Shit You Should Watch At This Year's Hot Docs

We're a city of festivals, this Toronto town of ours, and one of the best of all of them is kicking off tonight. Over the next week and a half, Hot Docs is bringing nearly 200 documentaries from around the world to our movie screens. And we folks at The Little Red Umbrella will be running ourselves ragged trying to catch as many of them as we possibly can before it's all over.

We'll be posting our reviews as we go. But first, since we've spent spent far too much of our time over the last little while getting ourselves all worked up about how awesome this is going to be — delving into the schedule, watching trailers, reading blurbs — we figured we'd share our top ten picks for the must-see flicks at this year's fest. You'll find them below — from musicians, to gay rights, to James Franco, to penises and sex dolls — with trailers and blurbs off the Hot Docs website. And you can also head on over here for the full schedule and ticket information and all that kind of stuff..

Thurs, May 3 3:30 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Sat, May 5 8:15 PM Bloor Cinema

"Oscar winner Kevin MacDonald (Last King of Scotland, One Day in September) delivers the long awaited, authorized biography of reggae legend Bob Marley. MacDonald offers an expansive yet intimate history of the larger than life artist. The icon is remembered on a most personal level through affectionate first-hand accounts from his family and inner circle. He was a father, a lover, a rabid football fan and a revolutionary, but most importantly, he was a passionate and dedicated musician. MacDonald fully immerses us in the singer’s history through beautiful scenes shot on location in Nine Mile and Trenchtown, rare archival interviews and enough concert footage to satisfy even the most devoted fans. Marley is a film that understands why Bob Marley’s influence still resonates with such strength today. - Lynne Crocker". More information here.

The Invisible War
Fri, Apr 27 3:30 PM Bloor Cinema
Sat, Apr. 28 9:00 PM The ROM Theatre
Sat May 5 3:15 PM Bloor Cinema

"The Invisible War, the latest groundbreaking investigative documentary by award-winning director Kirby Dick, is about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the US military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The number of assaults in the last decade alone reached the hundreds of thousands. Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of several young women, the film reveals the systemic coverup of the crimes committed against them and follows their struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. The Invisible War features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm of conditions that exist for rape in the military, its history of coverup and what can be done to bring about much needed change." More information here.

United In Anger: The History of ACT UP
Wed, May 2 9:30 PM Cumberland
Fri, May 4 3:00 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sun, May 6 1:15 PM The Revue

"Electrifying, never-before-seen archival footage pushes us into the frontlines of early AIDS activism, one of the most empowering grassroots movements in recent history. Two days after Larry Kramer’s 1987 passionate speech that warned the audience that, unless they fought for change, half of them would die of AIDS within six months, a diverse group of 300 men and women galvanized to form the radical, messy and extremely effective umbrella of ACT UP and its affinity groups. Motivated to the extreme, many had never protested before, but they quickly mastered the art of headline-grabbing media actions that forced attention from an apathetic government, made AIDS a national issue and fought for fair access to treatment. United in Anger captures the power, sexiness and irreverent energy of a movement that redrew the map of AIDS politics, shook up the world and saved the lives of millions. - Gisèle Gordon". More information here.

Call Me Kuchu
Wed, May 2 9:45 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Thurs, May 3 7:00 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sat, May 5 9:00 PM Isabel Bader Theatre

"Uganda, a country where over 40 per cent of its citizens are Roman Catholic, has become ground zero in an American evangelical war on the “homosexual agenda.” Enter David Kato, a veteran activist who’s been working tirelessly to repeal his country’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow gay and transgendered citizens—called “kuchus”—from persecution. Kato’s mission is intensified when a new anti-homosexuality bill proposing death for HIV-positive gay men is introduced. Meanwhile, the country’s newspapers are outing kuchus under headlines such as “HOMO TERROR! We Name and Shame Top Gays in the City.” Kato is one of the few to publicly denounce these actions, insisting “if we keep on hiding, they will say we are not here.” Call Me Kuchu documents the courageous efforts of Kato and his team to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The result is both a hard-won victory and a devastating loss for the international gay community. - Shannon Abel". More information here.

Francophrenia (Or: Don't Kill Me, I Know Where The Baby Is)
Tues, May 1 11:30 PM Bloor Cinema
Wed, May 2 10:00 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sat, May 5 9:45 PM The Royal

"A baby’s been stolen and Franco, the homicidal performance artist, is the prime suspect. Actor James Franco’s behind-the-scenes take on his guest stint on daytime soap opera General Hospital starts out as an observational document of the production—rehearsal, take, break, repeat—but quickly evolves into a wild stream-of-consciousness whodunit. Franco the actor and Franco the character bleed into one another until there is no discernable difference. Will the real Franco please stand up? What you see is definitely not what you get in this film that could be either documentary or fiction—or both. A collaborative experiment by directors Franco and Ian Olds, this weird and wonderful psychological thriller riffs on spectacle, suspicion and the interpretation of image. Behold, the actor as madman caught in the throes of a mind-bending Method meltdown. - Angie Driscoll". More information here.

The Mechanical Bride
Sun, Apr. 29 11:30 PM Bloor Cinema
Mon, Apr. 30 9:00 PM Cumberland
Sun, May 6 9:00 PM Bloor Cinema

"In a world in which living women are increasingly surgically modified and artificial love dolls become more realistic every year, the age-old fantasy of creating a “perfect” woman drives a thriving industry. The best erotic dolls are manufactured with the same high-tech materials used for corpses in Hollywood film productions. The crème de la crème is the RealDoll, completely customizable for $6,000. To the men who own them, they are more than articulated skeletons and seamless silicone bodies. From the sweet technosexual who unabashedly loves his RealDoll, taking her out on dates and keeping her photo in his wallet, to the widower who bought a “divorcée” on eBay so as not to burden a real woman with his failing health, filmmaker and media scholar Allison de Fren takes a provocative, incisive world tour of the history, culture and future of fabricated female companions, silicone sex dolls and humanoid robots. - Gisèle Gordon". More information here.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
Fri, May 4 7:00 PM Innis Town Hall

"Cinéma vérité reaches a new level of reality in this film-within-a-film as director William Greaves dares to break the accepted rules of cinema. It is 1968 and Greaves and his crew are in New York’s Central Park ostensibly filming a screen test. The drama involves a bitter break up between a married couple, but this is just the cover story. The real story is happening off camera as the enigmatic director pursues his hidden agenda. The growing conflict and chaos—accompanied by moments of uproarious humour—explode on screen, producing the energy and insights the director is searching for. The director uses multiple cameras, mixes cinéma vérité and conventional shooting styles, and experiments with a variety of other cinematic techniques. The result is a film with multiple levels of reality that reveals and comments upon the creative process." More information here.

The Revisionaries
Tues, May 1 9:30 PM Isabel Bader Theatre
Thurs May 3 9:30 PM The ROM Theatre
Fri, May 4 11:00 AM Isabel Bader Theatre

"Who do we trust to influence what goes into our school textbooks? In Texas, it’s Don McLeroy, an unabashed creationist who chairs the Texas Board of Education. Up for re-election, he has a fervent mission to put his version of history and science into every textbook in America. As a leader in the textbook market, the Texas Board of Education has powerful sway. Once every decade, the highly politicized board rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly five million schoolchildren. As McLeroy’s campaign begins and the 15-member board goes head to head, historical and scientific fact blur with opinion, and the confidence one might have had in the board to make educated contributions plummets to an almost amusing yet certainly terrifying low. Revisionaries is a must-see documentary that takes you to the frontlines of a battle between the theory of evolution and creationism in a rewriting of US history. - Heather Haynes". More information here.

The Law In These Parts
Wed, May 2 6:45 PM Cumberland
Thurs, May 3 4:00 PM The ROM Theatre
Sat, May 5 4:15 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox

"Winner of the World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, The Law in These Parts is an opportunity to hear from the legal minds who worked in the Occupied Territories in the Gaza Strip creating a framework that has had a profound impact around the world. Since 1967 the Israeli military has devised numerous laws, established courts, sentenced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and enabled half a million Israeli settlers to move to the Occupied Territories. In constructed testimonial interviews, the men who architected the system that defined the boundaries and laws reveal their feelings about their decisions. An important insight into just how much of a political and social impact a legal system can have. - Charlotte Cook". Screening in 3D. More information here.

The Final Member
Tues, May 1 9:45 PM The Royal
Thurs, May 3 9:00 PM Cumberland
Sun, May 6 7:00 PM The Revue

“Sigurdur Hjartarson has devoted four decades to curating the Icelandic Phallogical Museum. As its founder, he’s collected a penile specimen from every mammalian species except one—a human. With over 3 billion on earth there’s no shortage, but Hjartarson guides us on an incredible and comical journey to procure that elusive penis. As eccentric as Hjartarson’s character appears, the potential donors really raise the stakes. At 95, Icelander Páll Arason can think of no better way to enshrine his Casanova lifestyle than contributing his well-worn love gun. His stiff competition comes from Tom, a patriotic American who feels strongly that the stars and stripes should shine with his penis named Elmo. He’d even donate it while alive to ensure it’s the first. Avoiding cheap jokes and double entendres, The Final Member says much about the male psyche while attempting to answer the age old question, Does size really matter? - Alex Rogalski". More information here.


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