by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(May 8, 2017 – Toronto, ON) When we first announced Hot Docs some weeks ago we did what we often do, we looked at the festival “by the numbers.” That’s a pretty good way to wrap the 24th edition of what is one of the most important documentaries festivals in the world. It looks like this year is another record-0beaker for the festival with an estimated attendance of 215,000 festival goers. The 11-day event, which wrapped last night, offered up 461 public screenings of 228 films on 15 screens across Toronto. I addition there was an internationally renowned conference and market for documentary professionals, as well as Docs For Schools, which is a phenomenally popular education program for youth. The Festival welcomed more than 225 guest filmmakers and subjects from across Canada and around the world to present their films and take part in special post-screening Q&A sessions with audiences. Official film selections were chosen from a record number of 2906 films submitted to the Festival.
“Congratulations to the many wonderfully talented and creative documentary filmmakers who we were honoured to showcase at Hot Docs this year,” said Hot Docs executive director Brett Hendrie. “Toronto audiences loved your films and again demonstrated their deep appreciation and appetite for great docs, whether the stories are from around the corner or around the globe.”
The Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary went to Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, with a $50,000 cash prize courtesy of Rogers Group of Funds, being given to director Catherine Bainbridge and co-director Alfonso Maiorana. And when audience votes were tallied after the final screening yesterday, it was determined that Rumble was also the winner of the Hot Docs Audience Award. The film tells the story of Native American rock guitarist Link Wray, who inspired countless music legends with his unique guitar sound, and several other Indigenous musicians who shaped popular music. Back to numbers for a moment, when the Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian Documentary is included, Hot Docs ended up handing out over $300,000 in cash and prizes to films and filmmakers at the Festival.
Also in the audience poll, the top short documentary was The Forger (D: Samantha Stark, Alexandra Garcia, Pamela Druckerman; USA), and the top mid-length documentary was Death in the Terminal (D: Asaf Sudry, Tali Shemesh; Israel), which was also named best mid-length documentary at the Hot Docs awards presentation on Friday.
The top 20 audience favourites as determined by audience vote are:
RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD (D: Catherine Bainbridge; Canada)
CHASING CORAL (D: Jeff Orlowski; USA)
STEP (D: Amanda Lipitz; USA)
THE LAST ANIMALS (D: Kate Brooks; USA, UK)
DOLORES (D: Peter Bratt; USA)
BIRTH OF A FAMILY (D: Tasha Hubbard; Canada)
BEE NATION (D: Lana Šlezic; Canada)
UNARMED VERSES (D: Charles Officer; Canada)
MUHI – GENERALLY TEMPORARY (D: Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander, Tamir Elterman; Israel)
LA CHANA (D: Lucija Stojevic; Spain, Iceland, USA)
STATE OF EXCEPTION (D: Jason O’Hara; Canada, Brazil)
A BETTER MAN (D: Attiya Khan, Lawrence Jackman; Canada)
LONG STRANGE TRIP (D: Amir Bar-Lev; USA)
STRAD STYLE (D: Stefan Avalos; USA)
LAST MEN IN ALEPPO (D: Feras Fayyad; Denmark)
JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS. SUPERPOWER (D: Joe Piscatella; USA, Hong Kong)
UNREST (D: Jennifer Brea; USA)
BECOMING BOND (D: Josh Greenbaum; USA)
CITY OF GHOSTS (D: Matthew Heineman; USA)
SHADOWMAN (D: Oren Jacoby; USA)
Hot Docs presented the sixth edition of the Scotiabank Big Ideas series at this year’s festival, which featured screenings and live onstage discussions with prominent documentary subjects. DocX, an interdisciplinary section of the Festival celebrating documentary work that lives outside of the traditional format, ran successful sessions that included performances and live events, as well as virtual reality projects at Brookfield Place. And the first-ever Food & Film series, which provided in-depth conversations with special Festival guests and partners, was extremely popular with several sold-out events.
More stats? A full week of industry programming was attended by over 2650 delegates from around the world. Hot Docs mounted a roster of six workshops, 12 conference sessions, close to 16 networking events and parties, three Kickstart panels for emerging filmmakers, seven micro-meetings, 16 Close Up With… sessions with broadcasters, the Doc Summit, and the Hot Docs Awards Presentation. Hot Docs also hosted a record 13 official delegations from Atlantic Canada, Bermuda, British Columbia, Chile, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Nordic Region, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland and the USA.
The Hot Docs Forum, Hot Docs’ key international co-financing market event, Hot Docs Deal Maker, Hot Docs’ one-on-one curated pitch event, and Distribution Rendezvous, Hot Docs’ tailored meeting service for completed films seeking distribution, saw brisk pitching, networking and deal-making. In total, 20 projects with 10 female directors and 25 female producers attached—representing 20 countries were presented to a panel of over 475 key commissioning editors and funders at the Hot Docs Forum, and a total of 60 projects were pitched at approximately 700 meetings during Hot Docs Deal Maker.
Doc For Schools, Hot Docs’ education program that runs during the Festival and offers free in-theatre and in-school screenings of select Festival films, saw an estimated 95,000 students participate in the program in 2017 from schools in Toronto and throughout Ontario. Selected by student ballot from the 10 Docs For Schools selections that screened at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema during the Festival, the winner of the Docs For Schools Students’ Choice is Step (D: Amanda Lipitz; USA)
Northernstars joins with others in congratulating the organizers, volunteers and filmmakers on the most successful Hot Docs Film Festival Yet. Here’s to 2018!!
This article is Copyright © 2017 by Northernstars.ca and may not be reproduced without written permission. For more information about copyright, click here. Ralph Lucas is the Founder and Publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.