Most of us go to the movies to escape: to indulge in fantasy, admire beautiful people, be entertained by larger-than-life stories and characters, and forget about the demands of everyday life for a few hours. However, movies can also be a great way for us to delve deeper into real life, to examine relatable issues that are hard to talk about or seldom discussed, and to learn lessons about the human condition that we take away with us long after we leave the theatre.
For those of you who enjoy the moving picture as a window into real lives, real people, and real situations, the return of North America’s largest documentary festival is a can’t miss event. Running for its 18th year, Hot Docs 2011 presents documentaries from Canada and abroad from April 28 to May 8.
This year’s film lineup includes more than 200 films from 43 countries, the biggest lineup yet in Hot Docs history. The breadth of subjects covered in the festival is also impressive, from crime, drugs, LGBT issues, to race, music, science, and war. Here is a quick look at some of the most talked-about films in Hot Docs 2011:
- When the Drum Is Beating by Whitney Dow: by following Haiti’s oldest band, Orchestre Septentrional, filmmaker Dow presents a documentary that goes beyond a look at the country’s music, into Haitien history, independence, and poverty.
- Fightville by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein: as the Toronto debut of the hugely popular UFC Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition approaches, Hot Docs presents this timely film that follows two small-town fighters from Louisiana as they rigourously train and tackle opponents, both physically and psychologically, in hopes of becoming top-tier MMA fighters.
- POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold by Morgan Spurlock: arguably the doc with the highest public profile in the festival, the director of Super Size Me delivers a film about product placement in films, while the doc itself is also financed by product placements.
- Hell and Back Again by Danfung Dennis: illustrating the brutalities of the battlefield and post-war rehabilitation, war photographer Dennis presents a critically-acclaimed exposé into the human costs of war, focusing on Sgt. Nathan Harris in two timelines: battling the Taliban in Afghanistan, and attempting to recover back home in the States after being shot in an ambush.
- Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey by Constance Marks and Philip Shane: a family-friendly look at Jim Benson’s Sesame Street, this doc tracks the path of one Kevin Clash, who started putting on homemade puppet shows in his low-income neighbourhood and ended up creating the beloved Elmo in the seminal children’s TV show.
For a complete description and schedule of all Hot Docs films, visit the schedule section of the official site.
Much like previous years, the Hot Docs screenings are spread out over several theatres, including Isabel Bader Theatre, Bloor Cinema, The Royal, and TIFF Lightbox. For a complete list of screening theatres, visit the venues section of the official site.
To see a film at Hot Docs, you can buy individual tickets at $14 for regular screenings, $5 for late night screenings, or you can choose from a variety of film passes if you plan on seeing multiple films.
With advance tickets already selling out, make sure you get your Hot Docs tickets now! Buy them online, by phone at 416-637-5150, or in person at 131 Bloor St. W, close to Bloor St. W and Avenue Rd.
All photos courtesy of Hot Docs Festival.