Notable subjects featured as part of the Special Presentations program include the late singer and actress Whitney Houston (Whitney “Can I Be Me”), comedian and actor Gilbert Gottfried (Gilbert), and (pictured) the late Jerry Garcia’s jam band The Grateful Dead (Long Strange Trip).
The program includes productions that span the globe with stops in places like the city of Raqqa, where a group of citizen journalists risk their lives to expose ISIS (City of Ghosts), and to the streets of Baltimore, where a female step dancing group fight to win their high school competition, and achieve a higher education (Step). Another production, The Last Animals, follows animal-rights activists through Africa, Asia and Europe as they advocate for conservation and animal protection and then there’s an in depth look at the life and work of Chris Hondros, an award-winning photographer who was tragically killed in combat (Hondros).
The complete Special Presentations program and the full selection of films to screen at Hot Docs 2017 will be announced on March 21, including the 2017 opening night film.
Special Presentation titles appear below in alphabetical order:
BECOMING WHO I WAS
D: Chang-Yong Moon, Jin Jeon | South Korea | 2016 | 96 min | North American Premiere
An impoverished young boy discovers he’s the reincarnation of an esteemed, high-ranking Tibetan monk. Displaced from his past self’s monastery and denied the privilege of that position, he struggles with his identity amid growing doubts.
D: Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky | USA | 1992 | 104 min
A 25th anniversary screening of the groundbreaking true-crime story of the Ward brothers, one of whose death sparked a media sensation amid accusations of coerced confessions, political pressure and miscarriage of justice.
CITY OF GHOSTS
D: Matthew Heineman | USA | 2016 | 91 min | Canadian Premiere
Academy Award–nominee Matthew Heineman captures the extraordinary story of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” a fearless group of citizen journalists who risk their lives to document and expose the atrocities of ISIS in their home city.
D: Lana Wilson | USA | 2017 | 86 min | International Premiere
A Japanese punk rocker assumes a new role as a Buddhist priest, helping suicidal people find hope in the depths of their despair. But his wholehearted dedication to their suffering starts to erode his own well-being.
D: Neil Berkeley | USA | 2017 | 96 min | International Premiere
The bluest jokes and the shrillest whine delivered with a perpetual squint—what’s not to love about Gilbert Gottfried? Publicly polarizing yet intensely private, the scandalous comic opens his peculiar life and process to cameras.
HELL ON EARTH: THE FALL OF SYRIA AND THE RISE OF ISIS
D: Sebastian Junger | USA | 2017 | 99 min | International Premiere
The fall of Syria, the rise of ISIS and the alarming role played by the West is powerfully dissected in this hard-hitting, compelling look at the political and social consequences of this ongoing humanitarian catastrophe.
D: Greg Campbell | USA | 2016 | 93 min | International Premiere
Driven by a commitment to capturing the heart-wrenching realities of war, award-winning conflict photographer Chris Hondros, killed in combat in 2011, shed light on world events with his arrestingly powerful imagery, and changed lives with his definitive work.
INTENT TO DESTROY
D: Joe Berlinger | USA | 2017 | 115 min | International Premiere
The truth about the Armenian Genocide and the shocking tactics of the Turkish government to suppress history are both revealed in this thoroughly original film-within-a-film exposé by legendary documentarian Joe Berlinger.
THE LAST ANIMALS
D: Kate Brooks | USA, UK | 2017 | 85 min | International Premiere
From Africa’s frontlines to Asian markets to European zoos, this animal-rights thriller follows the conservationists, scientists and activists battling poachers and transnational trafficking syndicates to protect the last of the world’s elephants and rhinos from extinction.
LONG STRANGE TRIP
D: Amir Bar-Lev | USA | 2017 | 240 min | International Premiere
Deadheads rejoice! Expand your consciousness of the Grateful Dead through rare archival footage and never-before-seen performances in this deep dive into the music and cultural phenomenon that helped define and inspire a generation.
MOMMY DEAD AND DEAREST
D: Erin Lee Carr | USA | 2017 | 82 min | International Premiere
After an ailing, wheelchair-bound girl goes missing and her devoted mother is found dead in their home, dark family secrets are revealed as the girl becomes the prime suspect in her grisly murder.
NO STONE UNTURNED
D: Alex Gibney | USA, Northern Ireland | 2017 | 110 min | International Premiere
Academy Award winner Alex Gibney delves into the unsolved 1994 murder of six men in a rural pub in Northern Ireland, uncovering a web of collusion, cover-up and explosive allegations, in this stunning real-life thriller.
D: Karin Jurschick | Germany, Netherlands | 2017 | 95 min | World Premiere
Witness firsthand the struggle of the charismatic and controversial US attorney who, since 9/11, has been charged with the impossible task of assigning a dollar value to life when compensating victims of America’s most tragic events.
D: Matthias Heeder, Monika Hielscher | Germany | 2017 | 90 min | World Premiere
Science fiction turns into disturbing fact as forecasting software, algorithms and databases quickly become the new fortune-tellers for future crimes, driving us to ask: how much are we willing to abandon for the sake of security?
D: Amanda Lipitz | USA | 2016 | 83 min | International Premiere
Meet the fierce and inspiring “Lethal Ladies” of the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a dynamic step dance team battling the odds to make it to the championship and become the first in their families to go to college.
WHITNEY “CAN I BE ME”
D: Nick Broomfield, Rudi Dolezal | UK | 2017 | 100 min | Canadian Premiere
A troubled pop star, a brilliant vocalist or just a normal girl from Newark, New Jersey? Whitney Houston was a lot of things at once. Get to know the real woman and her struggle in this all-access look.
Hot Docs is North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market. Its 24th annual edition will run from April 27-May 7, 2017 with over 200 documentaries from Canada and around the world on the schedule. Ticket packages and passes are now on sale online. Single tickets and package redemption will be available online and at the CraveTV Hot Docs Box Office, located at 605 Bloor Street, beginning Tuesday, March 21, 2017.