Boasting over 226 films this year, HOT DOCS ’22 promises to be bigger and better than ever, and this year Festival-goers again will be able to enjoy the Festival in-person and also digitally! The Festival takes place between April 28 to May 8, 2022 with many amazing premieres including Jennifer Baichwal‘s INTO THE WEEDS (Opening Night Film) and gripping Prime Video Series THE UNSOLVED MURDER OF BEVERLY LYNN SMITH. And in addition to great Films and Series, are special live events like the Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management series which will bring The Kids in the Hall back in their much-touted comeback, plus also a special presentation of Sundance Award-winning Documentary NAVALNY. Abigail E. Disney, great-niece of Walt Disney will be here to present THE AMERICAN DREAM AND OTHER FAIRY TALES. If this weren’t exciting enough, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings star Simu Liu will do the Toronto leg of his WE WERE DREAMERS Book Tour with an In-Conversation at Hot Docs Friday, May 13, 2022 with some special guests! And also, Jay Baruchel will be at the Festival for WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE (EVEN JAY BARUCHEL), a new Series in which he explores the end of the world!
Our Team have had the pleasure of previewing some of the most-talked-about titles to premiere at HOT DOCS ’22. Let’s check-in on some of their recommendations!
Hot on the heels after winning two awards at the recent Sundance Film Festival, FRAMING AGNES initially positions itself as a Documentary about Agnes, a trans woman in the 1950s who lied to Harold Garfinkel (a UCLA gender health researcher), about being born intersex to qualify for gender-confirmation surgery. In 2017, she admitted she lied about her medical condition to have the surgery. Director Chase Joynt gained access to Garfinkel’s archives where he not only found Agnes’ transcripts but also transcripts of five other transgender interviewees and cleverly reimagines telling all their stories as a television talk show set half a century ago.
I originally resisted watching FRAMING AGNES as I personally am not a fan of documentaries heavily reliant on re-enactments of events, but as he did with “No Ordinary Man” the powerful Documentary on the life of musician Billy Tipton, Joynt vibrantly and with great finesse recreates and captures the essence of these six individuals. What makes this movie even more fascinating is hearing the Cast (which include Angelica Ross from “Pose”, Zackary Drucker from “Transparent”, Silas Howard who directed “A Kid Like Jake” and Jen Richards) talk about their own experiences as a trans person with some parallels to the lives of the subject matter they are portraying. With insight provided by Jules Gill-Peterson, an author and professor of transgender history at John Hopkins University, FRAMING AGNES is equally illuminating and thought provoking and highly recommended.
FRAMING AGNES screens at Hot Docs ’22 as follows: TIFF Bell Lightbox Theatre 1 – Sunday, May 1st @ 8:30pm Varsity Cinemas Theatre 8 – Thursday, May 5th @ 5:45pm
Online Screening Information: Online streaming is available for five days starting on MAY 2 at 9:00 AM.
SCRAP Feature Film Documentaries is a genre I gravitate towards as it offers insights to historical events or an individual that we only may have a limited knowledge of. It can illuminate, educate, and entertain all at once. What I learned watching Writer/Producer/Director Stacey Tenenbaum’s SCRAP is that I never thought I’d be completely enthralled with a movie about discarded scrap metal! Playing on the theme of what becomes of things when they die and making us re-examine our relationship with items we throw away as our lives are becoming more filled with disposal items, SCRAP takes us on a global journey where we see how “one man’s junk” is lovingly restored and reinvented.
From a family of seven adults and eight children in Thailand that live in the fuselage of a discarded airplane and charge admission to those wanting a unique Selfie experience to an architect in Spain dismantling a cargo ship to incorporate into the design of a modern church being built in Korea, this visually stunning movie is masterful in execution. This Hot Docs World Premiere keeps the audience entranced as they travel to India to see workers taking apart millions of cellphones, the UK where the old telephone booths are meticulously brought to back to life and South Dakota where a Sculptor works magic with farm machinery parts. The commentaries from Photojournalists, Artists, and Architects (just a few to mention) are insightful with borderline religious profundity.
SCRAP is a cinematic marvel and made me think twice about the repercussions of throwing away things I no longer want nor need.
SCRAP screens at HOT DOCS ’22 as follows: Sunday, May 1 – 2:00pm – Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto Wednesday, May 4 – 11:00am – Cineplex Varsity 8, Toronto Monday, May 2 – Saturday, May 7 – Canada-wide Online Streaming
SAM NOW It must be emotionally unfathomable for a young child to have a parent just disappear one day, which is what happened to Sam Harkness when he was 14-years-old. In SAM NOW,Sam’s older stepbrother by nine years, Director Reed Harkness uses a wealth of home movies and family interviews to navigate the many mysteries of his mother Jois’ disappearance. As the narrative unfolds, we witness Sam coming of age as he tries to break free from a singular traumatic event, one that has replicated itself in his family for generations. We see him take a 2,000-mile road trip in search of answers. We learn of his mother Jois’ complicated adoption history from Japan. And we experience the ripple effects on the Harkness family including Sam’s brother Jared, father Randy and grandma Doris.
Edited with precision, SAM NOW explores many emotional topics which include emotional child abuse and narcissism with finesse and even humour. It was fascinating to watch the Harkness throughout the 25-year span this movie covers. Scenes of discomfort marry beautifully with lighthearted ones. Ultimately, it is a story of forgiveness and acceptance, and I cannot wait to see what Director Reed Harkness will do next.
World Premiere Screenings at Hot Docs ’22: Sunday, May 1 at 5:45 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 Thursday, May 5 at 2:45 PM Varsity 8
Also streaming on Hot Docs at Home: Starting on Monday, May 2 at 9:00 AM
HOUSEWITZ A survivor of the Westerbork concentration camp, Lous suffers from agoraphobia and hasn’t left her home in decades. With her cat keeping her company, she revels in travel shows on TV and dancing to the music of Tiësto. She is also plagued with recurrent dreams where she is lost and cannot find her way back home. HOUSEWITZ, nominated for an IDFA Award for Best Dutch Film, Lous’ daughter, Filmmaker Oeke Hoogendijk documents her mother’s lift with stern precision.
Indeed, Lous is an interesting character. She is as articulate as she is demanding. Her home would make for a fascinating episode of “Hoarders” and her salty language could make a sailor on shore leave blush. However, it is visually pedantic and the movie offers no original insights into the Holocaust survivor Documentary genre.
HOUSEWITZ screens at HOT DOCS ’22 as follows: Sunday May 1st, 02:45 PM, Varsity 6 Thursday May 5th, 05:15 PM, Varsity 7
THE ART OF SILENCE Growing-up, Marcel Marceau was a steady fixture on late night talk shows and variety shows. Marceau’s brilliance in bringing to life his signature character Bip with only body movements and facial expressions were awe-inspiring. THE ART OF SILENCE is the first feature-length Documentary of this phenomenally-talented man, who turned mime into an art form.
While employing many conventions of a Documentary Biopic, which include interviews with Marceau’s widow and daughters and learning how he joined the French Resistance to smuggle Jewish children to Switzerland (which, in itself, is beautifully portrayed in Jesse Eisenberg’s “Resistance”), Director Maurizio Starkly Drux skillfully presents how Marceau influenced and enhanced the lives of many, including the director himself. Christoph Starkie, the Director’s deaf father, was so moved by Marceau that he became a mime himself. In THE ART OF SILENCE, we also meet Rob Mermin, a student at Marceau’s mime school, who battled Parkinson’s Disease with movement techniques he learned at the school and now teaches that technique to other Parkinson’s patients. We also meet Louis Chevalier. Marceau’s grandson, who incorporates his grandfather’s artistic influences with precise, Fosse-eques dance movements.
But the true star of THE ARTOF SILENCE is Marceau and the privilege of seeing many of his performances up close and uninterrupted is cinematic nirvana.
THE ART OF SILENCE screens at HOT DOCS ’22 as follows: Monday, May 2 – 2:45pm – Cineplex Varsity 8, Toronto Sunday, May 8 – 8:30pm – TIFF Bell Lightbox, Toronto For 5 days beginning Tuesday, May 3, 9AM – Canada-wide Online Streaming
STILL WORKING 9 TO 5 Not only was the 1980 megahit “9 to 5”, starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and (in her big-screen debut) Dolly Parton, the first female-led Motion Picture to gross over $100 million, it was the fuel to reignite the embers of the women’s movement in the United States. STILL WORKING 9 TO 5 an entertaining Documentary that reunites the stars of the Comedy with exclusive interviews about the making of the Film. It is also a scathing indictment of the mistreatment of women in the workplace that, sadly, has not progressed as much as it should.
There is a treasure trove of goodies and trivia to discover about the making of the, now, classic Movie. It was interesting to note that the original screenplay was a much darker comedic piece (after Fonda decided against going the dramatic route) and that Lily Tomlin was not impressed with much of the comic dialogue and threatened to leave the project twice, until she learned that the Producers were thinking of replacing her with the late, great Gilda Radner. The many other fascinating tidbits I will leave for you to discover…and discover you should!
Equally as fascinating, albeit incredibly frustrating, are the travesties women experienced at their jobs and STILL WORKING 9 TO 5 succinctly and successfully touches on subjects as varied as pay inequities, sexual harassment, the almost 40-year journey in the United States to ratify the Equal Rights Amendments, the #MeToo movement and other topics. Whereas any of the aforementioned topics would make for fascinating Documentaries, we are provided with enough backstories and ammunition to go on a Google search trip.
STILL WORKING 9 TO 5 is not only engaging, but also educational as well. It’s must-see. It screens at Hot Docs ’22 as follows: Fri, Apr 29 | 8:30 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 Mon, May 2 | 10:00 AM Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Sat, May 7 | 8:30 PM | Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
HUNTING IN PACKS Truth be told, I resisted watching HUNTING IN PACKS, Writer/Director Chloe Sosa-Sims’ documentary that follows politicians Michelle Rempel Garner (Conservative, Canada), Jess Philips (Labour, UK) and Pramila Jayapal (Democrat, USA) through elections, leadership campaigns and their efforts to enact bold new policies. My erroneous assumption that I would be bombarded with political rhetoric and gender inequalities was immediately dispelled when we are first introduced to these women in power. Whereas they all have different, passionate agendas (Rempel: the Alberta pipeline, Philips: domestic violence, Jayapal: healthcare), they tell us what propelled them to enter the political arena and why they continue to assert their individual platforms despite the constant death threats or vitriolic statements they receive on their social media platforms. We watch, with rapt attention and tempered admiration, as they tirelessly work to accomplish their goals.
Sosa-Sims must be commended for successfully achieving a sense of balance without passing judgement on any government ideologies. HUNTING IN PACKS eschews the trend of many recent politically themed documentaries that want to anger the audience. She presents these three politicians with honesty, clarity, and respect. I was happy to see all three advance in their political careers but was not surprised that only two of them continue to work to achieve their original mandates.
HUNTING IN PACKS will appeal to the political junkies and illuminate those who are looking for a unique perspective. It screens at HOT DOCS ’22 as follows:
Hot Docs Public In-Person Screenings: Monday May 2, 9pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 Thursday May 5, 12:30pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA After finding a treasure trove of paintings from an unknown artist stored in a barn for decades, IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA tell the story of how art collector Haakon Mehren endeavoured to have this work displayed at the National Museum in Norway. The artist, Aksel Waldemar Johannessen, died an alcoholic at 42 years old without ever having his work exhibited while alive and his paintings were vivid oil depictions of prostitutes and drunks living in poverty and squalor. The authorities at the time at the National Museum found the work thematically repulsive and offensive and rejected the collection. In order to legitimize the work in the eyes of art historians, curators and collectors, Mehren took great pains to exhibit the paintings – starting with a renowned gallery in Oslo and followed by successful shows in Italy and Germany, only to face constant rejection from Norway’s art establishment.
Art is subjective, whether they be on canvas or the movie screen or found on Spotify. I personally found Johannessen’s work fascinating but would never want to have it hanging over my couch! Therein lies my issues with IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA. It is the first documentary from Oscar nominated Norwegian feature film Director Nils Gaup and it’s a standard “talking heads” doc that quickly fails to maintain interest. As fascinating as it was to learn about the politics of the art world and the different analyses from art experts, the same subject matter and some individual pieces of art are presented repetitively ad nauseum. Despite an applause worthy final scene, it was laborious to sit through.
IMAGES OF A NORDIC DRAMA screens at HOT DOCS ’22 as follows:
Saturday, April 30 at 11:30am Location: Varsity 8 (55 Bloor Street West) Thursday, May 5 at 8:45pm Location: Varsity 8 (55 Bloor Street West)
BERNIE LANGILLE WANTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO BERNIE LANGILLE BERNIE LANGILLE WANTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO BERNIE LANGILLE opens with Cpl Bernie Langille’s grandson (with the same first name) says, “This story is so unbelievable that I wouldn’t believe it myself.” On February 8, 1968, Cpl. Bernie Langille stationed at New Brunswick’s CFB Gagetown showed up in bed next to his wife, his head bleeding. He’d been out with a friend at the base canteen. The next morning, his condition worsened, and a puddle of blood was found on the basement floor. The local ER was slow getting him transported to Halifax. While waiting for the flight to Halifax, Langille was violently abused by a controversial doctor. When he finally made it to Halifax, he survived his ambulance getting hit by a train. At the hospital, following surgery, he died. More than a half-century later, Cpl. Langille’s grandson discovered his grandfather’s S.I.N. number on his tombstone and was inspired to seek answers to the cold case that was practically a family curse.
With the use of interviews, family photos and miniatures. BERNIE LANGILLE WANTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO BERNIE LANGILLE reads like a thriller from the minds of Jonathan Kellerman or Dan Brown. It is rife with intrigue, conspiracy theories, and (what Hitchcock lovingly called) McGuffins as we enter a world of murders, drug addiction, spousal abuse, alleged Agent Orange experiments, government cover-ups, oh, there’s even a family member that is mentioned at the film’s thirty-minute mark…so many “what ifs” that it strains logic and patience. What sets this documentary apart is Director Jackie Torrens’ expert use of miniatures to re-enact and dramatize past events. I was mesmerized by the authentic attention to detail in these many scenes and genuinely appreciated this unique interpretation of a standard whodunnit nonfiction narrative.
BERNIE LANGILLE WANTS TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO BERNIE LANGILLE screens at HOT DOCS ’22 as follows:
Saturday, April 30 – 8:30pm – TIFF Bell Lightbox 4, Toronto Thursday, May 5 – 1:00pm – TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, Toronto For 5 days beginning Sunday, May 1, 9AM – Canada-wide Online Streaming
AMANDA GILMORE (@GilmoreAmanda)
INTO THE WEEDS
Into The Weeds is a shocking, maddening and terrifying Documentary.
In 2014, Bay Area groundskeeper Dewayne “Lee” Johnson suffered from rashes following an accident at his job. His health continued to deteriorate and led to a cancer diagnosis. Johnson wondered if his illness was caused by the cleaning chemical Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, which he’d been using. When the science confirmed it was, Johnson began a legal battle against a multinational agrochemical corporation to hold them accountable.
Director Jennifer Baichwal tells Johnson’s heartbreaking story to touch on the environmental crisis and the damaging power of deep-pocketed corporations. We are reminded of the sinister powers of these multi-million dollar corporations, and how it’s nearly impossible to win over them. Yet, Baichwal gives the viewer an inspiring story to fuel our hope. Johnson’s David-and-Goliath legal battle reminds the audience that sometimes the little guy can win.
Overall, Into The Weeds is a Documentary that makes the viewer want to take action. Baichwal’s subjects expose the corruption giving the audience a wider knowledge that will make them inquire about the chemicals they use and make a change.
Into The Weeds screens on Hot Docs ’22:
Thu, Apr 28 at 6:30 PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Fri, Apr 29 at 5:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Sat, May 7 at 1:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Online streaming is available for five days starting on Apr 29 at 9:00 AM
MAKE PEOPLE BETTER
Director Cody Sheehy’s latest Documentary is a thriller that follows the disappearance of Chinese scientist Dr. He Jiankui. Dr. He led the controversial experiment that produced the world’s first genome-edited babies. This experiment, which was supported by China’s government and top US scientists, led to an international outcry and swift moves by Chinese authorities to disappear not just Dr. He, but the twin girls whose genes he had edited.
Make People Better is a rounded look at the controversial historic event that sent the world into an uproar. Sheehy achieves this with footage of respected scientists, interviews from a scientific journalist, people who worked with Dr. He, and never-before-scene footage of Dr. He. This leads to every side of the argument being heard. In doing so, Sheehy gives insight into this procedure and the pros and cons depending on the hands of power it falls into.
When Make People Better focuses on the disappearance of Dr. He and the young twins, it brings to light the fluctuating laws of the Chinese Government. Particularly when it comes to scientific experiments and how the laws can be altered and impacted depending on public perspective. This is when the Documentary shifts into Thriller territory. Playing out like a mystery feature that has the audience an active member in trying to find the reason for the disappearance.
Make People Better screens at Hot Docs ’22:
Sat, Apr 30 at 5:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Tue, May 3 at 10:45 AM at Isabel Bader Theatre
Sat, May 7 at 11:45 AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Online streaming is available for five days starting on MAY 1 at 9:00 AM
NELLY & NADINE
Nelly & Nadine is an inspiring film that reminds us about the strength of love.
Acclaimed filmmaker Magnus Gertten has made many gripping documentaries from the archival film reels shot on Malmö’s harbour in 1945. After being transfixed by the expression on Nadine Hwang’s face in the footage, he sets out to find out more about the woman. What he uncovers is a love story between Nadine, who was the daughter of a Chinese ambassador to Spain, and Opera Singer Nelly Mousset-Vos who met on Christmas Eve 1944 in Ravensbrück concentration camp.
The footage leads Gertten to the North of France where he meets Nelly’s grandchild, Sylvie. As Sylvie, for the first time, beings searching through Nelly’s archives she witnesses the love story her Grandmother and Nadine shared. This sends her on a journey to meet with archivists and those who knew both women. Slowly, the beautiful story of their unbreakable love is told. It’s a stunning, cinematic way to tell these two women’s romance.
Additionally, this Documentary depicts a Grandchild learning the truth about their Grandparent. Sylvie learns about the romantic relationship Nelly and Nadine shared, something she was kept from knowing as a child. We watch as she comes to the realization, understanding, and acceptance of her Grandmother’s truth.
Overall, Nelly & Nadine is an inspiring love story about two women who met during the darkest of times, and despite being separated in the last months of the war managed to reunite and spend the rest of their lives together.
Nelly & Nadine screens at Hot Docs ’22:
Sat, Apr 30 at 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Thu, May 5 at 5:30 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre
Online streaming is available for five days starting on MAY 1 at 9:00 AM
MY OLD SCHOOL
My Old School tells the true story of Scotland’s most notorious imposter. In 1993, 16-year-old Brandon Lee enrolled in Bearsden Academy, a posh high school in the rich end of Glasgow. He clearly looked older than his classmates, but he was a model pupil so no one questioned it. A year later, the students and faculty at Bearsden were apart of a front-page scandal involving Brandon Lee and his fascinating tale of deception.
Filmmaker Jono McLeod brings us this captivating story through interviews with classmates, animation and a movie star portraying Brandon Lee. Even though the world has seen Lee before, he didn’t want to be seen in My Old School. So none other than beloved Scottish actor Alan Cummings takes his place. Cummings marvellouslyreenacts the transcript of Lee’s interview making for an enthralling viewing experience.
My Old School could easily paint Lee as a type of villain. However, McLeod attempts to understand the man and the motives behind his actions. Through interviews with his prior classmates and some faculty at Bearsden, we see how those who knew him think of what he did. At times, those classmates question the morality of the depths he went. These moments co-exist with other former students who take an empathetic look at a man who will stop at nothing to achieve his dream.
My Old School screens at Hot Docs ’22:
Sun, May 1 at 5:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
Wed, May 4 at 10 AM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Sat, May 7 at 5:30 PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema
Online streaming is available for five days starting on MAY 2 at 9:00 AM
This heartbreaking Documentary dives deep into Ontario’s Huronia Regional Centre, a now-closed hospital and home for children with developmental disabilities. Filmmaker Barri Cohen interviews survivors of the abusive establishment to bring us the horrific truths they endured and how the Government at the time turned a blind-eye.
Hearing about the traumatic experiences these survivors endured makes for a difficult, but necessary watch. This institution and many similar, committed horrific, illegal, and immoral acts. Although this happened in the past, it comments on how other, similar institutions still in operation today could easily follow the same path. It’s a startling reminder that we must be vigilant and question the big institutions who care for our loved ones.
Cohen adds herself and her family as subjects in Unloved due to the personal connection they have with Huronia. In doing so, we see the generational effects one decision can have on a family. Her father placed her two half-brothers in Huronia. She never got to meet them and they died while there. Giving us this personal aspect along with the survivors stories, we get a rounded view of the lasting effects Huronia had on survivors, the ones who have past, and their families.
Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children screens at Hot Docs ’22:
Tue, May 3 at 5:30 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre
Fri, May 6 at 2:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Online streaming is available for five days starting on MAY 4 at 9:00 AM
More on HOT DOCS ’22 including tickets and schedule here.