Lana Slezic’s “Bee Nation” to open Hot Docs ’17

Canadian filmmaker Lana Šlezić‘s Bee Nation will open the 24th edition of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. The Toronto-set fest unveiled its complete film line-up at a press conference held ...
March 21, 2017

Canadian filmmaker Lana Šlezić‘s Bee Nation will open the 24th edition of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

The Toronto-set fest unveiled its complete film line-up at a press conference held this morning (March 21) at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The 2017 program will see 230 titles from 58 countries screening across 13 programs, with work by female filmmakers representing close to 48% of the slate, according to organizers.

“The Hot Docs programming team has scoured the globe to bring the finest documentaries to Toronto audiences from a festival high of 58 countries,” said Hot Docs director of programming Shane Smith in a statement. “As our world shifts in startling new ways, Hot Docs is committed to showcasing those films that tackle topics of global importance: from environmental issues and human rights, to international conflict.

“We also seek out masterful documentary storytelling in all its forms, from unheralded stories of unique individuals to quirky subjects that really are stranger than fiction,” he added. “We’re very excited to share this year’s outstanding program with Toronto audiences.”

Šlezić’s Bee Nation (pictured), about Saskatchewan-based students competing in the first province-wide First Nations Spelling Bee, will open the festival on April 27. The film, a recipient of a 2016 Rogers Documentary Fund grant, is produced through Idle Hunch. Canadian pubcaster CBC is attached to the doc as broadcaster.

Hot Docs earlier this month announced its slate of 16 documentary features to screen as part of its Special Presentations program, in addition to the 10 films announced in February.

The festival’s World Showcase program, meanwhile, will feature such films as Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest’s For Ahkeem, documenting the unexpected pregnancy of a black St. Louis teen amid tragedy in Ferguson; Vanessa Stockley’s The Genius and the Opera Singer, examining the relationship between a mother and daughter who’ve shared a claustrophobic New York apartment for more than 50 years; Adam Darke and Jon Carey’s Forbidden Games, chronicling England’s first openly gay football player; Darren Mann’s This Cold Life, exploring the threats of impending economic collapse and climate change on one of the world’s northernmost towns; Dylan Howitt’s Out of Thin Air, exploring a 40-year-old Icelandic murder-mystery; and Yang Wang‘s Weaving, revealing the dysfunctional dynamics between the adult children of two Chinese couples forced to relocate.

Meanwhile, Hot Docs’ Canadian Spectrum program will screen notable films that include the likes of Attiya Khan and Lawrence Jackman’s A Better Man, about a woman working through her past as a victim of domestic violence with her abuser; Ali Weinstein’s Mermaids, tracing the origins of mermaid subcultures; Ann Shin’s My Enemy, My Brother, detailing the story of two former Iran-Iraq War enemies who meet in Vancouver 25 years later; and Marie Clements’ The Road Forward, a musical documentary that gives voice to Canada’s top Indigenous artists.

The International Spectrum will showcase Bojana Burn’s My Life Without Air, chronicling a Croatian world-champion free-diver; Chris Kelly’s A Cambodian Spring, a portrait of corruption and its insidious effects regarding modern-day Cambodian land-rights activists; and Egil Håskjold Larsen’s 69 Minutes Of 86 Days, following a three-year-old Syrian refugee’s journey through Europe with her family.

Among the projects in the fest’s Made in Japan program are Takashi Nishihara’s About My Liberty, on millennials staging protests against their president’s efforts to erase 70 years of pacifism; Atsushi Funahashi’s Raise Your Arms and Twist, Documentary of NMB48, a portrait of Osaka’s supergroup NMB48; and Koki Shigeno’s Ramen Heads, profiling Japan’s reigning king of ramen.

Elsewhere, the Artscapes program includes Hope Litoff’s 32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide, a director’s search for answers to her sister’s tragedy amongst her belongings; Jody Hassett Sanchez‘s More Art Upstairs, on the world’s richest art competition in Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Jonny Robson and Gates Bradley’s White Walls Say Nothing, on Buenos Aires muralists turning blank walls into symbols of political resistance.

The Hot Docs Forum will  welcome more than 2,500 industry delegates for a number of industry events, including conferences sessions, Hot Docs Deal Maker and the Doc Shop. The Forum runs from May 2 to 3.

The Scotiabank Big Ideas series – now in its sixth year – spotlights six documentaries, each followed by discussions with notable subjects and experts on the issues featured in the films.

This year’s lineup will highlight Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, with director Brian Knappenberger and Gizmodo Media Group’s John Cook in attendance; Bill Nye: Science Guy, featuring Bill Nye and directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg; Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower, with the film’s subject and student activist Joshua Wong and director Joe Piscatella.

Also featured in the series is City of Ghosts, with director Matthew Heineman, and a special guest, in attendance; Chasing Coral, with director Jeff Orlowski and Richard Vevers, a founding partner of The Ocean Agency; and The Last Animals, featuring director Kate Brooks, Dr. Sam Wasser, director of the Centre for Conservation Biology, and Executive Director of the Satao Project Gretchen Peters.

The interdisciplinary DocX program, celebrating documentary work that lives outside of the traditional format, will feature one-night-only live performances and events, including Cyrus Sundar Singh’s Africville in Black and White; Maple Razsa and Milton Guillén’s The Maribor Uprisings: A Live Participatory Film; and multimedia stage show CANADALAND Guide to Canada.

Additionally, 10 virtual reality projects will be available for free for audiences to experience during the festival, including Jessica Edwards‘ world premiering The Fastest Ride, following cyclist Denise Mueller’s attempt to break the bicycle land speed record across the Bonneville Salt Flats; and Sam Dunn‘s Welcome to Wacken, an interactive VR music doc from Secret Location and Banger Films.

The 24th annual festival, which serves as North America’s largest documentary film festival, runs April 27 to May 7 in Toronto, Canada. The full list of programs and documentaries screening at this year’s Hot Docs festival can be found here.

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