Hot Docs 2019: Things get real again, with Ai Weiwei, Gordon Lightfoot and 232 more

By Liam Lacey

Thing are about to get real again, as North America’s biggest documentary showcase, the Hot Docs International Film Festival unveiled its full 2019 line-up Tuesday. In total, the festival – which runs April 25-May 5 - will show 234 films and 18 interdisciplinary projects from 56 countries.

Ai Weiwei looks at the refugee situation in Europe

Ai Weiwei looks at the refugee situation in Europe

Tuesday’s announcement of the 26th annual fest unveiled a lengthy list of new films, in addition to 15 titles announced last week in the Special Presentations program. These include new films about Canadian folk laureate, Gordon Lightfoot, whistleblower Chelsea Manning and Willie O’Ree, the first black hockey player in the National Hockey League. O’Ree, Lightfoot and Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei are all expected to attend.

Other films focus on sex expert Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the author Stieg Larsson, singer Michael Hutchence and jazz musician, Miles Davis.

Some key titles:

The Rest. Dissident Chinese artist and filmmaker’s Ai Weiwei's looks at refugees in Europe in this companion piece to his film, Human Flow.

Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind  looks back on the career of Canada’s 80-year-old folk laureate.

Willie, looks at the career of O’Ree, the first Black hockey player to make it to the National Hockey League in 1958, and at 83, still reigning “diversity” ambassador for the league.

Gaetan Dugas, the so-called “Patient Zero” of AIDS, was a hero rather than a zero, doc suggests.

Gaetan Dugas, the so-called “Patient Zero” of AIDS, was a hero rather than a zero, doc suggests.

Killing Patient Zero: Laurie Lynd tells the true story of Gaetan Dugas, the Quebec flight attendant misidentified as “patient zero” in the 1980s AIDS crisis. 

Knock Down the House by Rachel Lears follows four women candidates during the 2018 U.S. midterms, including Democrat star, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Always in Season, from Jacqueline Olive, examines the history and ongoing practice of lynching as a tool of racial terrorism in the United States. The film won a special award for “moral urgency” at the recent Sundance Film Festival.

Quiet Storm: The Ron Artest Story, Johnny Sweet's film about the coach, former NBA defensive star and now a mental health advocate, now known as Metta World Peace.

Framing John DeLorean, uses a combination of archival material and dramatic re-enactments, starring Alec Baldwin, to tell the story of the futuristic car designer who ended up busted on cocaine trafficking charges.

Gordon Lightfoot at 80.

Gordon Lightfoot at 80.

XY Chelsea, follows the life of trans-woman soldier and whistle-blower Chelsea Manning, whose 35-year-prison sentence was commuted by President O’Bama, though she was jailed again last week for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury investigating Wikileaks.

Our Godfather, in which the family of Sicilian mob boss Tommaso Buscetta comes out of hiding to tell how he helped convict 400 criminals.

Assholes a Theory, from Canadian filmmaker John Walker, based on philosopher Aaron James’s bestseller of the same title.

Picture Character, looks about the world of emoji regulation. 😊

This year’s Hot Docs opens with Tasha Hubbard's Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, a documentary about the death of Colten Boushie, the 22-year-old Indigenous man who died by gunshot in 2016 when he and his friends drove onto a farmer’s property.  Farmer Gerarld Stanley was acquitted of second degree murder when he testified his gun discharged accidentally.

For the full schedule and ticket information, go to