Hot Docs celebrates kick-off

The Hot Docs festival launched in Toronto last night with its gala opening film and party. But largely missing from the post-film bash were Canadian broadcast execs.
April 29, 2011

Hot Docs got off to a strong start Thursday night with a gala screening of Morgan Spurlock’s Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold at the Winter Garden Theater, ahead of a North American theatrical release.

But largely missing from the Design Exchange after-party were Canadian broadcast execs, whose absence was felt acutely by anxious producers and backers of auteur, point-of-view documentaries.

“I don’t see why it’s so hard to see so many one-off docs on TV in Canada,” Hot Docs executive director Chris McDonald said while surveying the enthusiastic crush of opening night revelers.

As Canadian broadcasters increasingly forgo one-off documentaries for cheaper reality and lifestyle TV fare, filmmakers are increasingly dependent on festivals like Hot Docs for launch platforms ahead of possible theatrical runs like Spurlock’s latest picture (the director, for the record, did attend the party, resplendent in a suit emblazoned with brand logos).

And that’s translated into a big jump in the number of documentary screenings at sold-out venues, including Bell Lightbox, for Hot Docs’ 18th edition.

In all, 200 films from 43 countries (including the just-announced charity screening of Restrepo to honor the late Tim Hetherington) will unspool at North America’s largest documentary festival over the next ten days, representing a 30% jump from 2010′s festival.

So, amid the palpable excitement among local cinema audiences for social and political-themed documentaries over the next 10 days in Toronto, the mystery of their rare appearance on Canadian TV schedules persisted Thursday night.

“I’m struck by the audiences, the growth, the excitement about documentaries, and it’s not reflected by the broadcasters,” National Film Board head Tom Perlmutter told realscreen‘s sister publication Playback Daily.

Hot Docs’ focus on local filmmakers will center in part on the Canadian Spectrum competition, where 26 films, including the latest docs from Rohan Fernando, Trish Dolman and Matt Gallagher, will contend for the attention of judges and distributors.

And on the film financing front, the festival will unwrap 27 projects at the Hot Docs Forum, formerly known as the Toronto Documentary Forum, on May 4 and 5 in front of possible film financiers, distributors and broadcast executives.

(From Playback Daily)

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