Jewel Thiefs! Reindeer Herding! Sex for Trees! HotDocs Celebrates Its 20th In Style

One of the world's largest documentary film festivals, Toronto's HotDocs turns 20 this year.  To celebrate, they are screening a whopping 205 films from 43 countries from April 25th to May 5th at their dedicated cinema, The Bloor-Hotdocs Cinema, as well as a significant number of other venues in the city.

Twitch's Jason Gorber here and I've just returned from the always welcome press conference (read: free breakfast) where we got a chance to see a few minutes of 12 O'Clock Boys, which for this fan of all things Baltimore (courtesy of worshiping David Simon) looks a-ma-zing. A clip from Caucus, about the insanity of Iowa's political machinery, looks like it sets the perfect tone of wryness, with a a particularly effective shot of Mitt Romney chugging a corn dog with aplomb. If this film manages to stay apolitical (from a party point of view) while skewering the inherent ridiculous of the event (you know, Daily Show/Colbert style), this might provie to be my favourite thing of the festival. 

I've been around long enough with this festival to see it flourish over the last half decade, and it's wonderful to see the level of films that are showing here (and documentaries in general) continue to improve - heck, two of my top 10 film of 2012 were movies I saw at the Bloor as part of Hot Doc programming - The Imposter and Under African Skies. Can't wait until the end of next month to find new works to fall in love with! Now back to Kurt to take you through some of the other highlights from the upcoming fest. You'll find the full press release at the bottom.

   


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The opening night film The Manor chronicles the strange family of documentary filmmaker (and strip club owner) Shawney Cohen.  When he was six years old, his father bought "The Manor", a small town strip club attached to a seedy 32-room motel. Thirty years after the purchase, the family's extravagant lifestyle has got the better of this Jewish family. His self-indulgent father has seen his weight balloon to 400 pounds, while Shawney's anorexic mother struggles to survive at 85 pounds. Hoping to understand what happened to his once-recognizable family, Shawney spends three years filming in a shadowy world of sex, drugs and family feuds. 

Other Highlights include:

Dragon_Girls_630.JPGInigo Westmeier's DRAGON GIRLS, follows three young female students living far away from their homes and families. They sacrifice the luxuries of childhood, like days off, playtime and seeing their parents, for the honour, success, respect and awe they will gain from their training. It offers a glimpse at the young female warriors-in-training at an ancient Shaolin Kung Fu school outside Beijing. 

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Jessica Oreck's AATSINKI: THE STORY OF ARCTIC COWBOYS, a wholly absorbing portrait of reindeer herders in Lapland.

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Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina's THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE is the story of an 81-year-old jewel thief's unrepentant account of her life of crime.

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Poland's FUCK FOR FOREST (well covered on Twitch) wants you to get horny, get naked and save the world by selling self-produced erotica online to benefit the environment. But the transition from fund-raisers to activists tests the resolve and motives of these wide-eyed idealists.

Downloaded_630.JPGAlex "Bill S. Preston, Esq." Winter's DOWNLOADED charts the rise and fall of Napster's creators, from idealistic kids to vilified pirates, and places Napster in its rightful context as a pioneering platform that changed the world.  With full access to Shawn Fanning and his collaborators, as well as to a roster of famous musicians including Henry Rollins, Snoop Lion, Beastie Boy Mike D, and Public Enemy's Chuck D, who are only too happy to give their opinions and insights on free downloading and copyright infringement.

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Morgan Matthew's SHOOTING BIGFOOT uses the in-the-trenches style of The Blair Witch Project, to allows us to accompany the adventures of three Sasquatch search parties: socially awkward "master tracker" Ric Dyer; crotchety old guys Dallas and Wayne, and Tom Biscotti, perhaps the most devoted of the bunch, who has hunted Sasquatch unabatedly for 37 years.

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Penny Lane's OUR NIXON, offers a revealing look at one of the most controversial presidencies in US history by way of a boatload of footage, consisting of over 500 reels, confiscated by the FBI as part of the investigation, which inexplicably sat forgotten for decades in a government office until now. Mixed with interviews and audio recordings from the original Watergate tapes, this personal and intimate film record is a fascinating and unique look at the Nixon era.

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Gus Holwerda's THE UNBELIEVERS follows "rock stars of reason," Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, as they embark on a most modern crusade to encourage people to cast off antiquated religious and political ideologies and assume a purely rational approach to important current issues. Lightning rods for protest and extremist rage everywhere they go, their provocative ideas attract supporters as well. Fans, including Ricky Gervais, Woody Allen and Werner Herzog, share their impressions, while protesters and arenas full of believers and the curious eagerly receive them. 

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Nik Fackler's SICK BIRDS DIE EASY leads a cast of characters deep into the jungle of Gabon, Africa, searching for answers, truth and a cure for their addictions. Gabon is home to the spiritual practice of Bwiti, which uses the sacred iboga plant in ceremonies and rituals. Iboga is a powerful hallucinogen thought to be a miracle cure for drug and alcohol addiction. With Nik on his expedition are his paranoid, philosophical drug dealer, Ross; Sam, a musician whose talent is matched by his sense of entitlement; his beautiful French ingenue girlfriend, Emily; and a small crew to document the drug-fueled misadventure. 

There is a lot more to dig into with the full schedule online here and the full press release below.  Look for more coverage and reviews of Hot Docs as the festival fast approaches.

HOT DOCS ANNOUNCES 2013 LINE UP - 205 DOCUMENTARIES FROM
43 COUNTRIES TO SCREEN AT NORTH AMERICA'S LARGEST DOC FEST

Toronto, March 19, 2013 - Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival announced its full film line-up for the upcoming 20th edition, April 25 - May 5, at a press conference this morning at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. From 2,386 film submissions, this year's slate will present 205 titles from 43 countries in 11 screening programs. 

"This year's festival is about looking back and celebrating our 20th anniversary, and also looking forward," says Hot Docs director of programming Charlotte Cook. "This year we are celebrating, big ideas, innovation and the future. We will have many new and exciting experiences at the festival to give back to the local, and filmmaking, community that have supported us for two decades. This festival is for them."

In addition to the opening night World premiere of Shawney Cohen's THE MANOR, a first-time filmmaker's intimate tragi-comic family portrait, other notable films in the Special Presentations program include: Gus Holwerda's THE UNBELIEVERS, which follows renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss advancing the importance of science and reason; AJ Schnack's CAUCUS, a behind-the-scenes look at the 2012 Iowa Caucus; Malcom Ingram's CONTINENTAL, a stylish portrait of the legendary NYC gay bathhouse; Lucy Walker's THE CRASH REEL, a high adrenaline look at snowboarder Kevin Pearce's fighting for his life; Penny Lane's OUR NIXON, a revealing look at one of the most controversial presidencies in US history; Marta Cunningham's VALENTINE ROAD, depicting a heartbreaking tragedy in which at an eighth-grader fatally shoots his LGBTQ classmate; and Raoul Peck's FATAL ASSISTANCE, a portrayal of the failure and corruption behind international aid post-disaster.

In the competitive Canadian Spectrum program, notable films include: Michelle Latimer's ALIAS, which illuminates the lives, music, and dreams of five rapper's in Toronto's street hip-hop scene; John Kastner's NCR: NOT CRIMINALLY RESPONSIBLE, a compassionate portrayal of the dilemma between the rights of the mentally ill and the safety of others; Charles Wilkinson's OIL SANDS KARAOKE, the story of oil sands workers easing their loneliness at their local karaoke bar; Hans Olson's THE AUCTIONEER, a charming portrayal of a man helping his rural Alberta neighbours deal with a transforming culture; Anne Wheeler's CHI, following actress Babz Chula's journey to India in hopes of finding a cure for her cancer; Liz Marshall's THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE, which captures the sentience of animals through stunning images; and Nimisha Mukerji's BLOOD RELATIVE, the story of a man's fight to obtain life-saving medical treatment for young people in India.

In the competitive International Spectrum program, notable films include: Lotfy Nathan's 12 O'CLOCK BOYS, the story of a young boy longing to join a notorious dirt-bike gang; Matt Wolf's TEENAGE, a look at the rise of teenage culture; Inigo Westmeier's DRAGON GIRLS, a glimpse at the young female warriors-in-training at an ancient Shaolin Kung Fu school outside Beijing; Jessica Oreck's AATSINKI: THE STORY OF ARCTIC COWBOYS, a wholly absorbing portrait of reindeer herders in Lapland; Jon Bang Carlsen's JUST THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF VIOLENCE, the story of troubled teens ripped from their beds by intervention specialists and involuntarily placed in reform school; Zhu Yu's CLOUDY MOUNTAINS, which follows a father and son working in the toxic cloudy mountains of Western China; and Ran Tal's GARDEN OF EDEN, a look the revealing interaction between a diverse group of vacationers in an Israeli national park.

In the World Showcase program, notable films include: Matthew Pond and Kirk Marcolina's THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF DORIS PAYNE, the story of an 81-year-old jewel thief's unrepentant account of her life of crime; Victor Buhler's A WHOLE LOTT MORE, a touching look at an auto industry facility on the brink of crisis and its 1200-plus employees, all with developmental disabilities; Laura Checkoway's LUCKY, an intimate portrait of a homeless woman masking her pain behind a tattoo-covered face; Nebojsa Slijepcevic's GANGSTER OF LOVE, a comic look at the pitfalls of modern love in a traditional society; and Rena Mundo Croshere and Nadine Mundo's AMERICAN COMMUNE, the story of a legendary hippie commune in Tennessee.

The Made In Poland program includes: Bartosz M. Kowalski's A DREAM IN THE MAKING, a story of friendship and determination to escape the confines of an impoverished and violent Warsaw neighbourhood; Lidia Duda's ENTANGLED, a tragic portrait of a victim and his aggressor who cannot entirely escape each other; and Wiktoria Szymanska's THE MAN WHO MADE ANGELS FLY, about an extraordinary artist revisiting his past by bringing his famous puppets out of storage one last time.

The Next program includes: Sini Anderson's THE PUNK SINGER, the ultimate biography of punk singer and feminist icon Kathleen Hanna; Katherine Knight and Marcia Connolly's SPRING AND ARNAUD, the breathtakingly tender portrait of two artists, their work and their love; Mika Mattila's CHIMERAS, about the founding father of Chinese contemporary art Wang Guangyi; and James Leong and Lynn Lee's THE GREAT NORTH KOREAN PICTURE SHOW, a glimpse into North Korea's only film school.

The Nightvision program includes: Morgan Matthews' SHOOTING BIGFOOT, the story of fanatic bigfoot hunters; Amy Finkel's FUREVER, about owners memorializing their pets; Jeanie Finlay's THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX, a portrait of rapping best friends Silibil n' Brains; and Michal Marzak's FUCK FOR FOREST, the story of a group of idealists with a naked approach to helping the environment.

The Rule Breakers and Innovators program includes: Ben Nabors' WILLIAM AND THE WINDMILL, the story of a teenage Malawian boy who builds a windmill and saves his family; Alex Winter's DOWNLOADED, a look at the creation of online peer-to-peer file sharing; Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith's TINY: A STORY ABOUT LIVING SMALL, about the new movement of building tiny houses but ultimately living large; and Simon Klose's TPB AFK: THE PIRATE BAY AWAY FROM KEYBOARD, the story of the co-founders of the world's largest file-sharing site squaring off against Hollywood.

The REDUX program includes: Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines' SEVENTEEN, which follows a group of teenagers dealing with the emotions of their final year of high school; Bill Ross' RIVER, the story of friends and brothers setting sail on a hilarious adventure; James Marsh's THE BURGER AND THE KING, a portrait of Elvis through the food he ate and those that fed him; and Ruth Leitman and Carol Weaks Cassidy's WILDWOOD, NJ, a candid glimpse at Jersey girls on beaches and boardwalks.

Additionally, Hot Docs is pleased to present two retrospective programs: Focus On Peter Mettler, a mid-career retrospective of the filmmaker's work; and the Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective, honouring the influential work of masterful filmmaker Les Blank.

Also a premier documentary conference and market, Hot Docs will be welcoming over 2000 industry delegates who will partake in a wide array of industry events and services, including conferences sessions, receptions and parties, Hot Docs Deal Maker, The Doc Shop and the Hot Docs Forum, May 1 and 2.


 Jason Gorber contributed to this story.

Around the Internet:
  • mightyjoeyoung

    "The opening night film The Manor chronicles the strange family of documentary filmmaker (and strip club owner) Shawney Cohen."

    Sounds interesting.....might be just as gripping as The Queen of Versailles (2012).

    "Inigo Westmeier's DRAGON GIRLS, follows three young female students living far away from their homes and families."

    Could be entertaining....and who knows...might be made into biopic/sportdrama.

    "Poland's FUCK FOR FOREST (well covered on Twitch) wants you to get horny, get naked and save the world by selling self-produced erotica online to benefit the environment."

    This group has been featured in Swedish tabloids, cable tv etc......one of the girls is from Sweden I think.

    "Penny Lane's OUR NIXON, offers a revealing look at one of the most controversial presidencies in US history by way of a boatload of footage, consisting of over 500 reels, confiscated by the FBI as part of the investigation, which inexplicably sat forgotten for decades in a government office until now. Mixed with interviews and audio recordings from the original Watergate tapes, this personal and intimate film record is a fascinating and unique look at the Nixon era."
    I´m hopinh this will be good and not just a "greatest hits" by Nixon doc.
    Thanks Mr Gorber & Halfyard.

  • Kurt

    If you want to see for yourself, the DRAGON GIRLS trailer is here, and it looks very good: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • mightyjoeyoung

    Thanks Mr Halfyard.

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