The world premiere of Shawney Cohen’s much-anticipated feature The Manor kicks off the 20th annual Hot Docs festival in Toronto on April 25, it was announced Tuesday morning at a media conference.
The film, named after the strip club/motel in Guelph, Ont., that Cohen’s father and mother owned, is just one of 205 titles from 43 countries to be screened at this year’s event, which has grown into North America’s largest documentary festival. It’s the first feature-length documentary for the Toronto-based Cohen who, as Sean Cohen, has an international reputation for his special effects and animation work in films such as A History of Violence and Dawn of the Dead.
The Manor will be included in Hot Docs’ Special Presentations, one of 11 program categories for this year’s festival, which concludes May 5. Among other films being presented this year: Charles Wilkinson’s Oil Sands Karaoke, James Marsh’s The Burger and the King (about Elvis Presley’s diet), Jessica Oreck’s Aatsinki (about reindeer herders in Lapland), Sini Anderson’s The Punk Singer (about feminist icon/singer Kathleen Hanna), Inigo Westmeier’s Dragon Girls (about young female warriors-in-training at a kung fu school near Beijing), Ben Nabors’ William and the Windmill (about a Malawian teenager who builds a windmill and saves his family) and Our Nixon, Penny Lane’s anatomy of the disgraced 37th president of the United States. Two-time Oscar nominee Lucy Walker appears with The Crash Reel, a feature about the attempted comeback of U.S. snowboarder Kevin Pearce after a career-derailing accident in 2009.
Another world premiere from a Canadian is Alias, Michelle Latimer’s look at the life, music and dreams of five Toronto hip-hoppers.
New this year is the Scotiabank Big Ideas series. It features three long-form documentaries, premieres all, followed by in-person appearances by the subjects of each film. The inaugural presentation, on April 26, is Anita, Freida Mock’s examination of the life, travails and accomplishments of Anita Hill, the lawyer whose allegations of sexual misconduct against Clarence Thomas nearly derailed his appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991. April 27 marks the debut of Fight Like Soldiers Die Like Children, Patrick Reed’s documentary about the efforts of Canada’s Roméo Dallaire to ban the often forced recruitment of children into warring armies. Noted evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss are scheduled to appear April 29, following the screening of Gus Holwerda’s The Unbelievers, which traces Dawkins and Krauss’s treks across the world to promulgate their religion-over-reason cause.
This year’s festival features two retrospectives, one a mid-career look at Canada’s Peter Mettler ( Picture of Light, The End of Time, Eastern Avenue), the other dedicated to U.S. veteran Les Blank, 77, whose credits include Burden of Dreams and Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers.
More than 2,000 industry delegates are expected to attend Hot Docs this year.
Schedules and tickets: www.hotdocs.ca.