Five piping-hot docs to catch at Hot Docs 2014

Five piping-hot docs to catch at Hot Docs 2014

Ooooh my. It’s George Takei! (Image: Hot Docs)

Hot Docs, Toronto’s hottest, doc-iest film festival, is upon us. Starting Thursday, the 2014 edition of the annual fest will begin unspooling an expansive slate of non-fiction films on all kinds of subjects. It’s like school, except less educational. And you have to pay for it.

If you’re totally baffled by the offerings, here are a few buzz-y picks that may be worth your time. For screening times and more information, click the titles. Or check out the full festival schedule here.

1. To Be Takei (Jennifer Kroot and Bill Weber, USA, Special Presentations)

To generations of Trekkies and Trekkers (which is like a Trekkie, except in denial about how geeky and annoying they are), George Takei is best known as Sulu, helmsman of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek TV series and first run of six films. But, thanks to the advent of social media, Takei has enjoyed a second career as a meme-generator and viral brand, with a Facebook page boasting nearly 7 million fans. Maybe To Be Takei will unearth Takei’s secret underground content mill, where dozens of communications graduates relentlessly crank out memes daily. Or maybe it will be a fond portrait of an aging actor whose gay-rights activism makes him more than just a kitschy sci-fi footnote. You never know.

2. Beyond Clueless (Charlie Lyne, UK/Canada, Nightvision)

Good news for all you nineties kids. Sure, you’ll always be underemployed and you’ll probably never own property. But who cares! Someone made something to appeal to your sense of nostalgia. At last! Beyond Clueless is an essay film that looks at teen movies of the post-John Hughes era. You know, stuff like Clueless, Can’t Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, She’s All That, Drive Me Crazy, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, and other high masterpieces of Thee Cinemuuuuh. With an “in-depth theoretical narration” provided by Fairuza “Nancy From The Craft” Balk, Beyond Clueless will provide your upbringing with the rigorous theoretical foundation you never acquired when you were too busy trying on bucket hats and Seth-Green-in-Can’t-Hardly-Wait­ goggles.

3. Pulp (Florian Habicht, UK, Nightvision)

This concert doc follows UK macabre-pop group Pulp as its members return to their hometown of Sheffield for a reunion show. Pulp is one of the greatest-ever bands. So, it follows, this movie is unmissable. So don’t miss it.

4. The Joe Show (Randy Murray, USA, World Showcase) 

By all accounts, Joe Arpaio is a piece of trash. Just an absolute garbage man. As a six-time sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, the 81-year-old Arpaio has pursued a reign of terror marked by accusations of racial profiling. He also instituted his own radio programming in jails to make inmates more patriotic, reinstated chain gangs, and embarked on other media-baiting stunts. Plus he’s a birther! The Joe Show looks at Arpaio’s controversial tenure, investigating how, exactly, someone like this can somehow keep getting reelected.

5. The Theory of Happiness (Gregory Gan, Canada, Canadian Spectrum)

In Ukraine, a collective is building a utopia. Filmmaker Gregory Gan immersed himself in that utopia, called PORTOS (Poetical Association for the Development of a Theory of Universal Happiness).  In The Theory of Happiness, he explores the social rituals and ideologies of the oddball cult, all the while adhering to its strict rules and dress code (including the mandatory vest with pockets).

Apr. 24–May 4. Tickets $6.30–$19.25. Various venues,