The five films in Hot Docs’ Big Ideas explore how far we’ve come-and how much farther we have to go
At this year’s Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April 25–May 6), the films in Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management wrestle with some of the most talked-about issues of our time, as well as telling the stories of two great Canadians. The five documentaries in the series cover an astonishing range of topics: the life of legendary singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot, the long journey to the Hockey Hall of Fame for Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first black player; the effect everyday cosmetics may be having on your health; the science and politics of DNA manipulation; and an moving portrait of the global refugee crisis, directed by art-world superstar Ai Weiwei.
“Documentaries expose us to new ideas and perspectives that educate and strengthen communities. Through Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management, and as Presenting Platinum Partner of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Scotiabank is proud to once again partner with Hot Docs, an organization that celebrates artists, promotes diversity and inclusion and supports young people.” says Laura Curtis Ferrera, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Scotiabank.
With 234 titles from 56 countries—54 per cent of them directed by women—in this year’s Toronto festival, Hot Docs audiences are spoiled for choice. Yet the lineup for Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management truly stand out. With extended Q&As and compelling panels composed of film directors, subjects and experts, attendees can gain new perspectives, get to know the people behind the films and perhaps even learn what was left on the cutting-room floor.
“Hot Docs’ Big Ideas Series, presented by Scotia Wealth Management, has become a cornerstone of this Festival, and we’re thrilled to bring another group of notable artists and newsmakers to speak with audiences about important issues addressed in their films,” said Brett Hendrie, Executive Director of Hot Docs. “We’re very excited to engage in gripping conversations and an enlightening exchange of ideas with film subjects, directors and experts at this year’s event.”
War, persecution and poverty are brutal. But it can be agonizing, too, to flee to a place that promises refuge but delivers what feels like disregard: red tape, soaked tents, concrete walls topped with barbed wire and soldiers shouting, “Back, back!” Artist, activist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei follows up his heartrending 2017 film Human Flow with an unsettling look at the surreal day-to-day experiences of refugees living in several European countries. Compiled from more than 900 hours of never-before-scene footage from Human Flow, The Rest presents us with intense images—overflowing boats, refugee camps being torn down, makeshift graveyards. But the voices and stories come from the displaced themselves. The Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening is at 6:30pm on Friday, April 26, at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The screening is the North American premiere and will have artist, activist and director Ai Weiwei in attendance for the moderated discussion.
Is it possible for non-scientists to get their heads around CRISPR, an unexpected characteristic of DNA that can make genetic modification cheap, easy and accurate? Yes, by watching this mind-blowing film. Director Adam Bolt walks viewers through the scientific discoveries that have taken us to the point where we are forced consider the possibility of custom babies. But Human Nature is not just for nerds curious about the gene sequence that can make someone immune to HIV. Bolt also explores the startling implications of using CRISPR to not only treat, but also enhance the human body. Along the way, he introduces us to key personalities behind the science, as well as people whose lives have been shaped by quirks in their chromosomes. The Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening is at 6pm on Saturday, April 27, at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The screening is the Canadian premiere and will have director Adam Bolt with biochemist and leading figure in the “CRISPR revolution,” Jennifer Doudna in attendance for the moderated discussion.
With worldwide spending on cosmetics valued at more than half a billion dollars, the beauty industry’s creams, powders and gels feel like an inescapable part of modern life, especially for women. But the products we put on our bodies are subject to much less stringent regulations than we think; some catch-all terms like “fragrance” or “flavour” may conceal the presence of untested, potentially dangerous chemicals. Toxic Beauty follows the stories of several women, including a medical student who experiments on herself by going cosmetics-free, and a cancer activist who launched a class-action suit against a manufacturing giant. With cases still before the courts in the U.S. and Canada, director Phyllis Ellis has produced a timely critique of what’s been called the “second pollution crisis.” The Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening is on Sunday, April 28, at 6:30pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The screening is the world premiere and will have director Phyllis Ellis with whistleblower Deane Berg, Dr. Daniel Cramer of the Harvard Cancer Center and Dr. Ami Zota of George Washington University, in attendance for the moderated discussion.
Willie O’Ree, the man who broke the colour barrier in the National Hockey League, was born into one of two black families living in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in the 1930s. Though he grew up “just another kid playing hockey,” during his sports career he had racial comments thrown at him at every game he ever played. On a visit back to his old neighbourhood, the question that’s buzzing in the air is whether he, at last, will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. The scenes of O’Ree’s childhood buddies reminiscing about the old times are sweet. But the documentary also examines broader issues about racism in sport, the history of slavery that brought O’Ree’s family to New Brunswick and the injury he kept secret for years. The Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening is at 6:30pm on Monday, April 29, at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The screening is the world premiere and will have director Laurence Mathieu-Leger with Willie O’Ree in attendance for the moderated discussion.
Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read my Mind
Canadians of a certain age may have a surprising number of Gordon Lightfoot songs lodged in their brains, from “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” to the widely covered “If You Could Read my Mind.” But this comprehensive biography of a former choirboy from Orillia, Ontario, will appeal to anyone with an interest in music, particularly the folk music scene that emerged out of the 1960s. A veritable who’s-who of Canadian music, from Anne Murray to Sarah McLachlan, testify to the craftmanship and influence of the smoothed-voice singer, but the documentary also shines a light on his sometimes-tumultuous domestic life. Yet nobody is harder on Lightfoot than Lightfoot himself—the humility and hubris make him all the more fascinating. The Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening is at 6:30pm on Tuesday, April 30, at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The screening is the world premiere and will have directors Joan Tosoni and Martha Kehoe with Gordon Lightfoot in attendance for the moderated discussion.
More than 230,000 people are expected to attend the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival this year. Scotiabank’s sponsorship of the arts also includes the Scotiabank Giller Prize, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, Scotiabank Photography Award, the Canadian Photography Institute of the National Gallery of Canada and the New Generation Photography Award.