Skip to main content

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is returning to in-person theatre screenings, with 226 films from 63 countries selected for this year’s event, which runs April 28 through May 8.

Hot Docs is North America’s largest documentary festival, and this year offers a hybrid of in-person and online experiences after two editions conducted entirely online. Each film will receive a screening in theatres, and then will be available online the next day through Hot Docs At Home.

The festival opens with the world premiere of Toronto director Jennifer Baichwal’s Into the Weeds, which tells the story of a former groundskeeper who goes up against a global chemical corporation after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Baichwal is also the first female director to have her film open the festival twice: her celebrated film Act of God, which chronicled the survivors of lightning strikes, opened Hot Docs in 2009.

Also premiering is Shooting War, a Globe and Mail-produced documentary directed by the Globe’s Patrick Dell about conflict photographers and the toll their work takes on their professional and personal lives.

In a still from Shooting War, a concert takes place in Mosul, Iraq with buildings destroyed by fighting against ISIS forces in the background in 2018, by Laurence Geai.Laurence Geai/Shooting War/The Globe and Mail

Other buzzy titles include The American Dreams and Other Fairy Tales, directed by Kathleen Hughes, which follows Abigail Disney, the grandniece of Walt Disney, as she explores how the American economy is designed to benefit the already wealthy. As well, The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks, directed by Reg Harkema, shows how the Canadian comedy troupe took their stage show to the screen through archive footage and behind-the-scenes interviews; Navalny, directed by Toronto’s Daniel Roher, tells the harrowing story of Alexey Navalny, the jailed Russian opposition leader who was poisoned by the Kremlin; and Shalini Kantayya’s TikTok, Boom dissects the rise of the video-based social-media platform that has taken Gen-Z by storm.

Other selections of note include Boylesque, a portrait of an openly gay 82-year-old Polish man living in his home country, which is predominantly homophobic; The Artist’s Daughter, Oil on Canvas, the story of a daughter of an esteemed and distant Israeli painter who attempts to better understand her father through his art; and F**k It Up!, a look at the punk rock group Towers of London as their rock ‘n’ roll antics put their multimillion-dollar record deal in jeopardy.

Chile’s growing and vibrant documentary filmmaking will also be highlighted with the world premiere of films such as Meeting Point, which revisits the horrors of Pinochet-era torture camps through fiction cinema and re-enactments using director Roberto Baeza’s family; Alis, a story of 10 women residing in a home for girls and trying to survive in Bogota; and a look at the promising future of Chile, known as Latin America’s fastest-growing region, in Primera.

Hot Docs’ special presentations program, which cost more than regular screenings, will consist of titles such as Million Dollar Pigeons, in which Gavin Fitzgerald offers a quirky look at how pigeon masters from around the world enter their birds into competitive racing. The program will also include The Talented Mr. Rosenberg, a frightening look at Toronto‘s notorious Yorkville Swindler, a man who charmed, fascinated and lied his way into people’s lives and cheated them out of millions. As well, there are the international premieres of Ron Howard’s We Feed People, which focuses on World Central Kitchen’s Jose Andres and how the chef’s non-profit helps countries after natural disasters by providing healthy food, and I Didn’t See You There, in which filmmaker Reid Davenport examines the legacy of freak shows, from a personal viewpoint in his wheelchair.

Tickets, scheduling and more information can be found on the Hot Docs website.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.