Tag Archives: hot docs

Hot Docs festival nets record-high audience number and box-office increase

TORONTO – A record-high crowd took in this year’s Hot Docs festival in Toronto, resulting in a box-office boon.

Organizers say an estimated 151,000 audience members attended the 11-day event, which wrapped Sunday, marking an 11 per cent increase over last year.

That resulted in a 24-per-cent boost in box-office revenue compared to last year.

Hot Docs has also announced that “Somewhere Between” won the Sundance Channel People’s Choice Award at the festival. Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton, the film follows four Chinese-born adoptees as they come of age between two cultures in the U.S.

Meanwhile, “At the Edge of Russia” by Michal Marczak won the Filmmakers Award, which is voted on by attending filmmakers with official selections at the festival. The portrait of six men who patrol an Arctic outpost also won the HBO documentary films emerging artist award at the festival last week.

And “PC Bang: The Rise of the Esports Hero” from producer Erica Landrock is the winner of the Shaw Media-Hot Docs Rendezvous Pitch Prize and recipient of a $5,000 cash prize.

The Top 10 audience favourites as determined by audience vote at this year’s Hot Docs festival were:

1. “Somewhere Between”

2. “Give Up Tomorrow,” directed by Michael Collins

3. “How to Die in Oregon,” directed by Peter D. Richardson

4. “Wild Horse, Wild Ride,” by Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus

5. “Senna,” from Asif Kapadia

6. “Buck,” directed by Cindy Meehl

7. “Jig,” helmed by Sue Bourne

8. “Eco Pirate: The Story OF Paul Watson, from Trish Dolman

9. “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” helmed by Constance Marks and Philip Shane

10. “Koran by Heart,” by Greg Barker

Source: The Canadian Press

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.

Hot Docs film festival kicks off today – but possibly without Iranians

TORONTO – It’s a testament to the worldwide scope of the Hot Docs documentary film festival that a handful of Iranian filmmakers may not make it out of their authoritarian country to travel to Toronto for the event.

About a half-dozen filmmakers, the subject of the festival’s Spotlight on Iran segment, are having trouble getting travel visas that will allow them to come to Canada for the 10-day event kicking off Thursday.

“It speaks to the difficulty that people in that part of the world have getting visas to come to the West,” Chris McDonald, executive director of Hot Docs, said Tuesday, adding that hurdles have been put in place by both the Iranian and Canadian governments.

“We’re going day by day at this point, and we don’t know officially if they’ll ever get here. But it’s not uncommon, and we were warned – we went to Iran in the fall and we were told by people at the Canadian Embassy that this was going to be an issue.”

But McDonald says the visa issue has been the only serious headache this year for the 15th annual Hot Docs festival. The event is now widely recognized as one of the most prestigious festivals of its kind, along with the similar Amsterdam documentary fest held each fall.

More than 2,000 films from around the world were submitted to Hot Docs this year, with 174 documentaries chosen from 36 countries. About 40 of those documentaries are from Canadian filmmakers, McDonald says.

Why has Hot Docs become such a rousing success?

“I never underestimate how important it is that Toronto has such great film audiences, and they’ve been packing the cinemas for this festival for years, and filmmakers love that,” he said.

“They love to see a crowded house but they also love the quality of the questions and the comments they get from film-goers and that they know what they’re talking about.”

The proximity to the United States also gives Hot Docs the edge over Amsterdam, as 2,000 delegates from Canada and around the world shop for films, McDonald said.

“A lot of business happens at our festival, and one thing that differentiates us from Amsterdam is there are a lot more North American buyers at our event, and the U.S. is a huge, huge market, obviously. So that makes it attractive for delegates in a different way than Amsterdam is.”

Canadian documentarians with films at Hot Docs this year said they were delighted to be participating.

Nik Sheehan is the director of “Flicker,” a film about 1970s subculture icon Brion Gysin and his invention of a so-called dream machine that helped people to get high without drugs.

“The Hot Docs people have been really good to me,” Sheehan said. “And I was kind of surprised they took it (“Flicker”) because Hot Docs was sort of known for different types of films that delved into social issues and politics, so I wasn’t expecting to get in. But they loved the film and they gave us these terrific venues and times, so I’m really thrilled about that.”

Montreal filmmaker Howard Goldberg’s film about short men, “S&M: Short and Male,” is also at Hot Docs. It’s an eye-opening look at how short men are routinely discriminated against in places as far-flung as sperm banks, corporate boardrooms and pickup bars.

“It’s really important to get your film into Hot Docs, so I submitted it and kept my fingers crossed, and was so happy to hear it got in,” said Goldberg.

“I am excited as a filmmaker in terms of my career, but equally important for me is the cause. If this film gets a lot of attention at Hot Docs, if it gets seen by a lot of people, it could really go a long way to changing the way people treat short-statured men.”

Hot Docs opens with a two-film gala on Thursday night at Toronto’s downtown Winter Garden Theatre – “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” about the influential Canadian metal band, followed by “Air India 182,” a look at the 1985 terrorist attack.

The short “Green Porno” from Toronto filmmaker Jody Shapiro and actress/director Isabella Rossellini kicks off the night. The film delves into the sex lives of insects.

McDonald says it will be a shame if the Iranian filmmakers don’t make it to the festival to attend screenings of their eight moving documentaries, including “Be Like Others,” a film about the transgendered community in Iran.

“Despite the fact, or perhaps because of the fact, that homosexuality is punished by death in Iran, they have one of the highest per capita rates of transsexualism in the world, and the film follows a number of people who are transgendering, which is, oddly enough, sanctioned by the government,” McDonald says.

“It’s a great film.”

Other films McDonald loves at “Hot Docs” include “Song Sung Blue,” about a husband-and-wife team who are Neil Diamond and Patsy Cline impersonators, and “The English Surgeon,” about a British brain surgeon who volunteers at a decrepit hospital in Kyiv.

Source: The Canadian Press

A Retrospective look at Hot Docs 2007

By Jennifer F. Modica,

Toronto, ON – It isn’t hard to see why documentaries have become such a popular genre these days. A DVD collection is scarcely complete without a documentary or two. Hot Docs has capitalized on the niche, celebrating and showcasing the very best the doc world has to offer. They’ve also successfully marketed the event around their aptly named motto: “Outspoken. Outstanding,” generating both audience frenzy and steep competition amongst filmmakers.

Some critics of the event cited this intensity as both a drawback and a benefit of the event. “The greatest thing about it [Hot Docs] is the intense passion generated,” recent contributor, Albert Nerenberg commented, “but it also meant scalpers were selling tickets [to our film] and our own guys couldn’t watch their work.” However, this kind of success at the event is not typical for each contributor. It is no small feat that Nerenberg’s film Let’s All Hate Toronto is making its commercial debut in the city.

Overall, most doc Producer-Directors find Hot Docs to be a beneficial venue for documentaries. Let’s All Hate Toronto’s screening was a huge success giving the film exposure to two thousand viewers. Nerenberg felt Hot Docs increased the hype surrounding the film directly increasing its audience. Hot Docs has produced a grape vine like effect in generating interest around a film. This is the case for Let’s All Hate Toronto. whose commercial debut in Toronto had everyone out standing in ticket queues and out speaking about the film.

The future for Hot Docs does not come without challenges. In its 14th year, Hot Docs’ presence on the scene as the biggest documentary festival in North America coupled with its growing popularity may not have given the event enough time to mature consistently with its grassroots foundation. With a mandate “to showcase and support the work of Canadian and international documentary filmmakers and to promote excellence in documentary production,” the festival hopes to captivate and inspire success for rising “Doc Stars.”

As long as remarkable stories are highlighted in this niche, Hot Docs will be able to consistently define itself as a festival that is both outspoken and outstanding. The Festival is also the backbone for innovations such as the Toronto Documentary Forum and Doc Soup; Hot Docs has made documentaries more accessible than they have ever been for Torontonians. And if Doc Soup doesn’t feed your hunger for documentaries, you have until next April to submit your own….

Doc Soup wraps with ‘Souvenirs’

TORONTO, Hot Docs is pleased to announce that Doc Soup, its popular monthly film series, will screen the Canadian premiere of SOUVENIRS (Israel, 2006, 75 min) at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor Street West) on Wednesday, April 4 at 6:30 and 9:15 pm. From Israeli directors Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat, the quest to find ‘souvenirs’ in this charming documentary reveals a powerful and fascinating historical tale.

Shahar, an unemployed filmmaker, discovers that his 82 year old father, Sleiman, who had served in the Jewish Brigade during World War II, may have left behind some ‘souvenirs’ – by having impregnated two Dutch women. Sleiman and Shahar then set out on a journey together following the trail of the Jewish Brigade, beginning in Israel, through Italy, Germany and concluding in Holland, in search of the lost off-springs, lost love, and the consequences of courage. Ending with a surprising discovery, the film also documents young, idealistic, and courageous men who left their homeland to take part in a war that changed the course of human history.

Winner of the Best Documentary Award at the 2006 Doc Aviv Festival, SOUVENIRS cleverly exposes, with humor and compassion, the complexities of a father-son relationship juxtaposed with lost moments of glory from World War II; while also raising universal questions about the tension between myths of bravery and reality, and between memory and historical veracity.

Posts navigation