It’s a must stop on the festival circuit for the world’s film industry, as important an event as any. But TIFF isn’t the only major film event Toronto hosts each year.
Less well known and considerably down market in glitz appeal than TIFF, the Toronto International Documentary Film Festival – known as Hot Docs – draws far more aging vans and beat-up clunkers than Beemer's and limousines to theatre parking lots. But it’s of much greater importance to documentary filmmakers than TIFF. Hot Docs marked its 16th anniversary this month, screening a remarkable line-up of 177 documentaries during its 11 day run from filmmakers working around the world.
Dazzling Films, Prestigious Awards
Unlike many big name film festivals, Hot Docs awards both jury prizes and awards voted on by the public, all 122,000 attendees – a whopping 42% increase in 2009 over 2008 ticket sales.
The 10 audience award winners in 2009 were:
1. The Cove (Director: Louie Psihoyos; USA)
2. 65 Red Roses (D: Philip Lyall, Nimisha Mukerji; Canada)
3. Inside Hana’s Suitcase (D: Larry Weinstein; Canada, Czech Republic)
4. Best Worst Movie (D: Michael Paul Stephenson; USA)
5. A Hard Name (D: Alan Zweig; Canada)
6. Over The Hills and Far Away (now titled The Horse Boy) (D: Michel Orion Scott; USA)
7. Winnebago Man (D: Ben Steinbauer; USA)
8. Burma VJ (D: Anders Høgsbro Østergaard; Denmark)
9. Rough Aunties (D: Kim Longinotto; UK)
10. Prom Night In Mississippi (D: Paul Saltzman; Canada)
Simon El Habre’s “The One Man Village” and Hubert Davis’s “Invisible City” were the recipients of the festival’s two big prizes. “Village” took the Best International Feature Award and “City” won the Best Canadian Feature Award. Special Jury Prize winners in both categories were Peter Kerekes’ Czech Republic-Slovakis co-production “Cooking History,” which won for International Feature. Kevin McMahon’s “Waterlife” won the jury prize for a Canadian Feature.
Ten awards, including those for films in competition and those recognizing emerging and established filmmakers, were presented. More than $60,000 in cash prizes were handed out to filmmakers.
The festival is more than a showcase of the world’s best documentaries.
Hot Docs makes itself an intimate, on-going part of the documentary world, giving a major financial and educational leg-up to filmmakers. Underwritten by corporate media donors, it sponsors $4-million worth of completion and development grants each year, providing support to filmmakers facing financial gaps at critical stages of their projects.
It also hosts forums for filmmakers including “Doc Lab” and “Doc U.”
Doc Lab is intensive, five-day creative development workshop where 15 early-to-mid-career documentary writers and directors take part in a specially designed master class. Meanwhile, Doc U gives recent Canadian film school graduates an introduction to the workings of a large festival and how to market their project to distributors. It also helps co-ordinate scholarships and fellowships to aspiring documentary writers, directors and producers.
The Hot Docs website provides information on all of the festival’s programmes, including details on how to submit films and apply for funding, and a subscription form to receive e-mail updates.