Massive Documentary Festival Hot Docs Pulls Out Stops for 25th Year

By Kim Hughes

If there was a key takeaway from Tuesday’s press conference announcing the 2018 line-up of films screening at the 25th annual Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, it was this: truth really is stranger than fiction. 

 The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man... the title says it all.

The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man... the title says it all.

Luckily, there is an army of filmmakers worldwide obsessed with documenting the best non-fiction stories on the planet via film, video, and smartphone. Also, those fortunate enough to be in Toronto April 26 to May 6 during the Festival’s run can anticipate some phenomenal-looking features, shorts, and other dazzling visual ephemera. 

Among them, Maya Gallus’ The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution, a glimpse into the kitchens of the world’s top female chefs which serves as the Festival’s opening night presentation. (It’s also a world premiere). 

Other notable films in the Special Presentations program include: Active Measures, a deep-dive into Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 US presidential election; Andy Irons: Kissed By God, which profiles the legendary surfing champion and his struggles with mental illness; Behind the Curve, which looks at the rise of flat Earth believers; The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons Learned From a Mythical Man, which goes in search of true stories of the famous actor popping up in random scenarios; and Love, Gilda, a touching biopic of beloved actor and comedian Gilda Radner.

It may be worth pausing to tally some numbers to put this in perspective. From 3059 film submissions, this year’s slate will present 246 films and 16 interdisciplinary projects from 56 countries in 14 screening programs, with work by female filmmakers representing 50 per cent of the 2018 program. 

Some 16 screens across the city will be utilized including Cinesphere at Ontario Place which hosts a free world premiere IMAX screening of The Trolley on May 5 at 3 pm.

Additionally, Hot Docs will also present 25th anniversary screenings of Chris Hegedus and DA Pennebaker’s The War Room and Alanis Obomsawin’s Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, at which the directors will be present for post-screening discussions.

According to programmers, last year’s Hot Docs welcomed some 215,000 souls. This year may well top that, thanks in part to the Festival’s broad access, once again offering free same-day tickets for all screenings before 5 pm to seniors (60+) and students with valid photo I.D. at the venue box offices (subject to availability), courtesy of CBC Docs.

Some other films that caught our attention: I, Dolours, a first-hand account from militant IRA activist Dolours Price of her life; Love, Scott, a heart-breaking film about a young gay musician’s brave recovery after a vicious attacked left him paralyzed; This Mountain Life, which follows a 60-year-old mother and daughter’s six-month trek through the stunning but treacherous Rocky Mountains; United We Fan, about how super-fans of famous TV shows fight to keep them on the air; The Feeling of Being Watched, which uncovers one of the largest FBI terrorism probes conducted before 9/11; Of Fish and Foe, the story of Scotland’s last traditional fishing family battling animal activists on the high seas; Don’t Be Nice, about an upstart slam poetry team from NYC preparing for national championships; and Bachman, an epic biopic of Canadian music legend Randy Bachman.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and subjective to boot. 

 A scene from the doc Love, Gilda

A scene from the doc Love, Gilda

Your best bet is to pour a stiff one, find a comfy chair, and spend some time on the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival website, reading and perusing. As for ticket info…

Starting Tuesday, March 20, Festival ticket package holders, including Doc Soup subscribers, can redeem their ticket packages, and Hot Docs Members can buy single tickets for screenings. Starting Tuesday, March 27 at 11 am, Festival tickets will be available to the public. Visit the CraveTV Box Office at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, located at 506 Bloor Street West for ticket, package, and pass sales and ticket redemption. 

Tickets can be purchased in person, online at www.hotdocs.ca, or by phone at 416-637-3123. Single tickets to screenings are $17 each, and $19 -$24 each to special events. Tickets to Food & Film are $60-$75. A Festival 6-Pack is $99, a Festival 10-Pack is $149, a Festival 20-Pack is $249, and a Premium Pass is $359. 

As mentioned, Hot Docs offers free same-day tickets for all screenings before 5 pm to seniors and students with valid photo I.D. at the venue box offices. Phew!