Hot Docs, America’s largest documentary festival, selected and announced the 2011 line-up last week. Some 200 films garnered the attention of the festival’s programmers and the NFB will make a strong showing with 6 films.
Produced by Parabola Films with the NFB’s participation, St-Henri, the 26th of August / À St-Henri le 26 août was shot by 16 teams under Shannon Walsh’s supervision. The grand premiere will take place on May 3 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. I was lucky enough to attend a private screening of the film at the NFB last week and have to say I absolutely loved it. I’m sure this film will be a big hit: the cinematography is breathtaking, the characters are both funny and charming and the supremely poetic soundtrack is by none other than the talented Patrick Watson.
Hot Docs is also presenting the grand premiere of The Chocolate Farmer /Terre et chocolat by Rohan Fernando. The director captures a year in the life of the Pop family and takes viewers on a lush cinematic journey that reveals a tender and moving family tale. In an unspoiled corner of southern Belize, cacao farmer and father Eladio Pop manually works his plantation in the tradition of his Mayan ancestors: as a steward of the land. The film recounts his struggle to preserve his values in a world that is suddenly and dramatically changing.
North American premieres
The Future is Now! by Gary Burns and Jim Brown is a search for something positive in a world plagued by global terrorism, environmental disasters and mass consumption. Inspired by the film La vie commence demain (Nicole Védrès), this documentary challenges audiences to think about their own vision of the future. What can we do to change the world? Is it too late? Can we turn pervasive cynicism into a more optimistic view of the future?
Wiebo’s War by David York is about a Christian community at war with the oil and gas industry. Wiebo Ludwig is the prime suspect in a recent series of pipeline bombings. The attacks are similar to sabotage operations he carried out against the oil and gas industry in the 1990s – barricading roads and blowing up wells – that culminated in the unsolved death of a sixteen-year-old girl on his family’s farm. The Ludwigs have been living in northern Alberta, in the middle of an oil-rich area, for 25 years. They built their community with their own hands, using the natural resources around them. They are fighting to keep their land and what they’ve acquired.
Mighty Jerome by Charles Officer is the story of Harry Jerome, who, in 1959, at the age of 19, became Canada’s greatest rising star in track and field. A leg injury prevented him from competing in the 1962 Olympics in Rome. Everyone thought his career was over, but he managed to make what his coach, the famous Bill Bowerman, called “the greatest comeback in track and field history.” Officer uses black and white archival footage and interviews from the period to tell the triumphant story of this legendary runner.
Les Fros (in French) by Stéphanie Lanthier focuses on a group of brush cutters in Abitibi that is comprised of native-born Quebecers and neo-Quebecers. The woodsmen temporarily leave their families to go up North, just as workers did back in the time of Jos Montferrand, and earn a living together in the woods…
This year, the NFB and Hot Docs will honour Terence Macartney-Filgate, a pioneer of direct cinema, at an evening event showcasing a retrospective of his career. His achievements as a director include one of my favourite holiday films: The Days Before Christmas / Bientôt Noël (1958).
The NFB will also join Hot Docs in a tribute to Toronto documentary filmmaker Alan Zweig with a series of screenings dedicated to him in the Focus On segment.
From April 28 to May 8, 2011, the film industry will gather at Hot Docs 2011 in Toronto.
For the full schedule, visit Hotdocs.ca
*Photo: From the film St-Henri the 26th of August / À St-Henri, le 26 août. A Parabola Films production, with the participation of the NFB.