Culture & Entertainment

6 films to see at Hot Docs

Canadian Living
Culture & Entertainment

6 films to see at Hot Docs

[caption id="attachment_20826" align="aligncenter" width="620"] "112 Weddings"[/caption] With all apologies to the Toronto International Film Festival, the Hot Docs film festival (which takes place this year from April 24 to May 4) gets my vote as the most exciting event on the annual cinematic calendar. Not only is it less expensive than TIFF and less surrounded by hoopla, it’s much easier to get tickets to, and the odds of seeing a terrible film are much, much lower. Still, it’s no longer a small festival—197 titles were announced today—and it can be tough to guess the gems in advance. With that in mind, here are six titles that are pretty much guaranteed to impress: 112 Weddings: One of the best (and least heralded) docs of recent years was Doug Block’s highly thoughtful  51 Birch Street, about his parents’ less-than-perfect marriage. Now Block returns to the subject of matrimony via his sideline job as a wedding videographer. On the eve of his own 25 th wedding anniversary, he revisits his former subjects to find out what happened to them after “happily ever after.” Hard to imagine how this could be anything other than fascinating. The Overnighters: This doc by Jesse Moss was hugely acclaimed when it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival last January. It’s about a North Dakota pastor who eagerly welcomes an influx of migrant workers—many of them ex-cons—to the state’s booming oil fields, only to get pushback from community leaders, who consider the men “undesirables.” It’s said to be quite visually impressive. Vessel: This film won the audience award for best documentary at the just-completed SXSW Film Festival. Directed by Diana Whitten, it’s about a Dutch physician named Rebecca Gomperts and her activist group, Women on Waves. Exploiting maritime legal loopholes, they sail to various ports around the globe—making sure to stay the requisite 12 miles from shore—offering free, safe abortions to women who’ve been denied them by their governments. The Great Invisible: Also earning excellent notices at SXSW, this film by Margaret Brown ( The Order of Myths) is the first documentary feature to examine the 2011 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster, which resulted in one of history’s worst oil spills. Brown, who is from Alabama, used personal connections to get an insider’s take on the disaster and the ongoing cleanup process. Happy Valley: One of the best documentary filmmakers now working, Amir Bar-Lev ( My Kid Could Paint That, The Tillman Story) turns his attention to disgraced Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, who helped cover up the many sexual abuse allegations leveled at his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky. As he did in The Tillman Story, Bar-Lev uses the headline-grabbing story for a wider examination of misplaced American values. Rich Hill: This doc, by filmmaking cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. It’s about three teenage boys living in a small, impoverished Montana town ironically known as Rich Hill. Nothing earth-shattering occurs—it’s a small, slice-of-life film—but audiences seem to be deeply moved by it. (Image courtesy of GAT PR)
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6 films to see at Hot Docs

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