Brazil, 72 min), which offers candid access to a bloody land dispute between natives, ranchers, squatters and the government, unfolding deep in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.

Twenty-three films make up the Next program, which celebrates the arts, creativity and pop culture. Titles include Marie Losier’s THE BALLAD OF GENESIS AND LADY JAYE (USA, 72 min), the incredible love story – and “pandrogyne” art project – of Genesis P-Orridge and Lady Jaye; Keirda Bahruth’s BOB AND THE MONSTER (USA, 86 min), in which Bob Forrest, cool-headed counsellor on Celebrity Rehab, revisits his heyday as an indie band frontman; Mila Turajlic’s CINEMA KOMUNISTO (Serbia, 101 min), a quirky doc that cracks open the vaults of a deserted state-owned Yugoslavian film studio; Jakob Boeskov’s EMPIRE NORTH (Denmark, 58 min), a genre-crushing work in which the filmmaker, assuming a cynical neo-liberal alter ego, embarks on a controversial art project; Gary Burns and Jim Brown’s THE FUTURE IS NOW! (Canada, 92 min), a documentary-drama hybrid in which a young journalist leads Everyman on a quest for knowledge; Brent Green’s GRAVITY WAS EVERYWHERE BACK THEN (USA, 72 min), the story of a Louisville man who builds his home into a healing machine to try to save his wife; Jörg Adolph and Gereon Wetzel’s HOW TO MAKE A BOOK WITH STEIDL (Germany, 90 min), a glimpse into the private spaces and inspired collaborations between the world’s most brilliant art book publisher and such artists as Robert Frank, Karl Lagerfeld and Jeff Wall; and Whitney Dow’s WHEN THE DRUM IS BEATING (USA, 85 min), exploring Haiti’s complex past and challenging present through the music of its most beloved band, Orchestre Septentrional.

International labour issues are explored in the 15 titles screening in this year’s themed program, Workers of the World!, which features titles such as Vít Klusák’s ALL FOR THE GOOD OF THE WORLD AND NOSOVICE (Czech Republic, 82 min), a look at a Czech farming village’s war against Hyundai; Jeff Myers’s BECOMING SANTA (USA, 90 min), the story of a Santa school graduate donning the famous white beard to recapture his Christmas spirit; Verena Paravel and J.P. Sniadecki’s FOREIGN PARTS (USA, 82 min), which retreats behind the New York Mets’s stadium to uncover a hidden enclave of junkyards and salvage shops; Stéphanie Lanthier’s THE LUMBERFROS (Canada, 71 min), exposing a new breed of lumberjack in Quebec’s boreal forest; and Abner Benaim’s MAIDS & BOSSES (Panama, 64 min), in which rich Panamanians and their long-suffering domestic workers take turns describing their shared tensions and conflicts.

Our annual survey of the documentary new wave, Ripping Reality this year sees festival programmers picking their “b-sides,” films from the past decade they wish they had programmed or feel have been overlooked. Titles screening in this program include Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross’s 45365 (USA, 90 min); Jessica Oreck’s BEETLE QUEEN CONQUERS TOKYO (USA, 90 min); Stefan Kolbe and Chris Wright’s THE BLOCK (Germany, 75 min); John Maringouin’s RUNNING STUMBLED (USA, 85 min); and James Marsh’s WISCONSIN DEATH TRIP (UK, USA).

Made In Italy includes nine previously announced films that champion the renewed strength and artistry of Italy’s documentary film community, and the Outstanding Achievement Award and Focus On retrospective programs will revisit the works of influential Canadian filmmaker Terence Macartney-Filgate and local doc hero Alan Zweig, respectively.

Many of Hot Docs’ official selections are world, international or North American premieres and the majority of filmmakers will be in attendance to participate in post-screening discussions, as well as other Festival events.

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