TORONTO — A film about the man behind the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, and a documentary inspired by journalist Tanya Talaga’s acclaimed book “Seven Fallen Feathers” are bound for this year’s Hot Docs festival.
The newly announced lineup includes the world premiere of “The Face of Anonymous” by Gary Lang, which profiles Christopher Doyon, a.k.a. Commander X, who has hidden from the FBI in Toronto and Mexico.
Also having its world premiere is “Spirit to Soar,” which sees Talaga return to Thunder Bay, Ont., with co-director Michelle Derosier after the inquest into the deaths of seven Indigenous high school students there between 2000 and 2011.
And Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, who co-directed and co-wrote the acclaimed 2019 film “The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open,” will debut “Kimmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy.”
The doc looks at the Kainai First Nation in southern Alberta, which is described as “a Blackfoot community facing the impacts of substance use and a drug-poisoning epidemic.”
The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival will run April 29 to May 9 online at hotdocs.ca, and for the first time ever, the films will be available across Canada.
Last year the Toronto-based festival pivoted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic but was geo-blocked to Ontario.
A total of 219 films from 66 countries are in the lineup, and organizers say 50 per cent of the directors are women.
The festival’s opening-night film is the Canadian doc “A.rtificial I.mmortality” by Ann Shin, about the technology of digitizing and uploading memories into digital clones.
Other Canadian offerings having their world premiere include Caitlin Durlak’s “Dropstones,” about a mother who returns to Newfoundland’s Fogo Island to raise her two sons after fleeing an abusive relationship.
Newfoundland is also featured in “Hell or Clean Water” by Cody Westman, about a diver who cleans up the province’s ocean floor by himself.
In “Grey Roads,” filmmaker Jesse McCracken goes back to his hometown of Markdale, Ont., to look at the changes in the area and his family.
“Fanny: The Right To Rock” by Montreal-based Bobbi Jo Hart profiles a garage rock band of Filipina American teens, whose fans included David Bowie in the 1960s, and are now recording a new album.
With “Someone Like Me,” directors Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams follow a transgender lawyer and a group of 11 LQBTQ Vancouverites as they sponsor Drake, a queer refugee from Uganda.
This year’s Hot Docs will have a new theme program, Systems Down, featuring films about systemic change.
The festival will also debut its commissioned project “Citizen Minutes,” which comprises eight original short films that are intended to inspire interest in Canadian democracy and public affairs.
The Big Ideas series, which features in-depth interviews with subjects and directors, will include the team behind “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street.”
Other conversations will include singer Jully Black, along with author Cheryl Thompson and director Jennifer Holness, discussing how Black esthetics are now being embraced in beauty standards.
Previously announced world premieres set for Hot Docs include “Wuhan Wuhan” by Yung Chang, about life in the Chinese city during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In “Viral,” directors Udi Nir and Sagi Bornstein look at COVID-19’s impact on today’s youth.
“Dirty Tricks” by Daniel Sivan is about competitive bridge playing.
And “Come Back Anytime” by John Daschbach profiles a self-taught Japanese ramen master.
The full lineup is available on the Hot Docs website:
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2021.
Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press