When Hot Docs starts in Toronto on April 28, viewers will see the kind of corporate sales pitches that are supposed to be antithetical to truth-minded documentaries.
But the festival's opening-night film, POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold by American filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (best known for his 2004 hit Super Size Me), is happy to play with corporate brands and logos. It's like an art intervention - or in this case a corporate bombardment, taking over the cinema - joked Hot Docs director of programming Sean Farnel at the announcement of this year's lineup on Tuesday.
The point of Spurlock's tongue-in-cheek documentary is to show how omnipresent corporate interests and branding are in all forms of entertainment. The film revolves around Spurlock trying to get corporate sponsors to fund the film itself.
It's that level of experimentation that defines many of the 199 films coming to this year's Hot Docs festival in Toronto (running from April 28 to May 8) - from The National Parks Project, a documentary by 52 filmmakers and musicians, to films such as Grinders, in which director Matt Gallagher becomes enmeshed in illegal gambling in Toronto.
Other Hot Docs highlights include a mid-career survey of the highly personal films of Toronto's Alan Zweig and, at the other end of the spectrum, a retrospective of Canadian filmmaker Terence Macartney-Filgate, a leading figure of direct cinema, a traditional form where documentary filmmakers stay well out of the picture.
"It feels like a big international film festival," said Farnel. He says the festival will expand to more cinemas in Toronto this year, but that "it's not just the number of films and the number of screenings.… It's about our ability to show everything that documentary is doing."
Among the Canadian documentaries announced on Tuesday, many are pegged to the headlines. The Guantanamo Trap by Thomas Selim Wallner tells stories from the U.S. detention camp, not only from the perspective of the captives, but also the captors. The Pirate Tapes follows a Somali-Canadian journalist infiltrating a Somali pirate cell with a hidden camera. Recessionize! is director Jamie Kastner's journey into the new reality of permanent recessions and permanent cost-cutting.
For complete festival schedules, visit www.hotdocs.ca .