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By George Kozera

Montreal-born Writer/Producer/Director Barry Avrich may be one of Canada’s most prolific Filmmakers. His critically-acclaimed Documentaries often showcase the notorious (Harvey Weinstein, Garth Drabinsky) or well-established, show business personalities (David Foster, Oscar Peterson, Howie Mandel). His latest, THE TALENTED MR. ROSENBERG, will have its World Premiere at Hot Docs and with a sly wink and tweaking of the title of a renowned novel by Patricia Highsmith (Ripley anyone?) tells the addictive tale of con-artist extraordinaire Allen Albert Rosenberg, best known as the Yorkville Swindler.

With input from two of his ex-wives and one of his daughters, alongside interviews with the police, various lawyers and journalists, Avrich paints a shocking portrait of a man with no remorse after fraudulently absconding with millions of dollars to upkeep a lavish lifestyle in one of Toronto’s most toniest districts. Described by the courts as someone with “Machiavellian Chutzpah” (a term I will use endlessly from this day forward!), THE TALENTED MR. ROSENBERG is Barry Avrich’s most compelling Documentary to date.


Sunday, May 1 at 5:15PM at Ted Rogers Cinema

Thursday, May 5 at 7:00PM at the TIFF Bell Lightbox


The Hot Docs Podcast Festival kicks-off January 25 – 28, 2022, celebrating excellence in audio storytelling. Exciting live podcast presentations and provocative conversations are slated for the event. This is the sixth edition of the Festival.

All times listed in EST

Tuesday, January 25

7:30 PM

Opening Night Event
: The Secrets We Keep: CBC Podcasts Storytelling Showcase

We all have a secret or two. Why are some hard to keep, and others hard to share? What are we still afraid to talk about in 2022? Are some secrets best kept hidden? Building on the theme of their highly entertaining and richly subversive CBC podcast, The Secret Life of Canada, co-hosts Leah Simone Bowen and Falen Johnson return to the festival on opening night with a star-studded storytelling showcase.

Come join some of Canada’s top podcasting talent for a night of eye-opening revelations.

Featuring stories by:
• Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Amil Niazi and Kevin Fallon (Pop Chat)
• Ryan Thorpe (White Hot Hate)
• Anna Maria Tremonti and Farzana Doctor (the all-new CBC podcast, Welcome to Paradise)

Wednesday, January 26


Michael Lewis in conversation with Ira Glass
Michael Lewis’ first book, Liar’s Poker, about working on Wall Street in the ‘80s, turned him into a literary icon. When he went into the studio to record a new audiobook version of Liar’s Poker, he thought a lot about how much Wall Street has (or hasn’t) changed. He also thought about his own
evolution as a writer. Those musings became a new podcast series called Other People’s Money, which is being released as a companion to Liar’s Poker. In this celebration of two of the greatest non-fiction storytellers of our time, Lewis, whose other books include Moneyball and The Big Short, is joined by Ira Glass, creator and host of public radio’s This American Life, to discuss their award-winning bodies of work and how they learned to stop imitating others and write like themselves.


Sneak preview: Thunder Bay, the Crave Original Documentary Series
Award-winning Anishinaabe podcaster, journalist and writer Ryan McMahon returns to the Hot Docs Podcast Festival stage to share a preview of the upcoming Crave Original documentary series based on his hit CANADALAND podcast, Thunder Bay. This gripping investigative series directed by award-winning filmmaker Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and executive produced by Canadaland’s Jesse Brown, follows McMahon on his quest to uncover the truth behind the recent deaths of multiple Indigenous people in Thunder Bay, Ontario—a city known as the homicide and hate crime capital of Canada. Examining the failings and the injustices of the city’s social systems and institutions, the four-part series sheds light on
our country’s complicated relationship with colonialism, while examining the consequences of a broken system in which some can thrive, while many others, disproportionately struggle to survive.

Thursday, January 27


Virtual: Telling Hidden Stories: Invisibilia in Conversation with Resistance’s Saidu Tejan-Thomas & Bethel Habte

NPR’s Invisibilia is one of the most popular and innovative podcasts in the medium’s history. Founded by audio icons Alix Spiegel (This American Life) and Lulu Miller (Radiolab), the show is now led by two of the
most dynamic young voices in audio storytelling: Yowei Shaw and Kia Miakka Natisse. At this live virtual event, Yowei and Kia join forces with Saidu Tejan-Thomas and Bethel Habte, the host and producer of Gimlet’s acclaimed Resistance (recently named one of the 10 Best Podcasts of 2021 by The New York Times), and the for a one-of-a-kind meeting of curious minds. As they discuss the stories and ideas that fascinate and excite them, Kia, Yowei, Saidu and Bethel will explore their common passion for telling
hidden, sometimes overlooked, stories—and their commitment to producing socially engaged work that speaks to a new generation of passionate audiophiles.

Back Issue Live with The New Yorker’s Kelefa Sanneh
Remember when tasteless critics panned Mariah Carey’s Glitter? (#JusticeforGlitter!) When Beyoncé gave us EVERYTHING? Tracy Clayton and Josh Gwynn do, and these are just a few of the formative pop
culture moments they’ve dissected on their brilliant and delightful podcast Back Issue. In this first-ever live edition of their show, Tracy and Josh team up with New Yorker staff writer Kelefa Sanneh for an unforgettable night of conversation, trivia and pop culture nostalgia. As they dig deep into the
fascinating stories at the heart of Major Labels, Kelefa’s groundbreaking new history of the past 50 years of popular music, they’ll revisit some of the biggest songs and videos of the 90s/00s and reckon with some of culture’s biggest questions: How did we let this happen? And why do we still love this? As Tracy and Josh often say: “Nostalgia is more than just a feeling.”

Friday, January 28


Full Release Live with Samantha Bee
Every week on Full Release, her wildly popular podcast, Samantha Bee sits down for unscripted, in-depth conversations with the best and brightest people about how to navigate the ever-changing world and what to laugh about along the way. In this first-ever live virtual episode of the show, the brilliant comedian and satirist joins the Festival for a one-of-a-kind meeting of minds with a surprise special guest.

Exclusive access to these events is granted with the purchase of a festival pass.

Wednesday, January 26

How to Build a Career in Podcasting (without Selling your Soul)
How do you build a career in podcasting without selling your soul? How do you acquire job security and creative freedom in an industry that has historically underpaid workers and undervalued the voices of women and people of colour? Answering these questions has been integral to the mission of Media Girlfriends, a Toronto-based podcast production company, founded by journalists of colour, that’s devoted to amplifying historically misrepresented voices. In this candid conversation, the studio’s three
co-founders will discuss their strategies for navigating the podcast landscape as freelancers, their efforts to build supportive and inclusive teams on their podcasts, and how they’ve worked to achieve a sense of
agency, aligning the work they do with their personal values.

• Garvia Bailey, award-winning journalist and co-founder of Media Girlfriends
• Nana aba Duncan, Media Girlfriends co-founder, Associate prof, Carleton Chair of Journalism, Diversity
and Inclusion Studies at Carlton University’s School of Journalism
• Hannah Sung, award-winning journalist and co-founder of Media Girlfriends

Launching an Investigative Podcast: A “Stolen” Case Study with Gimlet’s Lydia Polgreen and Connie Walker

As the managing director of Gimlet Media, one of the studios at the heart of Spotify’s growing podcast empire, Lydia Polgreen is responsible for bringing audio storytelling of the highest quality to millions of listeners around the world. Connie Walker is one of the studio’s most accomplished hosts—a Canadian success story whose acclaimed podcast, Stolen, caught the eyes and ears of fans and critics alike. In this candid discussion of both the craft and business of podcasting, Polgreen and Walker will use Stolen as a case study to explore the process of building an ambitious, journalistically rigorous podcast at a major studio. They’ll discuss the joys—and the institutional challenges—of bringing timely, socially engaged narrative journalism to a big global audience.

• Lydia Polgreen, Managing Director, Gimlet Media
• Connie Walker, Investigative reporter, host of Gimlet Media’s Stolen, previously: Finding Cleo (CBC)

Creatives Crossing Into the Podcasting Space with Director X & Taj Critchlow

In recent years, podcasting has become a truly cross-platform medium, attracting big-name talent from across the world of arts and culture—and inspiring exciting new projects in other media. In this intimate
session with two of the world’s most influential music video creators—Toronto’s own Director X and Taj Critchlow—explore what it takes to translate your skills from another creative medium into this exciting
and endlessly inventive art form. Sharing lessons from their hit podcast, ARTchitects: the architects of ART podcast (also co-hosted by Karena Evans), and their collaborations with superstars with Drake, Rihanna and Kanye West, X and Taj will discuss the power of podcasting to nurture your creativity and expand your audience.

• Julien Christian Lutz, aka Director X, filmmaker, music video director and Co-Founder and Managing
Partner of Fela, new age production company creating globally celebrated content.
• Taj Critchlow, talent manager, producer, creative consultant, and Co-Founder and Managing Partner of
• Jordan Sowunmi (Moderator), Lead, Music Editorial and Content Strategy at TikTok, co-founder of Boosie Fade and the podcast, Catch Up.

How to Pitch with CBC Decision-Makers
In this special presentation from Canada’s largest podcast studio, decision-makers Chris Oke and Ilina Ghosh will pull back the curtain on one of the most difficult and important skills every podcaster needs to master: how to pitch. Using examples drawn from some of the CBC’s most popular and award-winning narrative series, this will be a practical guide to building proposals, presentations and teasers that will excite potential collaborators and help get your projects in front of the right people.

• Chris Oke, Senior Producer, CBC Podcasts
• Ilina Gosh, Producer, CBC Podcasts

How to Make a Good Talk Show: A Masterclass with Canadaland
Aspiring podcasters often underestimate the amount of work that goes into making a good conversation show—the best ones sound so effortless. But even the most informal, off-the-cuff-sounding chat pods require immense planning and expertise, and few studios understand this better than Canadaland, the scrappy, Toronto-based indie behind some of the country’s most popular podcasts on politics, media, and current events. In this special Masterclass, Fatima Syed, host of The Backbench, and more veteran
producers reveal the nuts and bolts of how a good chat show gets made— and how to make them dynamic, structured, and topical enough to engage a large audience.

• Jonathan Goldsbie, co-host of Wag the Doug podcast and editor at Canadaland
• Tiffany Lam, producer, Canadaland
• Fatima Syed, host, Canadaland’s The Backbench
• Kieran Oudshoorn (Moderator), Managing Editor of Podcasts, Canadaland

Thursday, January 27

Masterclass in Audience Engagement
“If you have a big social following, your podcast audience numbers are guaranteed. If you’re a celebrity, no doubt people will tune into your show. Having a show that’s outside the mainstream means only only a few listeners will tune in (likely your friends and family).” All of these are misconceptions in how to establish, engage with, and grow your audience in podcasting. As the classic saying in podcast audience engagement goes, “It’s an art, not a science.” At this masterclass, leading insiders from Acast dig into the most interesting audience engagement trends and strategies they’ve seen and executed with creators of all backgrounds.

• Tiffany Ashitey, Director of Partnerships, Acast US
• Trace Gaynor, Associate Partner Manager, Acast USA
• Becky Celestina, Partner Manager, Acast USA
• Sophia Lepage, Associate Partner Manager, Acast Canada

This Creators Forum session is guest curated by Acast as part of Acast Day: Seen and Heard: Elevating
Diverse Voices & Stories.

Aclass: Indigenous Voices

Get Indigenous podcasters’ perspectives on creating and developing audio-first stories, and the challenges and successes they’ve encountered along the way. Is podcasting a means to activism? Hear from Ryan McMahon (Red Man Laughing, Thunder Bay), Pam Palmater (Warrior Life), Nick Estes (The
Red Nation Podcast), and Falen Johnson (CBC’s The Secret Life of Canada) as they walk you through their journeys into the medium, how they’ve found and grown their audiences, and what their unique creative processes look like. They also discuss the current state of Indigenous podcasting along with
where it’s headed in the future

• Nick Estes, a journalist, historian, and host of The Red Nation Podcast. He is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe.
• Falen Johnson, award-winning playwright and co-host of CBC’s The Secret Life of Canada. She is Mohawk and Tuscarora (Bear Clan) from Six Nations Grand River Territory.
• Ryan McMahon, award-winning Anishinaabe podcaster, journalist and writer, host of the Red Man Laughing and Thunder Bay podcasts
• Dr. Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaw laywer, professor and activist, host of Warrior Life.
• Narisa Ladak (Moderator), Creator Network Director, Acast Canada.
This Creators Forum session is guest curated by Acast as part of Acast Day: Seen and Heard: Elevating Diverse Voices & Stories.

Communicating Challenging Concepts Through Creation with AsapSCIENCE

How do you make your podcast more accessible when it covers an “inaccessible” topic? AsapSCIENCE creators Greg and Mitch are popular Toronto-based YouTubers, TikTok stars, podcasters, and queer science educators who are making the subject of science digestible, inclusive, and fun with the help of their podcast Sidenote. Joined by Acast’s Heather Gordon, Greg and Mitch will discuss their journey into podcasting, and how they’re taking advantage of cross-platform storytelling to break down knowledge barriers and make the typical esoteric language used in the science community more accessible to all.

Using TikTok as a case study, they’ll also discuss how to create unique content for digital platforms that will resonate with related—though distinct—audiences.

• Gregory Brown, co-creator of AsapSCIENCE, co-host of Sidenote podcast
• Mitchell Moffit, co-creator of AsapSCIENCE, co-host of Sidenote podcast
• Heather Gordon (Moderator), Managing Director of Acast Canada

This Creators Forum session is guest curated by Acast as part of Acast Day: Seen and Heard: Elevating Diverse Voices & Stories.

4:00 PM
Freedom Through Fandom
From Swifties bashing Jake Gyllenhaal to the BTS Army disrupting a Trump rally, to Britney Spears fans rallying to #SaveBritney, we know the power of fandom. We also know that podcasting can offer a space for fandom to thrive. When it’s coupled with the viral nature of social media, there’s even an ability to create a groundswell of awareness and change. Ira Madison III (Keep It!), Hannah Sung (Media Girlfriends), and Vanessa Zoltan (Harry Potter and the Sacred Text) all have experience with fandom— whether through reporting, social engagement, or being an actual fan. Join this roundtable discussion moderated by Amil Niazi (CBC’s Pop Chat) as the panelists dive into the intricacies of fandom—when it’s used for good, when it’s used as an activism tool, and when it turns ugly. They will cover how podcasting plays an integral role as a source of information.

• Ira Madison III, television writer, host of Crooked Media’s Keep It!, former critic at The Daily Beast and GQ Magazine
• Hannah Sung, award-winning journalist and co-founder of Media Girlfriends, podcast production company
• Amil Niazi (Moderator), showrunner, CBC’s Pop Chat This Creators Forum session is guest curated by Acast as part of Acast Day: Seen and Heard: Elevating Diverse Voices & Stories.

Friday, January 28

Launching and Creating Podcasts with Amazon Decision-Makers

In recent years, Amazon Music has made a serious investment in the audio storytelling landscape, with the acquisition of podcast studio Wondery and podcast service provider Art19, making it a premiere destination for creators looking to manage, grow and monetize their content. In this presentation and panel specially crafted for Hot Docs Podfest delegates, Amazon audio execs Marshall Lewy, Lindsay Michael, and Declan Moore will offer an overview of the services and support systems their team is
putting in place to support podcast producers who are looking to grow their audiences. Get insider knowledge on the studio’s approach to developing and launching new shows and get expert tips on how to pitch an exciting project to a major podcast studio.

• Marshall Lewy, Chief Content Officer at Wondery, overseeing Wondery and Amazon Originals
• Lindsay Michael, Manager of Podcasts for Amazon Canada
• Declan Moore, Head of International at Wondery

The Art of the Limited-Run Podcast: A Masterclass with Dan Taberski

Dan Taberski is on a roll. In the years since his viral podcast series Missing Richard Simmons dominated the podcast charts, the former documentary filmmaker and Daily Show producer has hosted a series of critically acclaimed shows that have set a new creative standard for the limited-run podcast series: Running with Cops, Surviving Y2K, The Line and, most recently, 9/12.

This latest, an Amazon Original produced by Pineapple Street, was recently named one of the ten best podcasts of 2021 by The New York Times and The New Yorker. In this masterclass, Dan sits down with Elamin Abdelmahmoud, hosts of CBC’s Pop Chat, to discuss the important process-oriented questions that help to structure an ambitious documentary series, and why he believes this emerging art form is the place, as he puts it, to tell “crazy explosive” stories and explore complicated questions and ideas.

• Dan Taberski, Filmmaker and podcaster, host of Running with Cops, Surviving Y2K, The Line and 9/12

• Elamin Abdelmahmoud (moderator), culture writer at Buzzfeed News and host of CBC’s Pop Chat

Editing Across Difference with The New Yorker Radio Hour’s Ngofeen Mputubwele

As a producer of The New Yorker Radio Hour, and a former staffer at Stitcher and Gimlet, Ngofeen Mputubwele has helped produce some of the most acclaimed podcasts in recent memory. He’s also witnessed the podcast industry’s tendency to undervalue and marginalize the work of podcasters of colour. In this masterclass, adapted from workshops he’s led for the teams at Stitcher and WNYC, Ngofeen will address the power dynamics that often take shape in the production and editing of ambitious podcasts—and how to establish ground rules and support systems that allow team members to negotiate their creative and cultural differences, especially when they are telling stories rooted in the experiences of historically marginalized peoples.

Finding Your Voice: Audio Writing Masterclass with This American Life’s Alix Spiegel

Writing for audio is often discussed as a mysterious, almost mystical process. At this masterclass, Alix Spiegel, a senior producer for This American Life and former host of Invisibilia, sits down with 99% Invisible’s Chris Berube to cut through the noise and break down the most effective approaches to tape use, story structure and reporting techniques that she has encountered at the canonical shows where she has worked. As she talks though examples from her award-winning body of work, she’ll demonstrate practical strategies that podcasters of all backgrounds and experience levels can employ to write captivating, elegantly structured audio stories.

• Alix Spiegel, senior producer for This American Life, former host of Invisibilia
• Chris Berube (moderator), producer, 99% Invisible

Breaking Form, Breaking Rules with Eric Eddings and Brittany Luse
After breaking new ground with their show The Nod, Eric Eddings and Brittany Luse are once again shaping the cultural conversation with their newly rebooted For Colored Nerds, where they deconstruct the nerdier side of pop culture, and peel back the layers of Black culture we rarely discuss in mixed company. At this masterclass, the BFFs and cultural critics will dig into the art and craft of making “formbreakers”—episodes that play with narrative and production to make the world take notice. Using examples from past episodes of The Nod, Eric and Brittany will break down the rules for an episode where you break the rules, offering invaluable tips and tricks on how to take your show and your audience to new and unexpected places.

• Eric Eddings, co-host of For Colored Nerds, Director of Lifestyle Podcasting at Stitcher/SiriusXM, and the former co-host of The Nod (Gimlet)
• Brittany Luse, journalist, podcast host, and cultural critic whose writing has appeared in Vulture, Refinery29, Harper’s Bazaar. She is the co-host of For Colored Nerds and former co-host of The Nod.

More here, including how to buy a pass.


The 2021 HOT DOCS FESTIVAL runs April 29 to May 9, 2021. Taking-on a virtual format this year, bringing the Festival home to Festival Goers. Make no mistake though, just because the Festival can be enjoyed at home doesn’t meant the quality of this year’s events and Films are compromised. If anything, this perhaps is one of the strongest years in recent memory with several high-profile Documentaries set to premiere including STREET GANG: HOW TO GET TO SESAME STREET, Edgar Wright‘s THE SPARKS BROTHERS and Sundance Award-winning SUMMER OF SOUL and several more. All Films go live starting at 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, April 29, 2021 on the online platform.

Our Justin Waldman and George Kozera share their most-anticipated Films of the Festival with us.


There is a wealth of great Documentaries available for screening this year at HOT DOCS. When asked what were my Top Five movies I was most excited to see, I was in a conundrum. There are just too many to choose from. So, to make it easier on myself and, let’s face it, these times are stressful enough without more added pressure, I am submitting my list of Documentaries that are solely focused on the arts and the entertainment community.

1. SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) – Questlove’s directorial debut about the six-week- long Harlem Cultural Festival held in 1969, a stone’s throw away from Woodstock, has every fiber in my being, every cell in my body twitching with excitement. Part-music concert, part-historical record on Black History, this winner of two awards at Sundance is so up my alley. Musical performances from Sly and the Family Stone, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and Gladys Knight and the Pips are but a few of the names who sang on stage. All I can say is that I am thrilled to watch this at home as I’m sure my standing up to dance to the music and sing along would scare those seated around me. This Special Presentation will be streamed May 5th.

2. FANNY: THE RIGHT TO ROCK – This all-girl Rock Band was definitely ahead of its time and inspired many female musicians to pick up guitars and drums and play like and with the big boys. I was a fan obsessed with their music and talent and relished the thought of knowing more about their music, struggles and what they are currently doing.

3. THE ROSSELLINIS – Cinema has many family dynasties: The Hustons, the Barrymores, the Fondas, and the Coppolas to name but a few. But my knowledge about the Rossellinis is sketchy at best. I have seen some of acclaimed Director Robert Rossellini’s work, know of his marriage to Ingrid Bergman and, of course, there’s the hauntingly beautiful Isabella. But this Documentary, from Roberto’s grandson Alessandro, sounds to fascinating to pass-up.

4. THE SPARKS BROTHERS – Truthfully, I don’t think I’ve ever consciously heard any music from these two brothers or seen them ever perform on TV. But I follow Director Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Baby Driver) on Instagram and his enthusiasm for his directorial Documentary debut is downright infectious. And isn’t that why we watch documentaries…to learn new things?

5. 7 YEARS OF LUKAS GRAHAM – I’m not sure where or how I first heard the song “7 Years”, but I was impressed enough to check it out on YouTube and became a fan of Lukas Graham. This is an admirable, no holds barred, warts and all Documentary on the rise of this talented group from Denmark. Its honesty must be applauded.


1. STREET GANG: HOW WE GOT TO SESAME STREET – Let’s be real, who doesn’t love Sesame Street? The Carol Spinney Documentary from a few years ago brought me to tears, and being able to have a further in-depth look into Sesame Street is a definite must see!

2. THE SPARKS BROTHERSEdgar Wright, yes that him (!) directed a Music Documentary. If you’ve ever seen an Edgar Wright movie, lets be real who hasn’t, then you know how much care and effort he puts into his soundtracks. If you love good music, great storytelling, and a pair of wacky brothers, then The Sparks Brothers is for you.

3. SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) – If you’re not excited for this incredible-looking Documentary directed by Questlove that won the hearts of everyone at Sundance, then I don’t know what to tell you. This is one of my most anticipated Documentaries of the entire Festival, and I CANNOT wait to get to see this beautiful work of art.

4. HYSTERICAL Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Nikki Glaser, Iliza Shelsinger – is there anything else that needs to be said to get you hyped to watch a Documentary on some of the FUNNIEST women on the planet? Sit back, laugh whole-heartedly, and learn the inside of the business with this wonderful Documentary.

5. WEWORK: OR MAKING AND BREAKING OF A $47 BILLION UNICORN -People were buzzing about this one in particular coming out of SXSW and since then it has skyrocketed to the top of my list. One of the more interesting looks into the capitalism bubbles we have seen lately, and Adam Neumann, specifically.

More here on tickets and titles.

Check back here for our Reviews.


The 2021 HOT DOCS FILM FESTIVAL lineup takes place April 29 through May 9, 2021 this year adapting to an online format amidst the pandemic. The Festival is comprised of a total 219 films from 66 countries in 12 programs, with 50 per cent of the Directors in the Festival program being women.

Scotia Wealth Management are back with their Big Ideas series and among the in-depth discussions to take place this year are those with: Australian Underwater Photographer and Conservationist Valerie Taylor (Playing with Sharks); the Filmmaking Team behind Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street; Singer, Songwriter and International Recording Artist Jully Black, author and Professor Cheryl Thompson and Director Jennifer Holness discussing the cultural shift in beauty standards that now embrace Black aesthetics, and how this impacts our understanding of race, power and the construction of beauty (Subjects of Desire); and Filmmaker Jed Rothstein, along with subject and Wall Street Journal reporter Maureen Farrell and subject and former WeWork employee Megan Mallow, sharing in a provocative discussion about what was going on behind the scenes of WeWork (WeWork: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn).

Special Presentations this year presented by Crave, also includes the international premieres of: 7 Years of Lukas Graham, an inspiring profile of Danish Vocalist and Multi-Instrumentalist Lukas Forchhammer, lead singer of the pop group Lukas GrahamWith Drawn Arms, which takes audiences back to the 1968 Summer Olympics, when two track stars raised their black-gloved fists on the podium, and the impact of that gesture 50 years later; Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America, which explores the legacy of white supremacy and our collective responsibility to overcome it, anchored by ACLU lawyer Jeff Robinson’s groundbreaking 2018 talk; Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street, which takes us inside the minds and hearts of the creators, artists, writers and educators of the enduring children’s program, Sesame Street; and Hysterical, a backstage pass into the lives of popular female comics, including Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Jessica Kirson, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger, and more, who are taking the male-dominated world of stand-up comedy by storm.

Timely presentations which display the Festival’s finger on the pulse, include world premieres of: Wuhan Wuhan, in which award-winning Filmmaker Yung Chang teams up with a group of intrepid Videographers as they capture life in the Chinese city during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic; The Death of My Two Fathers, an unforgettable contemplation of race, death and the importance of family inspired by videos the filmmaker watches that were recorded by his terminally ill father; The Taste of Desire, a philosophical and poetic trip around the world that uses oysters as a metaphor to explore humanity’s relationship with nature and desire; Dirty Tricks, a thrilling dive into the cutthroat world of competitive bridge playing, and the ensuing scandal that erupts after the world’s top player is accused of cheating; Come Back Anytime, a delectable Doc about self-taught Japanese ramen master, Masamoto Ueda, and his legendary Tokyo ramen shop, Bizentei; and Viral, which shows us COVID-19’s impact on today’s youth through the social media posts of seven young people.

Other Programs at the Festival include the Canadian Spectrum (which includes Hell or Clean Water, the fascinating story of a Newfoundland diver who dedicates himself to cleaning up the province’s polluted shores by himself);  International Spectrum, World Showcase, Made in Colombia, Artscapes, Nightvision, Persisters, Markers, Systems Down, Changing Face of Europe and Deep Drive Programs, giving Festival Goers an eclectic mix to choose from.

More here on tickets and Films.

(Photo credit: Hot Docs)


The 2021 Hot Docs Festival will take place this year April 29 – May 9, 2021.  13 Special Presentations were announced today, some featuring very well-known subjects. The Documentary Festival will use an at-home VOD platform this year in adapting to the Pandemic.

Some of the Films just announced:

D: René Sascha Johannsen | P: Sara Stockmann | Denmark | 2020 | 77 mins | International Premiere

Danish band Lukas Graham has an uncanny ability of setting audacious goals and achieving them, but after scoring a hit with “7 Years,” Grammy nominations and a world tour, success and fame may have them changing their tune.

D: Theo Anthony | P: Jonna McKone, Sebastian Pardo, Riel Roch-Decter | USA | 2021 | 109 mins | Canadian Premiere

Exploring the connections between technology, vision and power, this Sundance prize winner offers an illuminating investigation of ever-increasing surveillance technologies, exposing the complexities of objectivity and the biases inherent in both human perception and the camera lens.

D: Daniel Andreas Sager | P: Marc Bauder | Germany | 2021 | 90 mins | North American Premiere

For the first time, cameras embed with the German investigative unit that broke the explosive Panama Papers story, following the journalists’ pursuit of the truth behind the political assassination of a Maltese reporter and yet another history-making financial scandal.

D: John Daschbach | P: Wataru Yamamoto | Japan | 2021 | 81 mins | World Premiere

Experience a year in the life of a self-taught Japanese ramen master, who considers his legendary noodle shop more than just a livelihood but his life, and his die-hard customers more than just regulars, but true friends.

D: Stanley Nelson | P: Stanley Nelson, Cameo George, Naimah Jabali-Nash, Keith Brown, Nicole London | EP: Marcia Smith | USA | 2020 | 90 mins | Special Screening

A cheap, powerful drug emerges during a recession, igniting a moral panic fueled by racism. Acclaimed filmmaker Stanley Nelson explores the complex history of crack in the 1980s. Includes exclusive Q&A with Hot Docs Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Stanley Nelson.

D: Sol Guy | P: Stine Chrone Moisen, Sol Guy, Travestine Guy – Tuggle | USA | 2021 | 84 mins | World Premiere

The filmmaker turns the experience of watching videotapes that his terminally ill father recorded into an unforgettable contemplation of race, death and the importance of family, composed as a letter to his own children.

D & P: Daniel Sivan | Israel | 2021 | 100 mins | World Premiere

At the elite level, bridge—the world’s most popular card game—becomes a million-dollar cut-throat business. When the best competitive player is accused of cheating, the ensuing scandal confounds experts, criminal science, celebrities and basic belief in this hilarious true-crime thriller.

D: Peter Nicks | P: Sean Havey | USA | 2020 | 90 mins | International Premiere

The resilience and optimism of Oakland High School’s 2020 senior class is captured in verité footage and social media videos as they confront anxieties over test scores, growing demands for social justice and the unprecedented uncertainty of a rapidly spreading pandemic.

D: Andrea Nevins | P: Rebecca Evans, Carolina Groppa, Ross M. Dinerstein | USA | 2021 | 88 mins | International Premiere

Hysterical is a backstage pass into the lives of the hilarious, boundary-breaking women shattering stand-up comedy’s glass ceiling. Featuring Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Marina Franklin, Nikki Glaser, Jessica Kirson, Sherri Shepherd, Iliza Shlesinger, and more. Premiering on FX Canada this summer.

D: Nanfu Wang | P: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn | USA | 2021 | 95 mins | International Premiere

Nanfu Wang’s (director of One Child Nation, winner of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize) searing investigation into COVID-19’s origins and spread exposes not only a global crisis of misinformation, but the leadership that misled the world about a still-unfolding emergency.

D: Benji Bergmann, Jono Bergmann | P: Karol Martesko-Fenster | Austria, USA | 2021 | 76 mins | International Premiere

Revolutionary Canadian designer Bruce Mau reveals truths that have shaped his long and expansive career, from designing sustainable platforms to social movements. His way of seeing could be just what’s needed in this critical time in history.

D: Sam Hobkinson | P: Jürgen Buedts, Poppy Dixon, Al Morrow, Matthew Wells, Gregory Zalcman | UK, Belgium | 2020 | 88 mins | Canadian Premiere

Misha Defonseca’s 1997 Holocaust memoir about escaping the Nazis as a seven-year-old girl on foot across Europe with a pack of wolves took the world by storm. But when Hollywood comes knocking, an even more audacious story and darker deceptions come to light.

D: Paul Kemp | P: Corey Russell, Paul Kemp | Canada | 2021 | 80 mins | North American Premiere

Alberto Salazar was a coaching legend until his recent doping ban shocked the running world. Did his “Just Do It” attitude and questionable practices push the limits of human performance and technology too far?

D: Sally Aitken | P: Bettina Dalton | Australia | 2020 | 91 mins | North American Premiere

From filming Jaws’ near-lethal live scenes to saving a great white with her bare hands, underwater filmmaking legend Valerie Taylor faces her biggest challenge yet: fighting to conserve the world’s remaining sharks.

D: Pedro Kos | P: Shawnee Isaac-Smith, Kira Carstensen, Judy Korin | USA | 2021 | 103 mins | International Premiere

A group of pioneering nuns in 1960s Los Angeles stood up to the patriarchy in such revolutionary ways, demanding pay cheques, marching on Selma and making political pop art, they would change Catholicism and the face of faith forever.

D: Alba Sotorra Clua | P: Alba Sotorra Clua, Vesna Cudic, Carles Torras | Spain, UK | 2021 | 90 mins | Canadian Premiere

This provocative doc reveals the deeper stories that drove several women to uproot their lives in the West and join ISIS in Syria. Now, infamous and reviled in the media, they yearn for absolution and the homelands that bar their return.

D: Hannah Berryman | P: Catryn Ramasut | UK | 2020 | 91 mins | North American Premiere

Featuring candid interviews with rock legends Robert Plant, Ozzy Osbourne and Liam Gallagher, this is the unlikely tale of how two Welsh brothers turned their dairy farm into one of the most successful recording studios of all time.

D: Alessandro Rossellini | P: Raffaele Brunetti, Uldis Cekulis | EP: Philippa Kowarsky, Laura Michalchyshyn | Italy, Latvia | 2020 | 90 mins | Special Screening

In this fascinating look inside a complicated cinema dynasty, the eldest grandson of Roberto Rossellini, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, picks up the camera for himself and explores his family history.

D: Marilyn Agrelo | P: Trevor Crafts, Ellen Scherer Crafts, Lisa Diamond | USA | 2021 | 107 mins | International Premiere

Featuring exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, this inspiring journey takes us inside the minds and hearts of Sesame Street creators, artists, writers and educators, who together established one of the most influential and enduring children’s programs in television history.

D: Jennifer Holness | P: Jennifer Holness, Sudz Sutherland | Canada | 2021 | 103 mins | Canadian Premiere

A much-needed deconstruction of race and the power of beauty, this thought-provoking doc lifts up the experiences of Black women in a moment when beauty standards are undergoing a cultural shift towards embracing Black aesthetics and features.

D: Willemiek Kluijfhout | P: Olivia Sophie van Leeuwen | Netherlands | 2021 | 87 mins | World Premiere

In this poetic trip around the world, the oyster acts as metaphor for life’s passions and frustrations, linking stories of a New York burlesque dancer, French Michelin-starred chefs, a Swedish oyster diver, a Japanese pearl maker and a terminally ill English psychologist.

D: Loira Limbal | P: Loira Limbal, Jameka Autry | USA | 2020 | 72 mins | Ontario Premiere

Working multiple jobs, desperate to make ends meet for their families, two New York mothers drop off their children at a 24-hour daycare centre run by a woman that binds the neighbourhood together.

D: Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir | P: Christian Beetz, Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir | Germany, Israel | 2021 | 75 mins | World Premiere

Seven young people from across the world were innocently uploading shiny bright 2020 plans when “virus” started trending. Over a year’s worth of real-time posts and massive reality checks chart their innocent optimism and surprising resilience to a global change no one saw coming.

D: David Alvarado, Jason Sussberg | P: David Alvarado, Kate McLean, Jamie Meltzer, Jason Sussberg | USA | 2021 | 95 mins | Canadian Premiere

Environmental iconoclast Stewart Brand believes re-engineering woolly mammoth DNA and “de-extinction science” could reverse climate change. Is he an oracle envisioning a brave new world or will his controversial views cement him as eco-pariah?

D: Jed Rothstein | P: Ross Dinerstein | USA | 2020 | 101 mins | International Premiere

Utilizing interviews with journalists, experts, high-ranking former employees and former members Wework: Or the Making and Breaking of a $47 Billion Unicorn explores the rise and fall of one of the biggest corporate flameouts and venture capitalist bubbles in recent years—the story of WeWork, and its hippie-messianic leader Adam Neumann.

D: Glenn Kaino, Afshin Shahidi | P: Glenn Zipper, Sean Stuart, Glenn Kaino, Afshin Shahidi | USA, Mexico | 2020 | 84 mins | International Premiere

When track star Tommie Smith and his teammate raised black-gloved fists at the 1968 Summer Olympics, their defiant gesture would reverberate through generations of civil rights activists. Fifty years on, the full breadth of his impact—and depth of his sacrifice—is revealed as America still reckons with racial injustice.

D: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler | P: Jeffery Robinson, Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Andrea Crabtree-Keller, Vanessa Hope, Susan Korda, Katharine Nephew, Jayashri Wyatt | USA | 2021 | 117 mins | International Premiere

Interweaving lecture and personal anecdotes, ACLU deputy legal director Jeffery Robinson draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of post-racial America.

D: Yung Chang | P: Peter Luo, Donna Gigliotti, Diane Quon | USA | 2021 | 90 mins | World Premiere

With unprecedented access to Wuhan, China, at the peak of the pandemic lockdown, award-winning director Yung Chang looks beyond statistics and headlines to reveal the emotions and resilience at the core of our shared humanity.

More updates to come March 23, 2021. Here for more.


HOT DOCS’ CURIOUS MINDS Speaker Series brought to us by Hollywood Suite, goes digital this year and you will have the chance to hear about from some fascinating subject matter experts right from home. Selections this year include:

Spring 2020 Curious Minds digital courses:

The years between World War One and World War Two marked some of the most influential social, cultural and artistic developments in modern history. This fascinating course will trace their emergence against a backdrop of political uncertainty and unrest, and the impact they had on three great world cities: Berlin, Paris, and New York City.

Led by Peter Harris, the former Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science of the University of Toronto.

From King Tutankhamen’s final funerary feast to John F. Kennedy’s biggest White House dinner, this delicious course will reveal how food has influenced decisive moments throughout world history, and reveal how the dishes served at these famous meals were shaped by changing tides in technology, politics, religion, warfare, and art.

Led by Dr. Laura Carlson, who holds a doctorate in History from Oxford University and has taught history, classics, and food studies at Queen’s University and Centennial College. Dr. Carlson is also the executive producer and host of award-winning podcast The Feast.

Beginning with the commercial breakthrough of Pete Seeger and The Weavers in 1950, this dynamic course will trace folk music’s early roots in the 19th and early 20th century—the field recordings of Alan Lomax and the protest songs of the 1930s—before moving on to assess the remarkable music and careers of ‘60s folk icons like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ian and Sylvia, Peter, Paul and Mary, and more.

Led by Dr. Mike Daley, a music historian and professional musician who has taught at Guelph, McMaster, Waterloo and York Universities.

Join Toronto Star Society Columnist—and avid Royal watcher— Shinan Govani as he breaks down the modern history of the one and only House of Windsor, bringing to life its most colourful personalities, its most opulent traditions and, of course, its juiciest scandals.

Led by Shinan Govani, a contributing columnist with the Toronto Star and a columnist for Hello! Canada. Both social chronicler and pop culture decoder, his writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, Town & Country and The Daily Beast.


Registration for a six-week series is $49 ($33, $27, Free for Hot Docs Members; $33 for Hollywood Suite subscribers) and is available to purchase and stream here.


(Photo credit: Hot Docs)


The 2019 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival kicks-off this Thursday, April 27 and runs through Sunday, May 5, 2019, giving Film lovers a chance to see over 200 Documentaries. It is expected that this year’s audience will exceed 200,000 with an array of fascinating guests to visit the City including Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Mr. Toilet, John Cleese, Ai Weiwei, Gordon Lightfoot and more!

Highlighting the Festival this year are AFTER PARKLAND which examines the lives of students who survived the Parkland shooting; ASK DR. RUTH gives us a candid look at the life of the famed Sex Therapist; ASSHOLES: A THEORY looks at the Psychology of well, assholes; DRAG KIDS follows a group of pre-teens brought together by their love for Drag; GORDON LIGHTFOOT: IF YOU COULD READ MY MIND centers on the famed Canadian Singer/Songwriter; HUMAN NATURE received tons of buzz out of Sundance and looks at the new phenomenon of Gene Regulation; MR. TOILET: THE WORLD’S #2 MAN follows Jack Sim‘s quest to raise the standards of toilets worldwide; and Contemporary Artist and Activist Ai Weiwei directs THE REST.


Dr. Ruth


Ai Weiwei


Our Amanda Gilmore (@GilmoreAmandaand George Kozera (@PartyG) had the chance to preview some of the most-buzzed Films of the Festival and here are some of their Reviews, including when and where to see the Films:





This documentary follows UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing Leilani Farha in her quest to define housing as a fundamental human right.

Director Fredrik Gertten does a tremendous job of getting ample amounts of information regarding city housing crisis’s across multiple continents, including North America and Europe. With the push of middle to low-income classes out of cities and into more rural neighbourhoods, this doc raises important questions about what cities are going to be in the future and who they will be for. Push isn’t just a great Doc, but is also shot beautifully. Gertten aids his story by creating a dreary atmosphere by having many cities establishing shots displaying low-grey clouds and rain.

Push screens at Hot Docs on Fri, April 26 at 9:15PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Sat, April 27 at 4PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Wed, May 1 at 1PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, and Sat, May 4 at 9:15PM at Hart House Theatre.

Toxic Beauty

Toxic Beauty examines the effects of everyday cosmetics on the internal health of our bodies.

Director and Writer Phyllis Ellis has created a shockingly informative Documentary that will change the way men and women use their beauty products. Through rigorous interviews, class-action lawsuits and scientific studies this documentary delves deep into what is in our products and what effects they have on our health. It’s a mind-opening and possibly life-changing Film that is essential viewing.

Toxic Beauty screens at Hot Docs on Mon, Apr 29 at 12:45PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, and Thu, May 2 at 5:45PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3.



Advocate follows Israeli Human Rights Lawyer Lea Tsemel who has defended Palestinians against an array of criminal charges.

Directors Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaïche flip between two recent cases Tsemel was working on and prominent cases she took on during her fiveJ decades of work. In doing so, they create an in-depth and balanced look into the daily, gruelling tasks Tsemel, and her family, face. Tsemel states that she is always a loser in the cases she takes on, however, if she is able to get a lesser sentence for her clients then she really is a winner. This doc shows how people from opposite sides can come together and work to help each other.

Advocate screens at Hot Docs on Sun, April 28 at 6PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4, Mon, April 29 at 3:30PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, and Sun May 5 at 6:15PM at Isabel Bader Theatre.


Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World

This Documentary follows citizen journalists who work at Bellingcat, the “home of online investigations” and their resourceful investigative tools that expose untruthful information to international news stories.

Living in a post-truth world that has government officials fabricating news stories, is our frightening reality. Yet, this Documentary helps put us at ease knowing there are volunteer citizens who are using everyday social media tools to help uncover those government lies. Director Hans Pool paces this steadily with his behind-the-scenes access into every day, under-the-radar heroes who work at Bellingcat, resulting in a captivating watch.

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World screens at Hot Docs on Tue, Apr 30 at 9:15PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, Wed, May 1 at 1PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, and Fri, May 3 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.


Well Groomed

Well Groomed follows a few American creative dog groomers and their quest to win both regional and the top-ranked grooming competition.

Director and Writer Rebecca Stern is documenting the artistry that goes into creative dog grooming and the passion behind those who do it. In that sense, this is a universal story of doing what one loves and hoping to one day be rewarded for it. Stern carries this Film along with a steady and often fun pace, however, she does leave some questions unanswered along the way.

Well Groomed screens at Hot Docs on Thu, Apr 25 at 8PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Fri, Apr 26 at 12:45PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, and Sat, May 4 at 10:15AM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.


Take Me To Prom

This Documentary short follows LGBTQ+ Canadians from different decades telling their prom stories.

Take Me To Prom is a beautiful Film that shows us how far we have come for the right of the LGBTQ+ community, but also shows there is more progress to be made. The stories from the handful of people are entirely unique from each other and leave a lasting impact. It will be hard for another to not be moved by this Short Doc.

Take Me To Prom will screen ahead of My Dads, My Moms and Me at the Hot Docs Film Festival on Wed, May 1 at 7PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, and Sat, May 4 at 10AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3.


Knock Down The House

This powerful Documentary follows some of the women, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and more,  who were running for Congress during the 2018 race.

Director Rachel Lears gives us a behind-the-scenes look into the challenges and struggles that many women running for Congress were facing. Everyone loves an underdog story and Lears plays-out this Documentary as an underdog story. Mostly because these women and their stories really were the underdogs and many were and still are rooting for. Knock Down The House is a timely look into American politics and the call for change that was beginning to happen.

Knock Down The House screens at Hot Docs on Sun, Apr 28 at 6:15PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, Mon, Apr 29 at 4PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, Fri, May 3 at 6:30PM at Fox Theatre, and Sat, May 4 at 1PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema.


Because We Are Girls

Because We Are Girls follows three sisters who endured childhood rape, sexual assault and trauma from a relative.

The Film documents one Punjabi-Canadian family and their dark secrets that stem from their toxic family culture. However, this Doc speaks to the experiences that many women and men have experienced no matter their familial background. It’s an extremely hard to watch documentary due to the unflinching stories these women tell, but one that has a powerful message for this and future generations.

Because We Are Girls screens at Hot Docs on Wed, May 1 at 6:15PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4, Thu, May 2 at 1PM at Scotiabank Theatre 13, and Fri, May 3 at 6PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2.

For Sama

Waad al-Kateab has documented the uprising in her home city of Aleppo for decades and threads all the footage into this beautiful documentary, dedicated to her daughter.

Directors al-Kateab and Edward Watts take an unflinching look at the horrific conflict in Aleppo and the effects it has on those caught in the crosshairs. There are many scenes that are gut-wrenching to watch and will leave a wounding effect on your heart for years to come. No matter how hard it is to watch it’s a must-see and one of the most impactful of the Festival.

For Sama screens at Hot Docs on Mon, Apr 29 at 9PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3, Tue, Apr 30 at 12:30PM at Hart House Theatre, and Sun, May 5 at 12:45PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3.


The Corporate Coup D’Etat

This Documentary examines the past two decades in American democracy and how the corporations behind the scenes, may be the ones running the show.

This in-depth study of Corporatism leaves no stone unturned, offering ample amounts of information and captivating interviews. Director Fred Peabody doesn’t only document the reality we are faced with, he forces viewers to question what part they have within our immediate reality. Therefore, resulting in an enthralling Film that has the power to change the way we think.

The Corporate Coup D’Etat screens at Hot Docs on Mon, Apr 29 at 9:30PM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, Tue, Apr 30 at 10AM at Isabel Bader Theatre, and Fri, May 3 at 12PM at Hart House Theatre.



This heartwarming documentary shows the everlasting bond and love between service dogs and their owners.

Director Heddy Honigmann has many subjects who all have distinct stories, which makes each narrative insightful and impactful. Although the Film has the most adorable and impressive service dogs as a focal point, it’s the owner’s vivid and moving personal commentary that leaves the lasting effect.

Buddy screens at Hot Docs on Fri, Apr 26 at 3:15PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Sat, Apr 27 at 3PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, and Tue, Apr 30 at 10:30AM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3.


Assholes: A Theory

This Documentary is inspired by the novel of the same name written by Aaron James and examines what it means to be an asshole.

Director John Walker in the voice of legendary John Cleese, has given us all a gift with this hilarious and insightful look at the different meanings of being an asshole. Although it may sound like all fun and games, Walker takes a closer look at the negative global and social impacts, which cause a ripple effect, of those people who are assholes. In doing this, he gives us an explanation for why our society is the way it is while offering up solutions to help change it.

Assholes: A Theory screens at Hot Docs on Tue, Apr 30 at 7 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Wed, May 1 at 3:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, and Sat, May 4 at 12:45 PM at Isabel Bader Theatre


Killing Patient Zero

During the beginning of the AIDS-crisis in North America, there were doctors and researchers trying to figure out where exactly the disease came from. What they inaccurately came to the conclusion of was that the person responsible for spreading AIDS throughout North America was a male flight attendant from Canada.

Director and Writer Laurie Lynd has brought this powerful story of a particular time in our history to the screen in an eloquent way, all while honouring the life of one man who didn’t deserve the blame that came his way. Lynd does this through captivating interviews and old footage from the 70s and 80s. Overall, this Documentary looks at uplifting and harrowing stories from that time which evokes a range of emotions.

Killing Patient Zero screens at Hot Docs on Fri, Apr 26 at 8:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Sat, Apr 27 at 12:30 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4, and Fri, May 3 at 2:45 PM at Hart House Theatre.

Edge of Democracy

Edge of Democracy follows the journey of Brazil’s rise out of Dictatorship to Democracy only to find that same Democracy being taken away from them.

This Documentary takes it’s time to explain the history of Brazil’s politics, which is needed to help audiences understand the importance of what is happening right now. Although it takes its time there isn’t a moment that the doc feels too long. The in-depth look at the importance of democracy and how easy it can be taken away makes for an importance viewing experience.

Edge of Democracy screens at Hot Docs on Thu, Apr 25 at 5 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, Fri, Apr 26 at 12:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, and Sat, May 4 at 1:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1.


Una Primavera

This Documentary follows the family of one woman as the matriarch separates from the patriarch due to decades of abuse.

Director and Writer Valentina Primavera picks up her camera and gives a personal account of her family’s experience. Due to this deeply personal story the doc evokes immense emotions ranging from joy, anger and sadness. The themes within Una Primavera will resonate with many because it’s a story that has affected many. Due to that, it makes those who have experienced something similar with their family to feel a little less alone.

Una Primavera screens at Hot Docs on Mon, Apr 29 at 9 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 8, Wed, May 1 at 4 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, and Sat, May 4 at 12:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 3.


Framing John Delorean

At one point in his life, John DeLorean seemed to have it all. Rich and handsome. Poised to be the next head of General Motors, then, the most important company in the world. His third marriage to Supermodel Cristina Ferrare, with whom he has two children, is strong and passionate. He decides to leave GM and start his own revolutionary automobile company and designs a car now famous for being featured in Back to the Future. There were many financial hardships and on October 18, 1982, DeLorean was arrested by the FBI for trafficking cocaine in a videotaped sting operation. Framing John DeLorean wants us to figure out if he was framed or was he a mastermind criminal. The documentary is filled with interviews from his friends and co-workers and the insight they provide are fascinating. Where this Movie falters greatly is with its numerous filmed re-enactments starring Alec Baldwin as DeLorean as well as Josh Charles, Morena Baccarin and Dean Winters. I really didn’t care what Baldwin thought of DeLorean or how he approached the acting role and would have preferred that the Filmmakers spent more time with DeLorean’s son, Zack, who comes across tragic and angry.

Framing John Delorean screens at Hot Docs Wed, May 1, 9:15PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, and Fri, May 3, 6:30PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox.


Always in Season

When young Lennon Lacy is found hanging from a swing set in Bladenboro, North Carolina in 2014, the local officials deem it to be suicide, but his family and friends are convinced he was the victim of lynching. Not only does Director Jacqueline Olive investigate this matter in Always in Season, she also films an annual re-enactment of the slaughter of an African American family in Monroe, Georgia in 1934 as well as gives us an oral history of lynching in the southern States for over a century when it was not unusual for members of a town to be invited to attend a “Hanging Bee”. Not only is this Documentary provocative comprehensive in what it shows on screen, it will sadden and infuriate that this barbaric ritual still occurs regularly in the Christian south. This is a searing Documentary that will stay with you for days afterwards.
Always in Season screens at Hot Docs on Sun, Apr 28, 6:15PM Hart House, Tue, Apr 30, 12:45PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox, and Sat, May 4 6:30 PM at Hart House.


On the Inside of a Military Dictatorship

Despite being imprisoned for years and labelled a pariah by the male ruling and military class, when winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Aung San Suu Kyi, was overwhelmingly voted into power in Myanmar in 2015, the world believed she could bring stability to a country rocked by violence and corruption. Whereas On the Inside of a Military Dictatorship touches on many issues plaguing her, including ethnic cleansing violence between Buddhists and Muslims, This Documentary fails to keep the interest of the audience mostly due to the monotone of the Narrator (and Director) Karen Stokkendal Poulsen, its “talking heads” motif and redundant and repetitive interviews, it will appeal greatly to Political Sciences students and followers.

On the Inside of a Military Dictatorship screens at Hot Docs on Fri, Apr 26, 8:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Sun, Apr 28, 12:15PM at Hart House, and Thurs, May 2, 12:15PM at Scotiabank.


The Wandering Chef

Have you ever hiked deep inside a forest, overturn a huge boulder and wonder if the moss growing underneath would make for a tasty soup? Not only does acclaimed celebrity Korean Chef, Jiho Im, do that as well as with other ingredients we mere mortal would step on or ignore, he travels these woods helping elderly farmers with their chores and cooks meals for them that are delicious with medicinal healing powers. Still affected emotionally due to the death of his strong maternal figure, Im’s relationship with an 88-year-old frail farmer is the crux and beautiful beating heart and soul of The Wandering Chef. This charming Documentary may even make you want to chew on some roots you find buried deep in gravel, especially after you watch him lovingly prepare 108 dishes in 24 hours.

THE WANDERING CHEF screens at Hot Docs Wed, May 1, 6:30pm at Hart House, Thu, May 2, 3:00PM at Scotiabank, and Fri, May 3, 9:30PM at Isabel Bader Theatre.


Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man

One cannot watch this Documentary without a huge smile on your face for the most part. Jack Sim is out to solve the world’s sanitation problem as 40% of the world’s population does not have access to a room most of us take for granted. He has been hired to secure six million toilets to a region in India where the natives rather spend their money on cellphones or satellite dishes than having indoor plumbing. Women, in particular, need to find safe and secure outdoor places to relief themselves away from prying eyes and sexual assaults that occur on a daily basis. Mr. Toilet uses many means in its cinematic options to make their case. Humorous movie puns abound and animated sequences are interspersed with frightening statistics. Jack Sim is passionate and eccentric to boot – interviews with his wife and children are hysterical. This Documentary is an entertaining must-see, especially for those who give a “crap”!

Mr. Toilet: The World’s #2 Man screens at Hot Docs Sat, Apr 27 at 5:45PM at Scotiabank, Sun, Apr 28, 1:00PM at Isabel Bader Theatre, and Sat, May 4, 8:30PM at Fox Theatre.


Drag Kids

Take three boys and one girl, all between the ages of nine to eleven, who love dressing up and performing in drag and you have one of the most fascinating and entertaining documentaries ever filmed about this still relatively underground subculture. Drag Kids not only is unique as it features preteens overcoming obstacles to pursue their passion for performing, it delves into the relationships between parents and children and the bullying their children experience at times. It also takes us deep into the world of competitive Vogueing which is prominently featured in critically-acclaimed TV series POSE.

The children are insanely talented, eloquent and compelling to watch especially when they get overly excited whether it is over a pair of heels or Rice Krispie squares. The parents are unconditionally supportive and protective and the predominantly Lady Gaga tunes will have your toes tapping. You must check out Drag Kids, it is fab…u…lous!

Drag Kids screen at Hot Docs on Sunday, Apr 28 at 6:15 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Tuesday, Apr.30 at 1:15 at TIFF Bell Lightbox and Friday May 3 at 3:45 at TIFF Bell Lightbox.


Find Tickets here.


(Photo credit: Hot Docs/Mr. Will Wong)


The 2019 HOT DOCS Film Festival announced today 15 Special Presentations including international and world premieres. The 26th edition of the Festival runs April 25 to May 5, 2019. Documentaries include KNOCK DOWN THE HOUSE, which centers on Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sundance Award-winning ALWAYS IN SEASON.

A list of Special Presentations:

D: Rachel Leah Jones, Philippe Bellaiche | P: Joëlle Bertossa, Paul Cadieux | Canada, Israel, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Finland | 2019 | 105 min | Canadian Premiere

As one of the few Israeli human-rights lawyers willing to defend Palestinians, Lea Tsemel has been defying hostility and vitriol from the public and press for nearly 50 years to fight for clients in a stacked system.

D: Jacqueline Olive | P: Jacqueline Olive, Jessica Devaney | USA | 2019 | 88 min | International Premiere

The unresolved case of a Black teen found hanging from a swing set in North Carolina in 2014 is the lens through which this searing doc examines the lingering trauma of more than a century of lynching and continued racial violence.

D: John Walker | P: Ann Bernier, Annette Clarke, John Walker | Canada | 2019 | 81 min | North American Premiere

Inspired by the New York Times bestselling book, this lively philosophical investigation into the rise of asshole behaviour across the world asks: What does it mean to be an asshole, and more importantly, how do we stop their proliferation?

D: Heddy Honigmann | P: John Appel | Netherlands | 2018 | 86 min | Canadian Premiere

Master documentarian Heddy Honigmann turns her eye for authenticity and genuine interview to the complex relationships between service dogs and their owners. Witness canine humanity and life-altering trust at work in this observational marvel.

D: Fred Peabody | P: Peter Raymont | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere

Piercing insights from journalist Chris Hedges and philosopher John Ralston Saul dissect America at a troubling crossroads, exposing Trump’s MAGA doctrine as a symptom of a broken democracy where power now lies with corporations, not citizens.

D: Petra Costa | P: Joanna Natasegara | Brazil | 2019 | 112 min | Canadian Premiere

Featuring unprecedented access to former Brazilian presidents Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva, the personal and political brilliantly combine in this unflinching exploration of one of the most dramatic and polarizing periods in Brazilian history.

D: Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell | P: Paul Cadieux, Brendan J. Byrne | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | Canadian Premiere

Fully blockaded and home to almost two million people, the Gaza Strip is portrayed in the news as the world’s largest open-air prison—but this rare immersion into everyday Palestinian life reveals the pressures of occupation and the humanity straining to flourish.

D: Adam Bolt | P: Sarah Goodwin, Meredith Desalazar, Elliot Kirschner | USA | 2019 | 107 min | Canadian Premiere

In a brave new world in which science fiction collides with fact and DNA sequences can be edited with ease, this provocative examination forces us to reconsider what it means to be human.

D: Laurie Lynd | P: Corey Russell | Canada | 2019 | 100 min | World Premiere

Skilfully revealing the homophobia behind the headlines, this doc traces the devastating impact of the 1980s AIDS epidemic and clears the name of the Québécois flight attendant who was infamously known as “patient zero.”

D: Rachel Lears | P: Rachel Lears, Robin Blotnick, Sarah Olson | USA | 2019 | 85 min | International Premiere

This rollercoaster ride follows four progressive women—including Bronx bartender Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—behind the scenes and in the streets as they grind through long-shot grassroots campaigns for Congress during the 2018 US midterms.

D: Jeffrey Palmer | P: Jeffrey Palmer, Youngsun Palmer | USA | 2018 | 85 mins | International Premiere

The life and career of Pulitzer Prize–winning Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday, one of Native America’s most celebrated literary figures, is explored in this spiritual journey through the expansive landscapes of the West and New Mexico.

D: Elizabeth Carroll | P: Elizabeth Carroll, Dan Braun, Gina Abatemarco | USA | 2019 | 82 min | International Premiere

Dubbed “the Mick Jagger of Mexican cooking,” a 96-year-old firebrand chef who’s spent her career celebrating the country’s regional cuisines rushes to solidify her hard-earned legacy in the face of her own mortality.

D: Fredrik Gertten | P: Margarete Jangård | Sweden | 2019 | 92 min | North American Premiere

As skyrocketing housing prices and stagnant incomes squeeze families out of cities worldwide, a newly appointed UN specialist from Ottawa travels from Toronto to Barcelona to London and beyond, fighting to have affordable housing recognized as a human right.

D: Phyllis Ellis | P: Peter Raymont, Barri Cohen | Canada | 2019 | 90 min | World Premiere

Cancer, diabetes, developmental delays and more—the cosmetics industry’s ugly secrets are exposed through exclusive interviews with scientists, whistleblowers and consumer survivors who raise pressing questions about risks, regulations and the true cost of beauty.

D: Henry Singer, Rob Miller | P: Henry Singer, Rob Miller, Ida Bruusgaard | UK, Norway | 2018 | 100 min | Canadian Premiere

Accused of horrific war crimes, the “Butcher of Bosnia” finally faces a verdict in the biggest trial since Nuremberg. Embedded with both the prosecution and defense, this courtroom thriller reveals the troublingly nuanced Serbian–Bosnian conflict that still rages on.




D: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert | P: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, Julie Parker Benello | USA | 2019 | 115 min | International Premiere

When an abandoned General Motors factory in Ohio is reopened by a Chinese billionaire, the local blue-collar employees clash with modern Chinese innovations in this Sundance award-winner co-directed by this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award recipient Julia Reichert.


D: Ryan White | P: Rafael Marmor, Ryan White, Jessica Hargrave, Christopher Leggett | USA | 2019 | 100 min | International Premiere

Do we have anything left to learn from 90-year-old sex therapist Dr. Ruth? In this revealing look at a true trailblazer, she revisits the painful memories of her early life in Germany and the playful milestones of her career as America’s most candid sex ed teacher.


D: Mads Brügger | P: Arno Becker, Andreas Rocksén, Bjarte Mørner Tveit | Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium | 2019 | 127 min | Canadian Premiere

Was it accident or assassination when a UN Secretary General’s plane crashed en route to peace talks for the Congo Crisis? In this probe into the 1961 tragedy, sinister new evidence draws the director into a discovery more horrific than he imagined.


D: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce | P: Tamir Ardon, Nick Spicer, Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce | USA | 2019 | 109 min | International Premiere

Car design guru, genius entrepreneur or brilliant criminal—who was the real John DeLorean? Narrative recreations starring Alec Baldwin punctuate revealing interviews with the enigmatic automaker’s inner circle to elegantly parse the man from the scandalous myth.


D: Joan Tosoni, Martha Kehoe | P: Joan Tosoni, Martha Kehoe | Canada | 2018 | 90 min | World Premiere

From a rural Ontario childhood to Greenwich Village of the ’60s, stadium tours of the ’70s and beyond, vivid archival footage helps chart the career of the legendary songwriter as he reveals the inspiration behind his lyrics and longevity.


D: Erin Lee Carr | P: Andrew Rossi | USA | 2019 | 140 min | International Premiere

This two-part HBO docu-series dives past the headlines and into the ethical morass of the case of Michelle Carter, who faces the prospect of jail time after coercing her boyfriend into suicide via text, blowing open troubling questions of how we communicate in the digital age.


D: Stanley Nelson | P: Nicole London, Stanley Nelson | USA, UK | 2019 | 113 min | International Premiere

Never-before-seen footage and studio session outtakes reconstruct the rich inner life of one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time, along with new interviews from the artists he inspired, including Quincy Jones and Carlos Santana.


D: Richard Lowenstein | P: Maya Gnyp, John Battsek, Sue Murray, Mark Fennessy, Richard Lowenstein, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot | Australia | 2019 | 104 min | Canadian Premiere

The enigmatic frontman of wildly popular Australian rock band INXS, who died tragically in 1997, is remembered by the women in his life, including revealing interviews with famous girlfriends Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen.


D: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang | P: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christoph Jörg, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn | USA | 2019 | 89 min | Canadian Premiere

Through vérité footage and raw interviews, this fearless, Sundance Award–winning exposé unmasks the wrenching costs to millions of families of China’s infamous 1979 “one-child policy,” introduced to curb population growth and boost sweeping economic development.


D: Mark Franchetti, Andrew Meier | P: Mark Franchetti, Andrew Meier | UK, Russia | 2018 | 93 min | World Premiere

The family of a high-ranking Sicilian mob boss comes out of 30 years of hiding to tell the gripping tale of how he helped convict over 400 Mafiosi—and became the most hunted witness in US criminal history.


D: Ian Cheney, Martha Shane | P: Jennifer Lee, Ian Cheney, Martha Shane | USA | 2019 | 84 min | International Premiere

Explore the evolution of emojis, the colourful and creative pictorial language that surged from a simple set of icons to a swiftly evolving linguistic phenomenon that is reshaping how we communicate with one another.


D: Johnny Sweet | P: Colleen Dominguez, Omar Michaud, Johnny Sweet | USA | 2019 | 116 min | International Premiere

Following an infamous on-court brawl, Ron Artest became the most maligned athlete in sports. This distinctly American biography follows him from his childhood in Queens to his turbulent NBA years to his reinvention as inspiring mental health advocate Metta World Peace.


D: Ai Weiwei | P: Ai Weiwei | Germany | 2018 | 78 min | North American Premiere

From Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei comes a powerful work that follows the daily lives of refugees in Europe as they hang in limbo between a disintegrating humanitarian aid system and intensifying nationalism.


D: Henrik Georgsson | P: Mattias Nohrborg, Fredrik Heinig | Sweden | 2018 | 99 min | Canadian Premiere

This compelling look at the Swedish journalist, whose The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series shot to wild posthumous fame, delves into his lesser-known but more significant contribution: fearlessly researching and exposing Neo-Nazism in his own country and beyond.


D: Laurence Mathieu-Leger | P: Laurence Mathieu-Leger, Bryant McBride | USA, Canada | 2018 |

89 min | World Premiere

In the midst of the American civil rights movement, Willie O’Ree became the first Black player to skate in the NHL. An inspiration to many, the remarkable story of this recent Hall of Fame inductee’s courage and resilience transcends the sport.


D: Tim Travers Hawkins | P: Julia Nottingham, Thomas Benski, Lucas Ochoa, Isabel Davis | UK | 2019 | 91 min | Canadian Premiere

After her 35-year prison sentence is commuted by President Obama, former military intelligence analyst and whistleblower Chelsea Manning prepares to leave a military prison and transition to her new life as a free woman.

UPDATE 3/19/19: A total 234 Films from 56 countries have been announced and finalized for this year’s Festival, of which 54% are from female Filmmakers. The Scotiabank Big Ideas Series will feature Ai Weiwei (The Rest); biochemist and leading figure in the “CRISPR revolution” Jennifer Doudna (Human Nature); Willie O’Ree, the first Black hockey player to play in the NHL (Willie); beloved Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot (Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind); and whistleblower Deane Berg, Dr. Daniel Cramer of the Harvard Cancer Center and Dr. Ami Zota of George Washington University (Toxic Beauty).

Tickets will be open to the public Tuesday, March 26 at 11:00 a.m. More details here:


(Photo/video credit: Hot Docs)