Every April you see the lineups on sidewalks of people, lining up around the block to see any of literally hundreds of acclaimed and new documentaries from Canada and beyond. And this year’s edition of Hot Docs is no different. Whether it’s diving deep into the work of Gordon Lightfoot or Wu-Tang Clan or a poignant piece on the Parkland, Florida shootings of teenage students in 2018, there is something for everyone here.
The festival, which runs from April 25 to May 5, has plenty of info on its official site regarding times, tickets and venues but here is a batch of documentaries (some music-leaning, some not) you might be hard pressed to pass up.
- After Parkland (Directors: Jake Lefferman, Emily Taguchi. Running Time: 92 minutes)
In just over one short year the students who survived the horrific attack at Majory Stoneman Douglas High School have accomplished major inroads regarding gun control awareness and legislation. But that tragic day is revisited among those living with the life-altering event as well as their families.
- Framing John DeLorean (Directors: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce. Running Time: 109 minutes)
The car perhaps best known for its aircraft-esque doors and appearing in Back To The Future was almost as enigmatic as its creator. This look at John DeLorean’s hectic life as a businessman and then alleged cocaine smuggler sounds like fiction but is, incredibly, fact.
- Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind (Directors: Joan Tosoni, Martha Kehoe. Running Time: 90 minutes)
The world premiere of this documentary takes a long look at the life of this iconic Canadian troubadour. Whether it was his bevy of hit songs which have been covered countless times through the decades or his record for most Massey Hall performances, Gordon Lightfoot remains an interesting character whether or not he’s singing about the Edmund Fitzgerald or the early morning rain.
- XY Chelsea (Director: Tim Travers Hawkins. Running Time: 91 minutes)
Chelsea Manning has seen many transformations in the last decade. From her transitioning into become a woman to enduring a prison sentence for revealing classified government documents to WikiLeaks back in 2010, this interesting film looks at the tumult Manning went through. “I feel embattled,” she says in the trailer.
- Buddy (Director: Heddy Honigmann. Running Time: 86 minutes (Subtitled))
Service dogs are friends that people with terminal illness and trauma rely on, care for and simply love for companionship. This intimate look at six owners and their four-legged bundles of help and joy shows how all setbacks, disasters or mental illnesses can be eased somewhat with a dog’s unending love and friendship. A Second World War veteran and a child with autism are just two of the half-dozen stories Honigmann tenderly tells.
- Mystify: Michael Hutchence (Director: Richard Lowenstein. Running Time: 104 minutes)
It’s hard to believe it’s been over 20 years since news broke of dynamic INXS singer Michael Hutchence’s suicide. This offering digs deeper than the story of the Australian rock group into Hutchence’s personal life told by those who knew him best and former flames such as Helena Christensen and pop icon Kylie Minogue.
- The Rest (Director: Ai Weiwei. Running Time: 78 minutes)
In 2017 acclaimed Chinese director Ai Weiwei showed the trials and at times fatal choices desperate refugees faced attempting to cross onto European shores with Human Flow. As Human Flow followed their actual journey, The Rest essentially picks up from there, showing the next string of hurdles and impasses these refugees must face after crossing the deadly waters for a better life.
- Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (Director: Matt Wolf. Running Time: 87 minutes)
Marion Stokes kept track of all the news. Literally. This documentary highlights the obsessive nature of Stokes who, as a former television producer, had a nose for news. That nose turned into a massive library of 70,000 VHS tapes. That meticulous historical collection, currently being transferred online, came at the cost of her family life and relationships.
- Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics And Men (Director: Sacha Jenkins. Running Time: 104 minutes)
The Wu-Tang Clan’s imprint on popular culture and hip-hop knows no boundaries. Here Sacha Jenkins has culled together the initial opening two episodes of a forthcoming series on the group, speaking with the core members as well as those they met along the way. The series is set to air on Showtime in the coming months.
- Ask Dr. Ruth (Director: Ryan White. Running Time: 100 minutes)
As she enters her tenth decade on the planet, sex therapist Dr. Ruth continues to help those with questions about the birds and the bees. But this documentary looks at the diminutive yet spry legend, surviving the Second World War and Holocaust through to hosting her seminal radio show in the ‘80s, a time when sex education was still basically invisible in education curriculums.