Announcing the 18th edition of Hot Docs executive director Chris McDonald told a packed press conference in Toronto today  that top brass would unveil “a major new international initiative” to “help finance and distribute films in a meaningful way.”
The festival runs from Apr 28-May 8 and will feature 199 official selections from 43 countries in 10 programmes. The opening night film is POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold by director Morgan Spurlock.
“The most exciting thing about showing [this film] on opening night is that all of our sponsors will be there! It’s like an intervention,” Sean Farnel, director of programming, told the standing-room only crowd of media and filmmakers.
How to finance a documentary in the world of convergence is the emerging Hot Docs theme this year. Farnel told Screen that financing is especially top-of-mind at this year’s festival because around the world “broadcasters are withdrawing from this form to some degree,” even though “other funders are moving in.”
He said as conventional broadcast financing dried up, “collaboration between small funds is becoming an exciting thing,” adding: “Funds cluster around certain projects.”
“Cluster funds” were behind one world premiere, The Team, about a Kenyan football team that tries to save a nation with a soap opera. This project won the Hot Docs pitch contest two years ago but was still unable to get a broadcaster and was funded with prize money (C$30,000) as well as “smaller funds” from backers at the Sundance Institute and ITVS International.
Nonetheless, Hot Docs had 2,143 films submitted to this year’s festival. Buyers were also in attendance to get a first glimpse of this year’s new documentaries.
“We buy about one doc a year and watching films here you can see what will be on the market this year,” Michel de Schaetzen, Cinemavault director of festivals and acquisitions, told Screen. “We look for films about people who follow their dreams, because that’s what audiences will pay for.”
Among the world premieres is Canada’s The National Parks Project which veteran documentary director Kevin McMahon told Screen was based on “the idea to bring the Group Of Seven to life — they are beautiful portraits of this country.” McMahon is one of 52 filmmakers and musicians who shot 13 short films (one for each Canadian province and territory), and turned them into both a 127-minute feature and a 13-part TV series.
Hot Docs will present 46 international premieres and 33 world premieres, including Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir’s Dolphin Boy (Israel), the tale of a boy who undergoes dolphin-assisted therapy; and Dylan Nelson and Dan Sturman’s The Hollywood Complex (USA), a look at the spring migration of thousands of hopeful child actors who flock to Hollywood for TV’s pilot season.
International premieres include actor Michael Rapaport’s directorial debut Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest (USA) and Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s Becoming Chaz (USA); Constance Marks’s Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (USA); and Britta Wauer’s In Heaven, Underground, The Jewish Cemetery In Berlin-Weissensee (Germany).
Hot Docs programmes include special presentations, Canadian Specturm, Focus On Alan Zweig, International Spectrum, World Showcase, Made In Italy, Works Of The World!, Next, a Terence MaCartney-Filgate retrospective and Ripping Reality – The B-Sides.