At Tuesday’s Hot Docs press conference, director of programming Sean Farnel announced this year would not only be the best year in the festival’s history, but that it will deliver the best slate of documentaries screening at any doc event this year. Sounds like a pretty grand statement, but after listening to the lineup for this year’s fest, one might just believe it.
In addition to the promise of the best slate ever, Farnel said the festival also received a record number of submissions this year; 1948, to be precise. However, the programmers managed to whittle that number down to 171 titles which will be screening in Toronto between April 30 and May 10, 2009.
The fest received a record number of great submissions during a failing economy, and indeed a fair amount of the films focus on the economy, or money, to some degree. Thus, this year’s themed program is called Let’s Make Money. This program includes 11 titles that focus on cash, big business and the spectrum of effects money can have on people. Included in that program are Jackpot, the story of a group of regulars at a Bingo hall, and Necrobusiness, an Austrian doc looking at the collusion of paramedics and undertakers in Poland to steal government subsidies meant for the families of the recently deceased.
The country in focus this year is South Korea, and the Made in South Korea program includes Farmer’s Song, which captures the guerrilla tactics of one farmer’s association as it fights against Korean-US trade negotiations, and Action Boys, which looks at a school for action heroes and stunt performers. Japan, Mexico and Brazil have been the focus of prior ‘Made In’ programs at the fest.
As previously announced, filmmakers Alanis Obomsawin and Ron Mann are receiving retrospectives this year; Obomsawin as part of her receipt of the Outstanding Achievement Award and Mann as the subject of this year’s Focus On…. During the press conference Obomsawin was visibly moved as she thanked the festival and the subjects of her docs for the honor. In a touching speech Obomsawin had this to say to the First Nations people of Canada: ‘Life is getting better and in this country we have many people who are our friends and love us.’
The festival will also feature a focus on the NFB for its 70th anniversary, the Toronto Documentary Forum, and a slate of international award-winning docs such as Afghan Star, Burma VJ, Rough Aunties and We Live in Public.
For the rest of the Hot Docs lineup visit hotdocs.ca.