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NFB at Hot Docs

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(March 21, 2017 – Toronto, ON) The National Film Board of Canada will enjoy four world premieres of feature documentaries at this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. In addition there will be a selection of films in the festival’s Redux program. The four premieres are all within the Canadian Spectrum program and each in its own ways offers a look a powerful, life-changing stories. While their stories may be similar, each is different and taken together offers a diverse exploration of a common theme.

Attiya Khan makes her directorial debut alongside co-director Lawrence Jackman with A Better Man (Intervention Productions/NFB), premiering April 30 at 6:30 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre. Twenty-two years ago, 18-year-old Attiya feared for her life, fleeing her ex-boyfriend Steve, who had been abusing her on a daily basis. Now, all these years later, Attiya wanted to know how he remembers their relationship and whether he’s willing to take responsibility for his actions. Their emotionally raw first meeting, filmed by Attiya with Steveก’s consent, is the starting point for a fresh and nuanced look at how healing can happen when men take responsibility for their abuse. A Better Man is produced by Christine Kleckner for Intervention Productions and Justine Pimlott for the NFB’s Ontario Studio, based in Toronto. The executive producers for Intervention Productions are Sarah Polley, Kathy Avrich-Johnson and Janice Dawe. The NFB executive producer for A Better Man is Anita Lee. Jane Jankovic is the executive producer for TVO.

Premiering April 30 at 9:30 p.m. at TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, writer/director Marie Clements’ The Road Forward is an electrifying musical documentary that connects a pivotal moment in Canada’s civil rights history and the beginnings of Indian Nationalism in the 1930s with First Nations activism today. Interviews and musical sequences describe how a tiny movement, the Native Brotherhood and Sisterhood, grew to become a successful voice for change across the country, as this feature documentary seamlessly links past and present through superb story-songs, blues, rock and traditional beats. The Road Forward is produced and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s BC & Yukon Studio in Vancouver.

Premiering May 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre, Charles Officer’s Unarmed Verses presents a thoughtful and vivid portrait of a community facing imposed relocation, taking a look at marginalized Toronto Community Housing residents in the city’s north-east end. At the centre of the story is a remarkably astute and luminous 12-year-old black girl, whose poignant observations about life, the soul, and the power of art give voice to those rarely heard in society. Unarmed Verses is produced by Lea Marin and executive produced by Anita Lee for the NFB’s Ontario Studio.

Directed by Tasha Hubbard and written by Tasha Hubbard and Betty Ann Adam, Birth of a Family premieres May 2 at 9:00 p.m. at Scotiabank Theatre 3. The film follows three sisters and a brother, adopted as infants into separate families across North America, as they meet together for the first time. Separated as part of Canada’s infamous Sixties Scoop, in which 20,000 Indigenous children were removed from their families and placed into foster care or adopted into white homes, the four are now all in middle age, with no shared memories. Together, they piece together their history, deepen their connections and take the first steps in building their family. Birth of a Family is produced by Bonnie Thompson and executive produced by David Christensen for the NFB’s North West Studio in Edmonton.

Just some of the NFB films in the Redux program, which provides a showcase for past productions, include, Assembly by Jenn Strom. It’s an animated short which is a powerful call for women to raise their voices. A pair of hands is seen editing film of key moments in women’s history and remixing the sound of common sexist claims about women. The final cut, however, is a statement for women to “stop being invalidated.” Assembly is dedicated to the memory of editor and Studio D executive producer Kathleen Shannon. Anne Wheeler’s Augusta is a portrait of an octogenarian Shuswap woman who lives alone in a log cabin in British Columbia. Sarah Gadon, who suggested the short, notes: “In a charming, subtle way it explores a female identity on the fringe.” Forbidden Love is genre-bending doc that is a cornerstone of lesbian oral history, featuring interviews with 10 women across Canada about their love lives in the 1940s, 50s and 60s and infused with a seductive—and timeless—humour. Tracey Deer’s Mohawk Girls is framed through the filmmaker’s own coming-of-age experiences a decade earlier, this doc exploring the lives of teenage girls on the Kahnawake reserve is both deeply intimate and powerfully political.

For more information including a full schedule and riveting options, visit Hot Docs online.