RealScreen Article


Hot Docs reveals full lineup for 30th anniversary festival

By Andrew Jeffrey
March 28, 2023

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival unveiled full details of the program for its 30th-anniversary edition, which will take place in Toronto from April 27 to May 7.

The 2023 festival will present 214 films from 72 countries (including 70 world premieres and 33 international premieres) selected from 2,848 submissions. Of the official selections, 53% of the titles are directed by women.

The festival will open with Twice Colonized(pictured) from Danish filmmaker Lin Alluna, which travels to Toronto after making its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and opening CPH:DOX earlier this month. The documentary profiles Aaju Peter, a Greenlandic Inuit lawyer and activist fighting for the rights of Indigenous people in the Arctic and working to bring colonizers in Canada and Denmark to justice.

Hot Docs already unveiled the documentaries that will be included in the festival’s Special Presentation screenings this year, which features high-profile docs and documentary subjects, and films that are already garnering acclaim on this year’s festival circuit. The 2023 lineup includes world premieres of Michelle Shephard’s stranger-than-fiction tale The Man Who Stole Einstein’s Brain; BenoîtBringer’s The

Rise of Wagner, on the Wagner Group mercenaries fighting Russia’s proxy wars; We Are Guardians, about Indigenous activists protecting the Amazon rainforest; Who’s

Afraid of Nathan Law?, director Joe Piscatella’s profile of the Hong Kong politician and dissident;and BarrryAvrich’s Without Precedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella, a portrait of Canada’s first female Jewish Supreme Court judge.

Several other world premieres will screen in Hot Docs’ Canadian Spectrum section, which showcases new works from Canadian filmmakers. The 2023 lineup includes Cynara, a story of Canada’s justice system ontrial; I’m Just Here for the Riot, about the 2011 riot in Vancouver after the city’s NHL team lost in the Stanley Cup final; and July Talk: Love Lives Here, about the hard-touring Canadian rock band booking a drive-in theater in hopes of bouncing back from the COVID-19 shutdown of live music venues.

Also screening in the Canadian Spectrum are Silvicola, which explores the human impact on forests inCanada’s Pacific Northwest; Someone Lives Here, about a Toronto carpenter building life-saving shelters for unhoused people while facing opposition from local government; Subterranean, about hobbyist cavers discovering the longest and deepest caves in Canada; and Upstream, which sees a filmmaker revisit childhood friends in Northern China’s rustbelt.

Hot Docs’ International Spectrum includes world premiers of The Last Relic, a portrait of Putin’s Russia shot over four years, and Everardo González’s A Wolfpack Called

Ernesto, which covers the world of teenage boys who have chosen a life of organized crime. The sectionalso includes international premieres of Angel Applicant, a portrait of Swiss-German artist Paul Klee; Hong Kong Mixtape, which sees a filmmaker joining a movement of underground artists; and The Mountains, which uses 30 years of home video tell a tragic story about men in a Scandinavian family.

Other international premieres in the International Spectrum are Name Me Lawand, about a deaf Kurdish boy honing his communication skills at a UK school while facing the threat ofdeportation; Pure Unknown, about a doctor working to identify and reunite dead refugees with their families;Revir – Everything You Hold Dear, a portrait of a pair of taxidermist siblings; and You Were My First Boyfriend, a hybrid doc in which filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo restages her most traumatic high school memories.

Hot Docs’ World Showcase boasts even more world premieres, including After the Bridge, a portrait of a mother finding peace with her son, a jihadist killed in the 2017 London Bridge attack; Allihopa: The DalkurdStory, about Kurdish refugees forming a

pro soccer team in Sweden; Jackie the Wolf, featuring a conversation with a filmmaker and his mother who’sannounced her death date; The Lebanese Burger Mafia, about an heir to a Burger Baron franchise chasing clues through rural Alberta; Razing Liberty Square, about the oldest segregated public housing project in the southern U.S.; Rowdy Girl, which features a former Texas cattle rancher turned animal sanctuary operator encouraging a move to plant-based food production; and Sleepless Birds, about the rise of industrial greenhouses in the French region of Bretagne.

This year’s Made In program showcases recent documentary works from Ukraine, including notable filmsthat have already premiered on the festival circuit such as We Will Not Fade Away, 20 Days in Mariupol, Eurodonbas, Iron Butterflies and When

Spring Came to Bucha. Hot Docs will also host the world premiere of four short films that were selected aswinners in the Civil Pitch competition at Docudays UA, Ukraine’s most venerable documentary film festival.

The Deep Dive program of long-form episodic series features the world premieres of The AmericanGladiators Documentary, a two-part ESPN behind-the-scenes look at the 1990s TV competition, and Poison(s), an investigative series on Vladimir Putin. The program also includes the North American premiere of a four-part series from Oscar-nominated filmmaker Philippe Falardeau, Lac-Mégantic, on the 2013 Quebec rail disaster.

The Artscapes program, showcasing films on art and artists, includes the world premieres of Echo ofEverything, about music’s power to elicit ecstasy; Nathan-ism, about a young Jewish recruit guarding top Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg Trials; and Soviet Barbara,the Story of Ragnar Kjartansson in Moscow, about an Icelandic art star opening a Russian oligarch’s museum by restaging the U.S. soap Santa Barbara as a live performance.

Markers, Hot Docs’ section for films that push the boundaries of the documentary form, includes the world premiere of We No Longer Prefer Mountains, which examines the Druze religious minority in Palestine. Thesection also contains the Canadian premieres of Being in a Place – A Portrait of Margaret Tait; Calls from Moscow; A Common Sequence; Feet in Water, Head on Fire; and Forms of Forgetting.

Hot Docs’ Nightvision program of “future cult classics” includes the world premiere of It’s Coming, a foundfootage horror film on a mother returning to her family’s ancestral apartment, and the international premieres of Another Body, Satan Wants You and Anhell69.

The Persister program, featuring films spotlighting the voices of strong, inspirational women, includes theworld premieres of Coven, a Canadian doc about three millennial women exploring their identities as witches; and We, the Women, about three generations of women reflecting on female bonds and resilience, and the impact of traditional gender roles and gender-based violence. The program also features the international premiere of My Place Ozerna.

European Film Promotion will partner with Hot Docs for the sixth edition of the pan-Europeanshowcase The Changing Face of Europe. World premieres in this year’s program include A Happy Man, about a member of a family moving from the Czech Republic toSweden who is beginning the process of transitioning; and Roberta, a portrait of a Lithuanian woman grappling with flux while searching for purpose.

Hot Docs is also adding a new theme program to its lineup this year in Human Kind, which highlights stories of kindness, connection and collaboration. It will feature the world premieres of The Only Doctor, about the sole GP in Georgia’s poorest county; unseen, a portrait of a blind, undocumented Mexican immigrant aspiring to become a social worker; and Unsyncable, which delves into the lives of a group of seniors whoare passionate about synchronized swimming.

Also in this year’s Hot Docs lineup is Roads to Regeneration, a curated collection of eight short docs executive produced by Hot Docs that showcase ideas from everyday people around making life moresustainable, equitable and hopeful. Hot Docs will also premiere seven original short documentaries commissioned for series two of Citizen Minutes, an initiative seeking to inspire viewers to become agents of change in their communities. Citizen Minutes will also feature an educational component promoting youth-led civic engagement, with community screenings for young adults and complementary resources to allow educators to use the films as teaching tools.

The festival’s Big Ideas Series, which brings documentary filmmakers and film subjects to the festival as guests for public conversations, will return for its 10th year. This year’s edition features U.S. chef and food writer Ruth Reichl with filmmaker Laura Gabbert (Food and Country); filmmaker and documentary subject Ella Glendining (Is There Anybody Out There?); Indigo Girls musician Emily Saliers and director Alexandria Bombach (It’s Only Life After All); former Supreme Court judge Rosalie Abella and director Barry Avrich (WithoutPrecedent: The Supreme Life of Rosalie Abella); and fashion model and activist Bethann Hardison with director Frédéric Tcheng (Invisible Beauty).

The 2023 Hot Docs festival will also honor Chinese-American filmmaker and artist Christine Choy (Chai Ming Huei) with its outstanding achievement award and a retrospective of her work, which includessuch notable titles as Who Killed Vincent Chin? and Homes Apart: Korea.

The festival will also honor Canadian film producer Elizabeth Klinck with its Focus On tribute, which celebrates the work of Canadian filmmakers and craftspeople.