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Hot Docs fest wraps in Toronto

TORONTO – /TO411 DAILY/ — Toronto’s burgeoning documentary festival officially concluded Monday with its announcement of the Audience Award. Determined by ballot, this year’s winner was Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai (directed by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater, USA).

The 11-day fest and confab closed with record-breaking numbers that saw 85,000 in attendance (up from 68,000 last year), 173 films screened, and over 2,200 industry delegates, including international film buyers and sellers, puttering around the downtown core despite a city-wide transit strike that marred the fest’s closing weekend.

“The success of this year’s festival is a testament to our audiences,” Hot Docs CEO and executive director Chris McDonald said in a statement.

But it wasn’t just regular viewing audiences benefiting from the fest. Industry types convened for the Toronto Documentary Forum, Hot Docs’ annual flagship market event.

The premium industry showcase has separate accreditation and aids independent producers from across the globe (as well as their marketing partners) in gathering co-financers from the international marketplace.

This year’s conference saw over 130 buyers and 80 producers who are part of the Official Delegations from Brazil, Italy, Catalan, the Nordic Region and South Korea.

“It’s been wonderful to see the positive response to the new programs at the TDF – a record number of submissions and participating buyers,” said TDF Director Michaelle McLean. “This promises a very productive market for everyone.”

There’s also the Doc Shop, the largest digital doc market in North America. It offers buyers access to some 1,500 titles which go online as soon as the festival ends, giving year-round access to registered buyers across the world.

Now in its 15th year, Hot Docs’ exponential growth can be attributed to Steve Farnel (former documentary programmer for the Toronto International Film Festival) and his takeover of the programming position three year’s ago.

It’s now not only seen as a world class festival, but one that is second only to TIFF in this city.

That’s not to say that this year’s installment went off without a hitch.

Opening day saw organizers scrambling to procure visas for six Iranian filmmakers due in town on the 24th for a “Spotlight on Iran” sidebar and panel discussion.

Days later, an Australian doc called Beyond Our Ken (directed by Luke Walker & Melissa Maclean) — about Kenja, a “spiritual enlightenment organization” long described in the media as cult — had its Q & A crashed by loudmouthed protesters flown in from Down Under on the organization’s dime. 

In the latter case, the bemused filmmakers took the intrusion in stride. “I see you’ve all received some interesting materials on the way in,” quipped Walker to the audience, referring to propagandistic pamphlets distributed by Kenja members to ticketholders as they waited in line for the film.

Hot Docs 2008 is never without its success stories either. The festival’s opening night film, Sacha Gervasi’s Anvil! The Story of Anvil, a rockumentary about aging Toronto metalheads that came to Hot Docs via Sundance, earned the cover of Eye Weekly and received an encore screening Sunday night, which promptly sold-out and maintained an impressive rush line despite TTC service just beginning to pick back up in the city.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Anvil‘s director now has three U.S. distribution offers on the table, and hopes to close a deal in Toronto.

The Hot Docs Awards Presentation was held Friday at the Isabel Bader Theatre. With the CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi as host, ten awards and $30,000 in cash and prizes were given out to only a handful of the 173 films represented. The final rundown, which includes Monday’s Audience Award and CIDA award (best Canadian film on an international development issue) is as follows:

JUNIOR (D: Isabelle Lavigne, Stephane Thibault; P: Johanne Bergeron, Yves Bisaillon (NFB))

FLICKER (D: Nik Sheehan; P: Maureen Judge, Anita Lee (NFB))

THE ENGLISH SURGEON (D: Geoffrey Smith; P: Geoffrey Smith, Rachel Wexler; UK)

TO SEE IF I’M SMILING (D&P: Tamar Yarom; Israel)

IT’S ALWAYS LATE FOR FREEDOM (D&P: Mehrdad Oskouei; Iran)


Boris Despodov for CORRIDOR #8 (P: Martichka Bozhilova; Bulgaria)

Montreal-based director Yung Chang, whose film UP THE YANGTZE recently broke Canadian box office records for documentaries.

Toronto-based filmmaker Elizabeth Lazebnik. The prize is presented annually to a filmmaker who works in the spirit of its namesake – with passion, humour, a strong sense of social justice and a personal point of view.

Documentary pioneer, Richard Leacock


CIDA AWARD ($5000)
SHOCK WAVES, directed by Pierre Mignault and Helene Magny.

A festival top 10 (determined by audience ballot) was also released following the finalized award list. These were films that didn’t necessarily garner awards but maintained top scores throughout the festival. Some — like Anvil! — earned encore screenings on the final weekend following the official awards.

The audience top 10 can be accessed here.

Hot Docs 2009 has already been announced for April 30-May 10.


At this year’s Festival, 352 films from 61 countries will screen, including 261 features, 91 per cent of which are world, international or North American premieres, and 62 of which are feature directorial debuts. Limited Festival Passes and Coupon Books are available until August 25, offering outstanding deals available to filmgoers of all ages.

The complete lineup additionally features eight Gala Presentations, including the world premiere of Michael Apted’s AMAZING GRACE, starring Ioan Gruffudd, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rufus Sewell, Youssou N’Dour, Ciaran Hinds, Romola Garai, Michael Gambon, and Albert Finney. This years Closing Night Film; Ridley Scott’s A GOOD YEAR, a world premiere starring Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, and Abbie Cornish; Anthony Minghella’s BREAKING AND ENTERING, a world premiere starring Jude Law, Martin Freeman, Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, and Rafi Gavron; Patrice Leconte’s MON MEILLEUR AMI, a world premiere starring Daniel Auteuil, Dany Boon, and Julie Gayet; Douglas McGrath’s INFAMOUS, a North American premiere starring Toby Jones, Sandra Bullock, Daniel Craig, Peter Bogdanovich, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Gwyneth Paltrow, Isabella Rossellini, Juliet Stevenson, Sigourney Weaver, John Benjamin Hickey, and Lee Pace; Paul Verhoeven’s BLACK BOOK, a North American premiere starring Carice van Houten, Sebastian Koch, Thom Hoffman and

Halina Reijn; Feng Xiaogang’s THE BANQUET, a North American premiere starring Ziyi Zhang and Daniel Wu; and Susanne Bier’s AFTER THE WEDDING, a North American premiere starring Mads Mikkelsen, Sidse Babett Knudsen, and Rolf LassgÃ¥rd. Gala tickets on sale Saturday, August 26 at 10 a.m.

A blockbuster Mavericks features up close and personal conversations with Michael Moore, John Waters, John Cameron Mitchell, Karan Johar, Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherji, and Amitabh Bachchan. The Festival also announces five presentations in its Dialogues: Talking with Pictures programme. Presenters Bruce Weber, Albert Maysles, Perry Henzell, Costa Gavras, and Christine Vachon will showcase films that have inspired them or mark a significant period in their careers.

Wavelengths spotlights 27 films and videos in five programmes and features internationally renowned visual artists working in film and video. The programme features new work from such celebrated artists as Abbas Kiarostami, Mika Taanila, Jay Rosenblatt, Nathaniel Dorsky, Christoph Girardet, and Matthias Müller.

Thirteen titles, consisting of five world premieres and seven North American premieres, round out this year’s edition of Masters, which will include Goran Paskaljevic’s THE OPTIMISTS; Volker Schlöndorff’s STRIKE; Alain Resnais’ COEURS; Benoît Jacquot’s L’INTOUCHABLE; Gianni Amelio’s THE MISSING STAR; and Robert Guédiguian’s LE VOYAGE EN ARMÉNIE.

Fifteen films have been added to Visions for a complete line-up of 31 films from 25 countries, including Gabriel Range’s D.O.A.P.; Jem Cohen’s BUILDING A BROKEN MOUSETRAP, NYC WEIGHTS AND MEASURES and BLESSED ARE THE DREAMS OF MEN; Jay Anania’s DAY ON FIRE; Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s KHADAK; Manoel de Oliveira’s BELLE TOUJOURS; Katsuhiro Otomo’s BUGMASTER; Olivier Masset-Depasse’s CAGES; Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s

CLIMATES; Pedro Costa’s COLOSSAL YOUTH; Julia Loktev’s DAY NIGHT DAY NIGHT; Pavel Lounguine’s THE ISLAND; Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s ZIDANE: UN PORTRAIT DU XXIème SIÈCLE; and So Yong Kim’s IN


With eleven titles announced, the full Special Presentations line-up features 39 films from 15 countries, including Ann Hui’s THE POSTMODERN LIFE OF MY AUNT; Mira Nair’s THE NAMESAKE; Hong Sang-soo’s WOMAN ON THE BEACH; Emanuele Crialese’s GOLDEN DOOR; Todd Field’s LITTLE CHILDREN; Johnnie To’s EXILED; Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s THE LIVES OF OTHERS; Joachim Lafosse’s NUE PROPRIÉTÉ; PARIS JE T’AIME; Santiago Amigorena’s QUELQUES JOURS EN SEPTEMBRE; and Marc Evans’ SNOW CAKE.

Contemporary World Cinema features 60 titles, including 19 world, 4 international and 32 North American premieres from a total of 40 countries, including recently announced Alejandro Gomez Monteverde’s BELLA; Mel Chionglo’s TWILIGHT DANCERS; Dror Shaul’s SWEET MUD; Cate Shortland’s THE SILENCE; Jeffrey Jeturian’s THE BET COLLECTOR; and Chris Kraus’ FOUR MINUTES.

The North American premiere of THE HOTTEST STATE, written and directed by Ethan Hawke, joins the 12 films already announced in the new Festival programme, Vanguard.

Seven titles join Real to Reel for a complete programme featuring 34 titles from 18 countries, 28 of which will see a world, international or North American premiere, including James Stern and Adam Del Deo’s …SO GOES THE NATION; Rob Stewart’s SHARKWATER; Adrian Grenier’s SHOT IN THE DARK; Jia Zhangke’s DONG; Ron Mann’s TALES OF THE RAT FINK; Amy Berg’s DELIVER US FROM EVIL; and Sadik Ahmed’s TANJU MIAH.

New this year, to ensure that audiences of all ages can be part of the Festival experience, TIFF has significantly increased the number of films submitted for classification. Film classifications appear in the Official Film Schedule on August 29 and will be updated on the Festival website. Additionally, the films in Sprockets Family Zone each have specific age recommendations, from age four to age 11. Films without classification are restricted to those 18 years and older. In addition to these titles, two previously announced films – Alejandro González Iñárritu’s BABEL, a North American premiere starring Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael García Bernal; and PENELOPE, a world premiere starring Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon, Catherine O’Hara, Richard E. Grant, James McAvoy, and Peter Dinklage – will now screen as Gala Presentations.

Advance tickets for Festival films are available September 6. For more information and to purchase tickets call 416-968-FILM, click bell.ca/filmfest or visit one of two Box Office locations: the Festival HQ Box Office, located on the Main Floor of Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West (North Entrance) and, opening August 29, the Festival Box Office at College Park, 444 Yonge Street (South Entrance, market level). The Festival’s

programme book and Official Film Schedule are available August 29.