Eight must-see films at the 2017 Hot Docs Festival

Eight must-see films at the 2017 Hot Docs Festival

With more than 170 films in the catalogue, settling on a Hot Docs schedule is a challenge for even the most experienced festival-goer. Every year, we comb the festival guide and ask ourselves the important questions: which of the dozens of films about climate change will be the hidden gem? Should we just stick with the documentaries about celebrities? There are no easy answers, but here are the movies we’re most excited to see.

Becoming Bond

Poor George Lazenby. The one-time Bond, who appeared in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, seemed destined to be remembered as the answer to the trivia question, “Who succeeded Sean Connery as 007?” But recently, his one and only Bond film has been reclaimed as a classic. This documentary shows how the Australian model lucked his way into the franchise, and gives him a chance to explain why he walked away. May 3, 4 and 5.

Whitney “Can I Be Me”

Before Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock and Louis Theroux, there was Nick Broomfield. The gentle, microphone-wielding British filmmaker honed his faux-naif first-person style in sometimes-trashy (but usually very watchable) investigative documentaries on figures like Kurt Cobain, Heidi Fleiss, Aileen Wuornos, and Biggie and Tupac. He returns to his familiar tabloid-celeb milieu with this unauthorized look at Whitney Houston, exploring her rise to stardom and the personal demons that ended her life (knowing Broomfield, expect more of the latter). April 28 to May 7.


Psycho‘s shower scene is perhaps the most watched, paused, rewinded and analyzed scene in any movie of all time; we’re only surprised that it took this long for someone to make a documentary about it. Guillermo del Toro, Eli Roth, Richard Stanley and Peter Bogdanovich are some of the filmmakers who dissect Alfred Hitchcock’s most iconic moment. May 4 and 5.

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

Hulk Hogan scored his greatest victory outside of the wrestling ring, when his lawsuit against Gawker Media bankrupted the once-mighty company. The film explores the intricacies of the case, probing the motivations of Peter Thiel (the cartoon-capitalist supervillain who funded the Hulkster’s lawsuit) and demonstrating how big money is a big threat to the free press. May 2 to 7.


When he was 19, Steve Fonyo became a national hero by running across Canada and beating cancer. After the fame came a life of addiction and crime: assault, robbery and fraud. Canadian filmmaker Alan Zweig (who has made a career chronicling difficult, damaged people in documentaries like I, Curmudgeon and Lovable) continues the story he began with his acclaimed 2015 film Hurt, also about Fonyo. April 29 to May 6.


Ever wondered what that screechy-voiced guy who voiced Iago in Aladdin gets up to in his spare time? This year, Hot Docs’ traditional documentary-about-a-comedian slot goes to this candid portrait of Gilbert Gottfried—yes, the man who told the greatest “Aristocrats” joke of all time. The film chronicles his wildly uneven career (including some nearly career-killing jokes about the Japanese tsunami), and his mid-life reinvention as a family man. May 1 to 7.

Chasing Coral

Want some gorgeous underwater shots of coral reefs? In the latest environmental documentary from director Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Ice), you got ‘em, along with a side of environmental stewardship. The film is accompanied by a VR experience—part of DocX, a Hot Docs sidebar devoted to work outside the traditional cinematic format—where you’ll see a 2016 coral bleaching event in the Great Barrier Reef up close. May 3 to 7.

Intent to Destroy

Joe Berlinger, co-director of the legendary Paradise Lost trilogy, looks at the events and aftermath of the Armenian Genocide. When he embeds himself in the production of The Promise—a historical epic starring Christian Bale, and the first Hollywood film about the genocide—he discovers how the Turkish government spent decades suppressing the reality of the genocide, and how it still seeks to control how it is depicted today. April 28 to May 5.

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