The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival fills the theatres of Toronto with documentaries from home and abroad every year in the last weeks of April, and 2014 is no different. Celebrating its 21st year, Hot Docs is the premier North American festival for documentary films and one of our favourites in the city of Toronto. Along with our televised preview of must watch films at this years fest, we’ve compiled a list of some of our most anticipated features.
Khosrow Vaziri, better known in North America as The Iron Sheik, rose to fame in the 80’s as the World Wrestling Federation’s world champion he defeated six-year champ Bob Backlund for the title only to lose it to Hulk Hogan and the rise of Hulkamania. Now, decades later we get a chance to connect with the man behind the moustache as he embarks on an altogether different fight.
Why its on our Watchlist: The Iron Sheik himself will be attending the festival so we’re looking forward to meet a past idol, plus, @BrigitteTruong is a fight fanatic.
There is something utterly fascinating about mugshots. As an art form, a scientific method of identification and as part of crime culture. Director Dennis Mohr approaches this general fascination by taking a look back to the invention of the daguerreotype, which made mugshots possible, in the 19th century and works his way to present day by exploring the practical and artistic applications of the images.
Why its on our Watchlist: The chance to see real life mugshots – and not just those we see online of celebs after tabloid fodder arrests- has us interested. The Isabel Bader Theatre, in partnership with the Stephen Bulger Galllery, will offer an on-site exhibit of vintage mugshots before and after the film’s screenings on April 28th and 29th.
DRESS REHEARSAL FOR AN EXECUTION
After almost 3 decades of remaining anonymous, in 2006 photographer Jahangir Razmi finally revealed his identity as the picture taker behind the 1979 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph. The image is that of prisoners being executed by firing squad in post-revolution Iran. In honour of Ramzi’s reveal Montreal based filmmaker Bahman Tavoosi attempts to re-stage the the iconic photo – and makes a documentary along the way.
Why its on our Watchlist: Tavoosi meticulously searched for an appropriate location and cast to recreate the image with. He worked with revolutionaries and those affected by rebellions around the globe for his re-staging.
THE SECRET TRIAL OF 5
Another political documentary on our radar, The Secret Trial of 5 comes from Canadian filmmaker Amar Wala. The Canadian Government’s security certificates were created in 1978 as a safety net to easily remove non-citizens who posed a threat to national security. Still in use today, and hidden from public awareness, the film follows 5 men who have been indefinitely jailed without a charge or evidence under this device.
Why its on our Watchlist: The film was partly funded by the Hot Docs’ Doc Ignite crowd funding platform and we’re interested in seeing it come full circle with a Hot Docs premier.
The documentary tells the story of three teen boys living in the rural town of Rich Hill, Montana. Essentially, a true life coming of age story, caught on film by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo who trace their own roots to the same small town.
Why its on our Watchlist: Touted as an achingly beautiful film by Hot Docs programmer Charlotte Cook, the doc made waves at the Sundance Film festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize for U.S Documentary.
RETURN TO HOMS
From 2011 – 2013 documentary filmmaker Talal Derki followed two Syrian revolutionists, and best friends, Basset and Ossama. Basset is footballer for the Syrian national team and uses his platform to launch his songs of protest against repressive regime Bashar al-Assad. While Ossama, a media activist, uses non-violent methods to protest the oppression that surrounds them. As the regime cracks down on their protests the pair take up arms and join the rebels intent on bringing freedom to Syria.
Why its on our Watchlist: Much like Rich Hill, Return to Homs makes our list because of the reception it received at Sundance where it had its international premier. The film won the Grand Jury Prize for World Documentary at the indie fest.
Screening as part of the Scotiabank Big Ideas series, the documentary follows oceanographer, marine biologists and botanist Dr. Sylvia Earle, who has spent her life fighting for ocean conservation. Directed by another life long conservationist, Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens (The Cave), this doc not only gives us a look at Earle’s life and career but also follows her as she spreads awareness of Mission Blue across the world.
Why its on our Watchlist: Sylvia Earle is incredible and her passion for changing the world and preserving its ecosystems is infectious. Following the April 25th screening of Mission Blue she will participate in a a discussion about the cause she fights so hard for.
EVERYTHING WILL BE
Celebrated Canadian filmmaker Julia Kwan is at this year’s festival with a portrait of Vancouver’s ever changing Chinatown. Kwan explores the changes in the community as the ethnic landscape of the area changes, and as non-Chinese business move into the area.
Why its on our Watchlist: We’d be excited to see anything from the Claude Jutra Award winning director of Eve & the Fire Horse. She’s got a knack for telling tragic stories beautifully as seen in her award-winning short film, Three Sisters on Moon Lake.
TO BE TAKEI
A portrait of George Takei, the original Lieutenant Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek, follows Takei, and his manager-husband Brad as they prepare to make Takei’s dream project: a musical based on his childhood growing up in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. The film delves into the personal and professional life of the actor, who is known not only for his acting chops, but also as an advocate for civil rights & marriage equality, and for his witty social media presence.
Why its on our Watchlist: Presented as part of the Scotiabank Big Ideas series, Takei will be in attendance at this year’s festival and who doesn’t want to meet The George Takei.
I AM BIG BIRD: THE CARROLL SPINNEY STORY
The story of the man behind the puppet, Caroll Spinney inspired generations for more than 40 years as both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street.
Why its on our Watchlist: It’s pretty simple, we learned all about letters, numbers and friendship on Sesame Street and like most kids that did, love Big Bird (and Oscar too). Plus, the film was co-directed by a former Hot Docs volunteer so it’s a neat kind of homecoming for the film.
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