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These are some of the best films showing at the Hot Docs festival | CBC News



Late to look up what’s hot at Hot Docs this year? Or are you unable to attend the Ontario festival that cut out its popular at-home streaming option? 

Have no fear. CBC News has compiled some of the the best documentaries at the festival that are most worth your time.

That includes some films that, as of Wednesday morning, still have tickets available — and information on when and where moviegoers outside of Toronto can see them at home or elsewhere later this year.

The festival runs April 25 to May 5.

Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story

An animation of Jackie Shane from the documentary on her life is shown. (Banger Films/NFB)

An inimitable trans R&B performer born in Nashville found her stage, and her spiritual home, in 1960s Toronto. Then, she disappeared.

That’s the plot of Michael Mabbott and Lucah Rosenberg-Lee’s Any Other Way: The Jackie Shane Story, a fascinating and well-researched profile uncovering the true story of a woman forgotten and let down by an industry she helped revolutionize.

While showings initially sold out, an additional screening was added for May 4 — which, as of Wednesday morning, still has tickets available.

If you’re outside Toronto: The film will also close Vancouver’s DOXA film festival on May 11. It will then receive a theatrical run this spring and summer, and stream on Crave in the fall.

Beethoven’s Nine: Ode to Humanity

A conductor joyfully lifts her arms in front of an orchestra.
Conductor Keri-Lynn Wilson and the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra appear at Teatr Wiekli, Warsaw. They are among the subjects in Larry Weinstein’s sweeping documentary Beethoven’s Nine. (Riddle Films)

Canadian director Larry Weinstein has always been fascinated with classical music. His documentary Beethoven’s Nine: Ode to Humanity aimed to focus on the composer’s Symphony No. 9, and the people who most reflected its ode to joy and humanity.

But as international conflicts and personal tragedies intersected, it became something very different. The result is equal parts war documentary, memoir and social commentary, and is affecting the whole way through.

The documentary’s three showings on April 28, April 30 and May 4 are sold out, but worth an attempted rush. 

If you’re outside Toronto: The film will be broadcast on TV and online through TVO, likely late summer or early fall.

A New Kind of Wilderness

A child sitting on a roof thatched with twigs in the woods raises their arms joyfully.
A New Kind of Wilderness, directed by Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, follows a Norwegian family living off the land — while dealing with a tragedy. (A5 Film)

Like a real-life Captain Fantastic, A New Kind of Wilderness charts a few seasons in the life of a Norwegian homesteading family. With a microscope on the lives of its subjects, the tender, detailed introspection — and unparalleled cinematography — that its director Silje Evensmo Jacobsen achieves makes it a clear standout at this year’s festival.

This gorgeous, sad and compelling film still has tickets available for both its showings on May 3 and 5.

If you’re outside Toronto: A New Kind of Wilderness does not yet have a release date. But for those on the West Coast willing to make the trip, it will appear at the Seattle International Film Festival next month.

Never Look Away

A slightly smiling woman stands in front of a large fire at night.
Videographer Margaret Moth is the compelling subject of Never Look Away. (Ingenious Media)

If you’ve seen A24’s recent Civil War, you’ve seen Margaret Moth, the subject of Lucy Lawless’s Never Look Away. A fearless war cinematographer who spent more time running through hails of bullets than sleeping, Moth is the kind of person who demands a documentary be made about them.

Lawless puts together what drove her through military engagements in Tbilisi, Scud missile attacks in the Gulf War and the siege of Sarajevo — and eventually, more personal struggles. 

Tickets are down to rush opportunities for all three showings at Hot Docs on April 27, April 30 and May 4.

If you’re outside Toronto: A wider theatrical release is coming in the fall, with video on demand to follow.

Curl Power

Two teenage girls brush furiously in front of a curling rock on a rink.
Curling teammates Brook and Sav appear in a still from Curl Power. (Ben Cox)

“I feel like teenagers are all just, like, miserable,” says one of Josephine Anderson’s Curl Power characters early on. While it seems like a strange observation for a sports film, it’s really not — because it’s about much more than its ostensible focus.

Pitched as a documentary about a B.C. curling team, Curl Power is a deeply personal and tender examination of what it means to grow up, the unique pressures and pains of girlhood — and in a strange but compelling way, how to reckon with our delicate humanity and finite time on Earth.

Tickets are still available for its April 29 screening at Hot Docs.

If you’re outside Toronto: The film will continue a run across Canada’s festival circuit this fall and eventually launch on Telus platforms over the winter.


A small girl closes her eyes while hugging a man that holds his head against her shoulder.
Aubrey Smith hugs her dad Keith Swepston in a still from Daughters, the new Netflix documentary that highlights a program uniting girls with their incarcerated fathers. (Netflix)

“When you get out of jail next time and you go back in jail, I’m not going to share even one single tear,” says 10-year-old Santana. “Done sharing tears because he want to keep doing bad stuff that he shouldn’t be doing. It’s not OK. It’s affecting me. Mostly me.” 

An emotional slam-dunk masterpiece, Daughters follows the girls and fathers involved in the Date with Dad program — a father-daughter dance organized for families separated by the carceral system.

Tickets are down to rush access at this year’s festival, on April 26, April 27 and May 4.

If you’re outside Toronto: Daughters will premiere on Netflix this summer.


A man standing in front of a stand full of microphones holds both his fists in the air. Behind him a crowd of people cheer. Some hold signs that say 'Union rights for all Amazon workers.'
Members of the Amazon Labor Union appear in a still from a documentary on their fight to organize workers at the company. (Impact Partners)

An eye-opening, hopeful — and somewhat disheartening — exposé on the modern state of labour organizing, Union looks at the Amazon Labor Union’s attempts to unionize a Staten Island warehouse. Woven into its secret recordings of union-busting meetings, police confrontations and courtroom bombshells are painfully human moments showcasing how difficult it can be to get a room of people to agree on a single thing.

And if you’re curious, yes, that is CBC’s Nicole Mortillaro reporting on the Blue Origin space launch in the movie’s opening.

A late additional showing on May 4 still has tickets available, while April 26 and 28 are down to rush tickets.

If you’re outside Toronto: The film will also show at DOXA on May 6.


A blurry and old looking photo of police officers holding nightsticks and shotguns walking through an urban street is shown.
An archival photo shown in the Netflix documentary Power is shown. (Netflix)

Power looks at the creation and maintenance of American policing — and police forces as a whole. Documenting police brutality — both in the past and very recent present — this Yance Ford-directed production is sure to drive emotions and conversation. Reminiscent of Let the Fire Burn, a documentary about the Philadelphia police’s 1985 bombing of a Black nationalist group, this provocative work is certainly worth watching.

Showings are now down to rush, on May 1 and 3. 

If you’re outside Toronto: Power will release on Netflix on May 17.

Black Box Diaries

A woman with a vacant expression, left, sits next to a frowning woman. Both are sitting at a table in an office.
Shiori Itō, left, appears in a still from her documentary Black Box Diaries. (Dogwoof)

Shiori Itō’s deeply personal Black Box Diaries is almost too painful to watch, but demands its audience follows through. As a journalist herself, Itō turns the camera back around to document her own high-profile attempts to prosecute the well-connected journalistic senior who raped her.

After wowing critics and general audiences at the Sundance Film Festival — and pulling in a current 100 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes — the documentary will be shown at Hot Docs on April 29 and May 3. Both screenings still have tickets available.

If you’re outside Toronto: DOXA will also feature this film on May 5 and 6. 

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