CDN Films at Hot Docs 2022
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 18, 2022 – Toronto, ON) When the 2022 edition of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (Hot Docs) launches on April 28, it will take yet another step closer to the 30th anniversary of its founding in 1993 by the Documentary Organization of Canada. The first festival ran from February 24 to 27, 1994. From that small but important start it has steadily grown year after year through careful and talented guidance and the generosity of many to become recognized as the largest documentary festival in North America.
As we have for longer than I can remember, Northernstars will over the next few days concentrate on the Canadian films at Hot Docs. No promises, but we are considering for the first time, looking at some of the international films, but that will, or may come later.
Hot Docs has many different programs including the Canadian Spectrum, which obviously features just Canadian films. We’ll look at some of the 12 films in that program starting tomorrow. Today we look at some of the Canadian films and Canadian coproductions screening in the Special Presentations section of the festival.
The opening film, as we previously reported, is Jennifer Baichwal’s World Premiere screening of Into the Weeds. Not to be confused with the CBC web-series of the same name, this 96-minute doc centres on the unfortunate Dewayne Johnson. A groundskeeper in the San Francisco Bay area of California, in 2014 he began to suffer from skin rashes. He began to wonder if they were caused by a herbicide he’d been using for the past couple years. Diagnosed with cancer and as his health deteriorated, Johnson became the face of a David-and-Goliath legal battle to hold a multi-national agrochemical corporation accountable for the product he had been using, a product with allegedly misleading labelling. Baichwal is an award-winning documentarian and her films are masterpieces of the art of visual storytelling.
Into the Weeds screens:
Thursday, April 28, 6:30pm at the Hot Docs Cinema.
Friday, April 29, 5:30 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, May 7, 1:30 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Framing Agnes is a Canada-U.S. co-production that takes history and retells a story that should have been told decades ago. This story begins in the 1950s, far before the word transgender had yet to be used. That’s when Agnes Torres approached the UCLA Medical Center in search of sex reassignment surgery. Born male, Torres felt she was meant to be in a woman’s body from a very early age. Part of her transitional process included time speaking with sociologist Harold Garfinkel, who recorded their conversations. These became the first known American case study of a transgender individual’s experience. Years later a group of filmmakers uncovered dozens of other transcripts from interviews that Garfinkel had with other people who had successfully transitioned; people whose stories, unlike Anges Torres, were never told publicly. To create Framing Agnes, the filmmakers used archival footage and what the Sundance Film Festival called “vividly rendered, impeccably vintage reenactments,” which brought to life “groundbreaking artifacts of trans healthcare.”
Framing Agnes screens:
Sunday, May 1, 8:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, May 5, 5:45pm at the Varsity
The Kids in the Hall are enjoying a resurgence of popularity. Prime Video recently announced that the iconic comedy troupe—Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson—will return with a new season on May 13 reaching an audience in 240 countries and territories worldwide, thanks to the streaming service. They also show up, on screen, at Hot Docs in the 95-minute film The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks. Directed by Reg Harkema, the “Kids” themselves, delve into the group’s mid-1980s post-punk origins and their 40-year legacy as a renowned, cult comedy troupe. This proves that not all documentaries need to be heavy, serious fare.
The Kids in the Hall: Comedy Punks screens:
Tuesday, May 3, 6:30pm at Hot Docs Cinema
Friday, May 6, 8:30pm at Hot Docs Cinema
Saturday, May 7, 10:30am at Hot Docs Cinema
As previously reported, Director Barry Avrich returns to Hot Docs with the World Premiere of The Talented Mr. Rosenberg. Inspired by the investigative journalism of writer Courtney Shea, who is a co-producer and co-writer on the 70-minute doc, the film explores a world where cheats and swindlers may be a dime a dozen, but true con artists — like Bernie Madoff, Anna Sorokin … and Torontonian Albert Rosenberg — are elegant, outsized personalities, artists of persuasion and exploiters of trust. How do they do it? Why are they successful? And what keeps us falling for it, over and over again? These are the questions that are tackled in this frightening and mesmerizing new film.
The Talented Mr. Rosenberg screens:
Sunday, May 1, 5:15pm at Hot Docs Cinema
Thursday, May 3, 7:00pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Finally, unless we missed something, the only other film with a Canadian connection in the Special Presentations program is the Canadian Premiere of the Myanmar-Canada-Germany copro Midwives. Directed by Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing in her feature debut, Midwives was filmed over five turbulent years in a country that has long been “exoticized” and misunderstood. It focuses on Hla and Nyo Nyo, who live in a country torn by conflict. Hla is a Buddhist and the owner of a makeshift medical clinic in western Myanmar, where the Rohingya (a Muslim minority community) are persecuted and denied basic rights. Nyo Nyo is a Muslim and an apprentice ze who acts as an assistant and translator at the clinic. Her family has lived in the area for generations, yet they are still considered intruders. Encouraged and challenged by Hla, who risks her own safety daily by helping Muslim patients, Nyo Nyo is determined to become a steady health care provider for her community.
Speaking about her 92-minute film, Director Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing said, “As an adult, I was living and working as a filmmaker in Yangon in 2012, when the news of Rohingya conflict started to come out. I refused to believe that the hate speech I was hearing in the media at that time was reflective of reality. So I went back to my hometown to better understand myself, my people, where all this anger and hatred was coming from. On that visit I met two extraordinary women, a Buddhist Midwife and her young Muslim apprentice. I made this film in order to represent myself and my country’s story – a story that I really want to tell using the film language.”
Sunday, May 1, 8:15pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Thursday, May 5, 11:45am at the Varsity 8
Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the films in the Canadian Spectrum. The 2022 Hot Docs Festival runs April 28-May 8. There is more information about tickets and festival passes online.
Ralph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.