Hot Docs is Here
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Hot Docs is Here

From excavations of comedy history to a glance at political rivalries, we give you some of our most hotly anticipated picks for the 2015 festival.

Still from Best of Enemies courtesy of Hot Docs

Still from Best of Enemies courtesy of Hot Docs.

Hot Docs, North America’s premiere festival of documentary cinema, begins tonight. We’ve rounded up some of the films we’re most anxious about watching.

In Conversation With Master Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman and Producer/Distributor Karen Konicek

TIFF Bell Lightbox 4–Wed, Apr 29, 6:00 p.m.

Though he never really went anywhere, it certainly seems like the 85-year-old “cinema verité” pioneer Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies, High School, Hospital, Welfare) is enjoying something of a critical renaissance after his two most recent films: 2013’s At Berkeley, a four-hour, soup-to-nuts portrait of the University of California at Berkeley; and 2014’s National Gallery, which contemplated the intersection of art and commerce at the National Gallery of London. CBC’s Piya Chattopadhyay will moderate the conversation between Wiseman and longtime collaborator Konicek, who will discuss their upcoming In Jackson Heights and the state of documentary filmmaking in general.

Best of Enemies
Directed by Robert Gordon, Morgan Neville

TIFF Bell Lightbox—Fri, Apr 24, 7:00 p.m.

Isabel Bader Theatre—Sun, Apr 26 3:15 p.m.

The struggling ABC network hoped for partisan fireworks when they hired ideological opposites Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley for a series of televised debates during the 1968 Democratic and GOP conventions. They got it: some 10 million people tuned in to watch Vidal call Buckley a “crypto-Nazi.” Buckley replied, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face.” We look forward to the opportunity to revisit this classic moment and others.

Live From New York!
Directed by Bao Nguyen

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema—Wed, Apr 29, 9:30 p.m.

TIFF Bell Lightbox 2—Thu, Apr 30, 7:15 p.m.

After four decades of books, documentaries, clip shows, “Best of” compilations, and a recent televised reunion that perhaps sated everyone’s thirst for Saturday Night Live nostalgia, do we really need another investigation into one of American popular culture’s most documented institutions? Honestly? Probably not. But listen: ridiculous as it may seem now, our entire perception of “cool” comedy “for grown ups” came from SNL. Thanks to after-school reruns during the late ‘90s, we saw a sizeable majority of SNL episodes from between 1975 and 1995, including just about every single second of the Joe Piscopo era. Even now, we will still occasionally go out of our way to binge-watch several episodes, because for most of our lives we’ve known the names of every single cast member in the show’s history, and don’t want to lose touch with this pointless skill. So will we watch this fourtieth anniversary documentary? Yes we will. And speaking of comedy institutions….

Monty Python: The Meaning of Live
Directed by Roger Graef, James Rogan

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema—Mon, Apr 27, 6:30 p.m.

Isabel Bader Theatre—Tue, Apr 28, 11:30 a.m.

Fox Theatre—Sat, May 2, 9:00 p.m.

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema—Sun, May 3, 4:00 p.m.

..back when we were wee pups, in the days of Web 1.0, we spent many hours of our lives haunting the Monty Python fanpages, hoping for an update on the British comedy troupe’s rumoured 30th anniversary tour. We were the types of obnoxious kids who could recite all the key Python sketches from memory, punishing friends and family with an atrocious faux-British accent. The tour never happened, and we moved on with our lives. By the time a reunion actually did occur–last summer, at London’s O2 arena and broadcast worldwide–we wondered if it might be more enjoyable to see the surviving Pythons have brunch together than try to revive the Dead Parrot again. Our prayers may have been answered with this backstage documentary by frequent Python documentarian Roger Graef. For those of us who grew up with them, the Pythons practically feel like members of the family, so we’re eager to see the offstage dynamic of these septuagenarian comedy icons.

Directed by Kristina Goolsby, Ashley York

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema—Thu, Apr 23, 9:45 p.m.

TIFF Bell Lightbox 1—Sun, May 3, 7:00 p.m.

And, speaking again of comedy, opening lines don’t come much punchier than, “Good evening – I have cancer.” So began comedian Tig Notaro’s breathtaking October 2012 set at the Largo nightclub, of which no less than Louis C.K. tweeted: “In 27 years of doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night.” Coming after a Job-like year in which Notaro lost her mother, ended a relationship, and suffered unrelated health problems, the half-hour improvised act (later released by C.K. through his website) quickly became one of a key example of comedy as therapy. This documentary follows Notaro through her ultimately successful battle with cancer; if nothing else, we’re interested to get to better know one of the most interesting stand-ups at work these days.