Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival revealed its full 2020 lineup on Tuesday (April 14) following its postponement as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The festival’s organizers are “continuing to investigate” ways to bring the official selection to Toronto audiences.
Hot Docs, originally scheduled to run April 30 to May 10, is partnering with CBC to create a “festival at home” experience that will see first-run feature documentaries airing on the Canadian pubcaster, CBC Gem and Documentary Channel starting Thursday (April 16).
This year’s lineup was chosen from 3,068 film submissions, and features 226 films and 12 interdisciplinary projects from 63 countries in 18 programs, with 51% of the directors being women.
“Documentaries are vitally important to helping us understand the world we live in, particularly at this challenging moment in time,” said Shane Smith, director of programming for Hot Docs, in a statement. “This year’s Hot Docs program features the best of global documentary storytelling from 63 countries, all of which will connect us to each other in ways that inspire, inform and illuminate.”
Highlights of the Special Presentations program include the world premiere of Hong Kong Moments, which capture pro-democracy activists and armed police “battling” in the city’s streets; the international premiere of The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show, about a moment in television history when the Jamaican pop star took over for Johnny Carson, inviting a host of Black artists to perform on network TV for the first time; and the world premiere of Meat the Future (pictured), which takes audiences inside the Berkeley start-up Memphis Meats as it prepares its lab-grown “cultured meat” products, made without killing animals.
The Special Presentations program also includes the international premieres of Larry Flynt for President, a look at the Flynt’s polarizing 1990s presidential run; A Thousand Cuts, about internationally acclaimed press-freedom fighter Maria Ressa who chronicles Philippine President Duterte’s extrajudicial war on drugs; and the world premiere of Power Trip, which follows Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott across America as he advocates for renewable solar energy solutions and “exposes the politics protecting fossil fuels.”
In the competitive Canadian Spectrum program, notable films include the world premieres of There’s No Place Like This Place, Anyplace, a look at Toronto’s gentrification told through immigrant stories affected by the closure of discount store Honest Ed’s; The Walrus and the Whistleblower, which tells the tale of a MarineLand animal trainer turned whistleblower; Under the Same Sun, an exploration of humanity and hatred in the South Caucasus; and The Dawnsayer, a story about an “eccentric old man” whose plans to save humanity from nuclear disaster rest in a bunker of buried school buses.
Films in the competitive International Spectrum Program include the world premieres of Women of the Sun: A Chronology of Seeing, a moving profile of six housewives in an Iranian desert who film their fight for gender equality; Fadma: Even Ants Have Wings, about a woman who instigates a village-wide cooking strike in a small Berber community in Morocco’s mountains; and The Wall of Shadows, the story of a Nepalese Sherpa family that breaks a taboo to earn money for their son’s education.
International premieres in the program include I Want You If You Dare, a look at a young woman with cerebral palsy who longs for independence and her first sexual experience; A Colombian Family, which follows an estranged mother and daughter seeking reconciliation against the backdrop of the country’s fraught peace treaty; and All That I Am, an examination of sexual abuse’s aftermath as told through one survivor’s story.
In the World Showcase program, films include the world premieres of Mein Vietnam, about a family whose virtual connection to their old lives in Vietnam has prevented them from assimilating into the German community where they’ve lived for 30 years; and A Loss of Something Ever Felt, which follows a woman seeking for her drug-addicted brother in the streets of Bogotá, Colombia.
International premieres in the program include Eyes and Arms, about an Iranian couple with disabilities who “complete each other”; Landfall, an analysis of “disaster capitalism” that looks at the reinvention of Puerto Rico after economic and natural disasters; Father Soldier Son, which tells the story of a single father, wounded in Afghanistan, who struggles to raise his sons in rural America; and Two Gods, about a Muslim casket maker who mentors two boys facing turbulent times at home and on the streets.
The Made In Northern Ireland program includes the world premieres of Lost Boys: Belfast’s Missing Children, about a criminologist who reopens a 50 year-old case about the disappearance of two boys in Belfast; Our Lyra, a portrait of the life and work of reporter Lyra McKee, who was murdered during the April 2019 riots in Derry; and Reframing Andrew Sadek, about a death in a North Dakota town that unravels a secret plot by law enforcement to wage a war on drugs.
Rounding out the program is the North American premiere of Lost Lives, which enlists Irish actors to narrate passages from the famed book Lost Lives.
Elsewhere, the To Conserve and Protect program showcases stories of “people fighting for, or collaborating with, the planet.”
It includes the world premieres of First We Eat, a film about a mother who challenges her family to eat only locally sourced food at their remote home 300 kilometers from the Arctic Circle; Cane Fire, which reveals how Hollywood’s cultural appropriation has negatively impacted Indigenous and working class Hawaiians; and Borealis, which takes a “holistic” look at Canada’s boreal forest and people’s various relationships with it.
International premieres in the program include Akicita: The Battle of Standing Rock, which tells the story of the standoff at the Dakota Access Pipeline from the perspective of Native youth; and My Octopus Teacher, a cinematic experience that captures a free diver’s relationship with an octopus off the tip of Africa.
The festival’s Focus On program, supported by K.M. Hunter Charitable Foundation, features the work of Canadian filmmaker Raymonde Provencher, and Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective honors the work of American documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson.
To see the complete selection of films, visit the Hot Docs website.