Once again, Hot Docs is upon us, meaning that for the next ten days, there's more documentaries to choose from than even the most eager viewer could hope to see. It's good to see that the festival has expanded, adding some screens in the TIFF Lightbox — that should mean for some new, comfy digs, but it's a bit away from the other screens, so those packing in several films in a day will have to be careful about the logistics.
With over two hundred titles to pick through, it can quickly get dizzying to try and narrow it down. There'll be lots of reviews to look through, but if it's at all possible, it's also highly recommended to just pick something, and plunge yourself into someone else's actuality for awhile. (This is especially true for students and seniors, who can get tickets to daytime screenings for free.)
But if you want to narrow it down, here's a few that I'm looking forward to:
Screening: 30-Apr Sat 9:30 PM @ Cumberland 2 / 2-May Mon 4:30 PM @ ROM Theatre
A fly-on-the-wall account of a British election campaign — including a surging far-right National Party candidate.
Screening: 1-May Sun 1:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre / 3-May Tue 7:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Fischer's decent from superstar chess player (something that seems hugely unimaginable in today's celebrity sphere) to abject paranoid is the sort of thing that would seem too strange to be fictional.
Screening: 30-Apr Sat 9:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre / 2-May Mon 3:30 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters are the stuff of counter-cultural legend, so it'll be intriging to see them in a human scale in this reconstructed account of their trip.
Screening: 3-May Tue 6:45 PM @ Innis Town Hall
The retrospective programs during the festival are always worth checking out, and this year's "Focus On Alan Zweig" should be full of entertainment. I wasn't totally sold on last year's A Hard Name, but his earlier, more introspective films are excellent fun, if slightly cringe-inducing to those who might see a bit of themselves reflected on the screen.
Screenings: 3-May Tue 9:30 PM @ Cumberland 3 / 5-May Thurs 11:00 AM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
The dirty laundry of small towns is always excellent material. I'm a little afraid of reading too much about this one for fear of spoiling it.
Screening: 5-May Thurs 6:45 PM @ Innis Town Hall
The Outstanding Achievement Award Retrospective screenings are always an excellent seminar in the history of documentary making. This year's programme of Terence Macartney-Filgate's might have fewer screenings than usual, but they look worth planning around. I'm especially looking forward to spending some time in this one with Timothy Findley.
Screening: 6-May Fri 6:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 / 7-May Sat 4:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
I'm a sucker for Eastern Bloc kitsch.
Screening: 30-Apr Sat 7:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre / 3-May Tue 7:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 / 7-May Sat 7:00 PM @ The Regent
Environmental message film meets political thriller — it will be interesting to see how much this film will humanize a man demonized as Canada's answer to the Unibomber and/or David Koresh.
Screening: 30-Apr Sat 9:45 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2 / 2-May Mon 3:45 PM @ Cumberland 2 / 7-May Sat 9:45 PM @ Cumberland 2
Can a warlord make amends for killing more than 20,000 of his fellow citizens?
And, of course, there's a lot more to pick from. You can dig through all the films here.