Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival announced its full lineup of films selected for the 2020 Festival. Originally scheduled to be revealed on March 24, the announcement was delayed when this year’s Festival, slated for April 30-May 10, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hot Docs’ decision to announce its official selections is mainly to honour and celebrate the hard work of the filmmakers and to support them as they seek opportunities in these difficult times.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Hot Docs Director of Programming, Shane Smith about continuing to investigate ways to bring the entire 2020 Festival lineup to Toronto audiences. Here I share our conversation and also list some films I’m definitely looking forward to seeing soon.
This year’s lineup features 226 films and 12 interdisciplinary projects from 63 countries in 18 programs, with 51 per cent of the directors in the Festival program being women. A testament to the calibre of films and filmmakers the Hot Docs programming team bring us every year. From this extensive list, I share with you a few I think you should keep on your list to view later.
When facial recognition software is used in clandestine surveillance, who does it protect and who is singled out? Scientists, scholars and activists all argue there is a clear racial bias buried in the algorithms, but will the US government take heed?
MEAT THE FUTURE**
Memphis Meats aims to go mainstream with its lab-grown “cultured meat” products, made without killing animals. But in a race to alter diets and save the planet, can this new approach to food win over omnivorous skeptics?
LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST*
The legacy, lore and lyricism of one of cinema’s greatest horror masterpieces is explored in candid detail as Academy Award–winning director William Friedkin sits down to unravel the complex genesis of The Exorcist.
Living in limbo for 30 years—physically in Germany but virtually in Vietnam via constant Skyping and karaoke chatrooms—a couple is torn on where to call home when a storm destroys their house in Vietnam that held the promise of their eventual return.
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE THIS PLACE, ANYPLACE
Honest Ed’s, Toronto’s iconic bargain-hunter’s paradise for over 60 years, is now a razed city block in the midst of development. Displaced community members are left to reconcile their future amidst a growing housing crisis.
THE REASON I JUMP*
Naoki Higashida’s bestselling book The Reason I Jump offered a rare first-person account of life as a non-speaking autistic child. Through inventive interviews and dramatizations, Higashida and fellow nonverbal people with autism now offer a cinematic glimpse beyond the neurotypical experience of the world.
THE MOLE AGENT*
Octogenarian Sergio goes undercover at a Chilean retirement home to investigate allegations of abuse and theft. With zero experience as a spy or even operating a cell phone, he instead uses charm to crack the case—and expose another crime entirely.
FIRST WE EAT
Putting food security to the test in Yukon, the filmmaker bans all store-bought groceries from her house in a year-long adventure in farming, fishing and foraging complicated by three skeptical teenagers, no caffeine and -40° temperatures.
RES CREATA – HUMANS AND OTHER ANIMALS
Less than 80,000 years ago, humans were not superior, just one of many animals simply coexisting. Stunning compositions and insights resurrect the rituals and places where natural and human commonality still exists in this award-winning look at biocentrism.
THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER**
An animal trainer becomes an unlikely whistleblower and is sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal a walrus, falling down the rabbit hole of a personal quest while a larger movement grows to end marine mammal captivity.
*These films screened at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, which is where I first became excited about them.
Inventively peppered with elements of animation, this film profiles the educators and advocates of the Symphony for a Broken Orchestra—a project that mobilized a community to repair hundreds of instruments for students, in response to funding cuts for music education programs in Philadelphia.
ÊMÎCÊTÔCÊT: MANY BLOODLINES
A Cree filmmaker and her white partner document their pregnancy and journey to parenthood. From the search for an Indigenous donor and midwife to their concerns about raising a child as an interracial queer couple, the joy of having a child together gives them the courage to overcome any obstacle.
DÍA DE LA MADRE
As night becomes day, a feisty group of youths make a decidedly unconventional ruckus that is sure to go down in the history books for the tired and shocked people at the receiving end of their exuberance.
Steeped in the atmospherics of a taut spy thriller, this film portrays retired blacksmiths John and Nancy Little as national heroes. The couple are employed by local police to engage in the mass destruction of firearms, in a noble effort to protect the lives of all Canadians.
Daniela and Andrés, a Venezuelan couple with physical disabilities, engage an artist to assist them in taking their sexual relationship beyond the boundaries of their wheelchairs.
**These films will screen later this month as part of the Hot Docs At Home on CBC program.
For a full list of Hot Docs 2020 films, please visit hotdocs.ca.