Oil sands, Pussy Riot, and Arnaud Maggs: A guide to the 2013 Hot Docs Festival

Toronto’s twentieth annual Hot Docs film festival begins April 25th and will screen 205 films over eleven days. The complete list is here — but here are a few that caught our interest.

The festival will kick-off with director Shawney Cohen’s The Manor, a film about his journey back to Guelph, his home town, to help out through a difficult time at the family strip club.

In two films, music helps Canadians deal with difficult situations. Director Michelle Latimer’s feature doc debut, Alias, captures the lives of five Toronto rappers who are trying to escape drugs and danger through their music. Charles Wilkinson’s piece looks at the workers in in Fort McMurray coping with their difficult jobs and harsh environment in Oils Sands Karaoke.

Downloaded follows the rise and fall of the creators of Napster and how they changed the music industry.

Brave New River is a documentary about James Bay and how it has been transformed because of large hydroelectric development causing major problems for the local Cree.

Dead Or Alive is an entertaining look at a the science, art, and social work of being a mortician in Quebec’s growing funeral industry.

Special Ed follows Ed Ackerman, an animator and construction handyman, who has been working on an underfunded 25-year-old animation project to help kids spell. He has three derelict houses that he is trying to convert into a film studio that will ideally become an inheritance for his three grown children, but the city’s bylaws are causing trouble.

Patrick Cummins documents Toronto’s changes of with photographs of building fronts in The Impermanence Of The Ordinary.

In Picture Of Light, six filmmakers travel to Canada’s Arctic to try to capture the aurora borealis.

Spring & Arnaud features a love story between the Canadian artists Spring Hurlbut and Arnaud Maggs as they face the reality of Arnaud’s illness.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock’s latest feature Anita is about Anita Hill’s testimony during the confirmation hearing for the Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer follows the feminist punk-rock collective exploring how the trial captured the world’s attention and has brought a new wave of protest to Russia.

Menstrual Man follows Arunachalam Muruganantham’s microbusiness producing low-cost sanitary pads, made by and for rural Indian women. He is focused on providing sustainable employment, hygiene and emancipation to women, but is ignored by his community.

And lastly, Salma shows how Tamil Muslim women from South India are shut off from the outside world. After Salma is married and isolated she smuggles a book of her poetry out of the house, causing a scandal when it swiftly becomes a sensation.

About the author

Laura Zizek

Laura Zizek (@LauraKatherineZ) is a Ryerson Journalism student.

By Laura Zizek