Hot Docs has wrapped its 23rd edition with record-breaking audience numbers reaching an estimated 211,000. The 11-day event featured 462 public screenings of 232 films on 15 screens across Toronto, an internationally renowned conference and market for documentary professionals, and Docs for Schools, a phenomenally popular education programme for youth. The festival welcomed more than 310 guest filmmakers and subjects from across Canada and around the world to present their films and take part in special post-screening Q&A sessions with audiences. Official film selections were chosen from a total of 2,735 films submitted to the festival.
At the Festival, Hot Docs presented the fifth edition of the Scotiabank Big Ideas series, featuring screenings and live onstage discussions with prominent documentary subjects. This year also marked the expansion of the interdisciplinary DocX program, celebrating documentary work that lives outside of the traditional format, and included screenings, performances, interactive installations, exhibitions, virtual reality and 360 degree video.
“As we wrap the 2016 edition, we salute the many filmmakers and documentary subjects who joined us for Hot Docs: it’s their creativity and engrossing true stories that attract Toronto’s wonderfully enthusiastic and curious audience – once again, in record numbers,’ says Hot Docs executive director Brett Hendrie.
After the final screening yesterday, audience votes were tallied for the Vimeo on-demand Audience Award. The winner is Angry Inuk (Director: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Canada), which follows a new tech-savvy generation of Inuit wading into the world of activism, using humour and reason to confront aggressive animal rights vitriol and defend their traditional hunting practices. As the highest rated independently produced feature-length Canadian documentary with a Canadian director, Angry Inuk also wins the Canadian Documentary Promotion Award. The film will receive a $25,000 cash prize, courtesy of Telefilm Canada, to support the marketing and promotion of the film to new Canadian and international audiences.
In second place is The Apology (Director: Tiffany Hsiung; Canada), the story of three former “comfort women’ who courageously break the silence about their sexual slavery during WWII, and demand a formal apology from a reluctant Japanese government; and third in the audience poll is Spirit Unforgettable (Director: Pete McCormack; Canada), the story of Spirit of the West’s frontman John Mann’s battle with early onset Alzheimer’s.
The top 20 audience favourites as determined by audience vote were:
1. ANGRY INUK (Director: Alethea Arnaquq-Baril; Canada)
2. THE APOLOGY (Director: Tiffany Hsiung; Canada)
3. SPIRIT UNFORGETTABLE (Director: Pete McCormack; Canada)
4. HIP-HOP EVOLUTION (Director: Darby Wheeler; Canada)
5. WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE (Director: Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel; Peru)
6. LIFE, ANIMATED (Director: Roger Ross Williams; USA)
7. GLEASON (Director: Clay Tweel; USA)
8. MULLY (Director: Scott Haze; USA, Kenya)
9. MIGRANT DREAMS (Director: Min Sook Lee; Canada)
10. AIDA’S SECRETS (Director: Alon Schwarz, Shaul Schwarz; Israel, USA, Germany, Canada)
11. STRIKE A POSE (Director: Ester Gould, Reijer Zwaan; Netherlands, Belgium)
12. MR. GAGA (Director: Tomer Heymann; Israel, Sweden, Netherlands, Germany)
13. WIZARD MODE (Director: Nathan Drillot, Jeff Petry; Canada)
14. TICKLED (Director: David Farrier, Dylan Reeve; New Zealand)
15. TEMPEST STORM (Director: Nimisha Mukerji; Canada, Germany, France)
16. OFF THE RAILS (Director: Adam Irving; Canada, USA)
17. SUITED (Director: Jason Benjamin; USA)
18. GUN RUNNERS (Director: Anjali Nayar; Canada)
19. ZIMBELISM (Director: Matt Zimbel, Jean-François Gratton; Canada)
20. SONITA (Director: Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami; Iran, Germany, Switzerland)
A full week of industry programming was attended by 2678 delegates from around the world. Hot Docs mounted a roster of seven workshops, 13 conference sessions, close to 40 networking events and parties, three Kickstart panels for emerging filmmakers, 11 micro meetings, 16 Close Up With sessions with broadcasters, the Doc Summit, and the Hot Docs Awards Presentation. Hot Docs also hosted a record 14 official delegations from Australia, Chile, Colombia, Germany, Georgia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, the Nordic Region, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South Africa and the USA.
The Hot Docs Forum, Hot Docs’ key international co-financing market event, Hot Docs Deal Maker, Hot Docs’ one-on-one curated pitch event, and Distribution Rendezvous, Hot Docs’ tailored meeting service for completed films seeking distribution, saw brisk pitching, networking and deal-making. In total, 20 projects with 12 female directors and 27 female producers attached – representing 17 countries were presented to a panel of over 300 key commissioning editors and funders at the Hot Docs Forum, and a total of 70 projects were pitched at approximately 625 meetings during Hot Docs Deal Maker.
Doc For Schools, Hot Docs’ education program that runs during the Festival and offers free in-theatre and in-school screenings of select Festival films, reached a record number of students in 2016. An estimated 92,500 students participated in the program, including schools in Toronto and throughout Ontario. Selected by student ballot from among nine Docs For Schools selections that screened at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema during the Festival, the winner of the Docs for Schools Students’ Choice Award is Audrie & Daisy (Director: Jon Shenk, Bonni Cohen; USA).