Hot Docs Warms Up with Biopics, Rockumentaries, and Movies About Trash
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Hot Docs Warms Up with Biopics, Rockumentaries, and Movies About Trash

Still from Alexandre Phillipe’s The People Vs. George Lucas.

For a film festival that has its origins in loosely organized screenings in local bars, Hot Docs has come a long way. This morning at the Gardiner Museum, the organizers behind North America’s largest documentary festival unveiled the program for their seventeenth edition to a packed house of filmmakers, publicists, and media representatives snacking on muffins and sipping sparkling grapefruit juice provided by in-house celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy. Though the event’s ritzy upholstery speaks to how far Hot Docs has ascended since it was minted by the Canadian Independent Film Caucus in 1993, the press conference wasn’t all razzle-dazzle and empty calories. Indeed, the Hot Docs 2010 program serves up more than 170 appetizing global selections that may even outstrip Kennedy’s formidable pastries.

Running from April 29 to May 9, Hot Docs 2010 presents films from forty-one countries, playing at ten venues across Toronto, from the Bloor Cinema to the Winter Garden Theatre. Calling Hot Docs the “best collection of documentaries anywhere in the world,” director of programming Sean Farnel revealed the festival’s ten programs, which run the gamut from Special Presentations (showcasing award-winning films from top-shelf documentarians), Ripping Reality (dispatches from the so-called documentary New Wave), and Canadian Spectrum (stories from our own backyard).

Still from Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Koctha-Kalleinen’s Complaints Choir.

Notable among the Special Presentations lot are Babies, a film by Thomas Balmès that chronicles the early lives of four newborns from around the world, and in the process, as Farnel attested, speaks to the underlying humanity we all share, from Nambia to Tokyo to San Francisco. And based on the stills Farnel introduced, the babies are also freaking adorable.
Of particular interest to audiences who spent the better part of their adolescence getting angsty and air-drumming to “Subdivisions,” Toronto filmmakers Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn (the long-haired anthropologists behind the docs Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and last year’s Iron Maiden: Flight 666) continue their hard-rocking filmmaking trajectory with Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage. A look at the venerable Canadian prog-rock trio described by Farnel as “the world’s biggest cult band,” Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage explores the prolonged global fascination with rock ’n’ roll’s most exceptional outsiders. Members from Rush will be in attendance for the doc’s April 29 premiere at the Winter Garden, providing an opportunity for fans to see the band outside of their lavish stage set-up (and to find out if Geddy Lee does indeed speak like an ordinary guy).

Still from Adrian Grenier’s Teenage Paparazzo.

Touching on all the festival’s highlights would be exhausting, but here are a few:

  • Biopics about Joan Rivers, Benazir Bhutto, and U.S. lobbyist/shuckster Jack Abramoff
  • A film by Entourage star Adrian Grenier about thirteen-year-old paparazzo Austin Visschedyk
  • Films about an anorexic-turned-competitive eater, the elderly fans of 1960s Quebecois crooner Michel Louvain, and perestroika
  • An assault against the puffy, flannel-clad Star Wars CEO in Alexandre Phillipe’s The People Vs. George Lucas
  • A movie called Complaints Choir that sees the grievances of everyday citizens scored to choral music, in a gesture of musically aestheticizing the banal that would make David Byrne jealous

And way, way, more. Seriously. So much more. There are 170 films.
Check out the Hot Docs website for more info and tickets (the box office opened this morning). Programming inserts can also be found inside copies of EYE and NOW, and scattered throughout the city.
Torontoist, meanwhile, will have extensive coverage of Hot Docs 2010, so make sure to check back for interviews, reviews, and coverage of events as the fest approaches.