Those that dwell near the shores of the Great Lakes really are quite lucky when it comes to film festivals. Not only is Toronto home to the the top tier Toronto International Film Fest based out of the still new Bell Lightbox every fall, but the biggest documentary festival in North America brightens up the city every spring. And if you didn’t already know, that wonderful little festival is Hot Docs. The outstanding non-fiction programming packs nearly every art house theater in town, and the lines could rival any major film fest on the circuit. Tuesday morning, the Hot Docs team held a press conference announcing this years lineup, and it is impressive to say the least.
Pulling the cream of the crop from Sundance, SXSW, and IDFA, and adding a hefty portion of big name World Premieres, Hot Docs 2012 looks to be quite a year for the festival. It opens on Thursday, April 26th with Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a film that follows one of China’s most challenging artists and activists, and made quite a buzz in Park City this year. Another film making its way from Sundance to Toronto is “an inspiring and captivating” new doc by Yung Chang about the revival of youth boxing in China titled, China Heavyweight. Chasing Ice, a film about James Balog’s Extreme Ice Survey project that I called, “a fascinating portrait of a man infatuated with nature, photography, and their combined ability to affect people in spellbinding ways,” has also secured a slot in this year’s lineup following its Park City debut. Big name documentarian Kirby Dick is making the rounds as well with his “heartbreaking, highly important film,” The Invisible War, which unveils the horrifying truth behind rape in the US military with immense intimacy and sensitivity.
A variety of films that played at SXSW are also set to make an impact at this year’s Hot Docs, many of which are music and counter culture focused docs. One of which is a film about the miraculous stardom of a late blooming soul singer titled Charles Bradley: Soul of America. The SXSW Grand Jury Prize winner, Beware of Mr. Baker, Jay Bulger’s biopic of Ginger Baker, the inventor of rock ‘n’ roll drumming, will also be screening. Two highly anticipated skateboarding docs, Stacy Peralta’s Bones Brigade: An Autobiography and Jacob Rosenberg’s Waiting For Lighting, have also made their way from Texas to Ontario.
One of the festival’s primary goals each year is to highlight a large number of international films, and a solid jumping off point seems to be the world’s largest documentary festival, Amsterdam’s IDFA. This year several films, including several award winners are making the trip across the Atlantic to take part in Hot Docs. Some of these include the Best Feature winning Planet of Snail, and the Special Jury Prize winning 5 Broken Cameras. Also playing is The Ambassador, and Ballroom Dancer, among others.
Featuring their new late night film program, Nightvision, Hot Docs has placed a couple of its offbeat World Premiers in the new slot. The Mechanical Bride promises to explore artificial female sex companions, and the minds that love them. In a completely different vein, Finding Truelove documents the journey to track down a man immortalized by his randomly found high school yearbook photo. Also filling a spot in the new Nightvision program is James Franco’s bizarro hybrid doc that melds his experiences on the set of General Hospital into a stream of conscious meta-thriller.
With an abundance of brand new films, and a perfect blend of the best from the film fest circuit so far this year, Hot Docs 2012 is not to be missed. The box office is now open, and single screening tickets are available, as well as a variety of different packages and passes. So, print out your screening grid, and start figuring our your schedule as soon as possible. Do it out now, and you might avoid those dreaded rush lines.