Hot Docs Festival Preview

There are 171 docs screening at this year’s annual Hot Docs International Documentary Film Festival. The fest, which runs for 10 days, doesn’t start till April 30, but now’s the time to start planning. Herewith, our picks for five of the fest’s hottest docs.

The Cove is about the annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan. (Dolphins are herded into a cove and killed en masse in a grisly spectacle.) The Japanese built barricades to keep activists and media out, but in an amazing feat of undercover journalism, a National Geographic director made this film using a camouflaged crew, underwater microphones and hi-def cameras disguised as rocks.

Aka Ana is a boundary-pushing French doc about the sexual underworld of Japan and, even more challenging, Graphic Sexual Horror is a Swedish film that takes the audience inside the bizarre world of Insex, a notorious – and now defunct – online torture porn empire. An exploration of bondage and S&M, it addresses the issues of censorship and limits.

British director Peter Greenaway’s doc, Rembrandt’s J’Accuse is a docu-drama about Rembrandt’s painting The Night Watch. Greenaway provides commentary, and he digs into the lives of each of the 34 people in the painting, using dramatic re-enactments and interviews. The result is a serious visual historical essay that plays like “CSI.”

The much-hyped Act of God, a spiritual exploration of the meaning of being struck by lightning, will attract the biggest crowds. But if you lack the patience for the lineups, fear not: Jennifer Baichwal and Nick dePencier are local filmmakers so it will likely get a theatrical release soon.

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