On Friday the 29th, Hot Docs, North America’s largest and most important documentary festival, revved up for its 17th year. In the past, documentaries have been stigmatized as boring, staid, and educational in the worst “this is a bad 50’s educational school video” sense. However, reality is indeed often weirder than the more popular and box office-grossing fiction.
As each permutation of reality unfolds on tabloid websites, increasingly for better or worse, documentaries have continued to give greater depth and context to both the sensational and the often-forgotten. Documentaries have become better, more potent, diverse, and engaging than ever. Hot Docs as a festival has also evolved, becoming an event for world and Canadian debuts of new and challenging films while increasingly trying to dispel the unglamorous past of documentaries by reaching out to younger viewers.
This year, Hot Docs continues its very successful Late Night Series of documentaries screened at 11:59pm almost every night of the festival at the Bloor Cinema for the low, low price of $5 to be purchased at the venue day of. This includes some rarely seen but seminal films like 1991 The Year Punk Broke, which catalogs Sonic Youth’s 1991 tour with featured performance footage of The Ramones, Dinosaur Jr., and rare early Nirvana.
Also being screened in the late night series is the sure-to-be-soon-cult-film The People vs. George Lucas. The film is about… well I give you one guess: *cough* Prequels *cough* and the ummm reactions of fans and critics, commentators, devotees and haters alike. If $5 is still not enough value for you, Hot Docs has an All-you-can-eat Late Night Pass that gets you one ticket to every post-11 pm screening (9 in total).
Hot Docs has a sadly-promoted perk for students where every film screened before 6 pm is free to students with student cards. All you have to do is show up to the venue box office beforehand on the day of the screening and ask for a free student ticket.
This year, Hot Docs has also partnered with Brooklyn based Rooftop Films to screen films on — surprise — a rooftop. Well, more like the top open air level of a parking garage in Yorkville. The Rooftop Docs Series will feature three nights of films under the stars including a series of shorts and the aptly fitting The Parking Lot Movie, a highly-rated film about vastly over-educated (apparently including a university professor) parking attendants that have made the job a spiritual quest. Getting on the digital boat as well, Hot Docs now offers purchase and viewing of past Hot Docs’ favourites on iTunes.
Check out these film reviews to help you pick which ones you want to see: