Big ideas remain Hot Docs’ bread and butter as festival announces 2019 line-up

Big ideas remain Hot Docs’ bread and butter as festival announces 2019 line-up
Hot Docs, the Canadian International Documentary Festival, has announced the line-up for this year’s event, which will include such hot-button topics as climate change, the global refugee crisis, human genetic engineering, racism – and Gordon Lightfoot.

That’s just to say that not every offering among the 234 films – 56 per cent of them directed by women – will be heavy. The octogenarian singer-songwriter is the focus of If You Could Read My Mind from directors Joan Tosoni and Martha Kehoe, which looks back over his decades-long career. There are also films about sex therapist Ruth Westheimer (Ask Dr. Ruth), service dogs (Buddy) and Miles Davis (Birth of the Cool).

But big ideas are the festival’s bread and butter, and this year is no exception. The Rest, from Chinese activist and director Ai Weiwei, looks at the plight of refugees in Europe. Human Nature, from director Adam Bolt, discusses CRISPR gene editing. Toxic Beauty, directed by Phyllis Ellis, examines a lawsuit over the health risks of cosmetics. And Willie, from director Laurence Mathieau-Leger, tells the story of Willie O’Ree, who broke the colour barrier in the NHL in 1958. Along with If You Could Read My Mind, they’ll be screened with directors and subjects in attendance.

The festival will open with Nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, Tasha Hubbard’s examination of the aftermath of the death of a young First Nations man in Saskatchewan, and the killer’s subsequent acquittal. The Canadian Spectrum sidebar will also include such titles as The Hottest August (climate change and its effects on New York City), Prey (an Ontario lawsuit against the Catholic Church) and Your Last Walk in the Mosque, a painfully timely look back at the Quebec City shootings of 2017.

Along the festival’s special presentations: American Factory, about a Chinese billionaire who re-opens a shuttered GM plant in Ohio; Assholes: A Theory, which examines the global rise in bad behaviour; Killing Patient Zero, a look back at the start of the AIDS epidemic; and Framing John DeLorean, about the famed car designer. And Alexandre O. Phillippe celebrates the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic with Memory: The Origins of Alien.

The Hot Docs festival runs from April 25 to May 5 in Toronto. More information and tickets at

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