Hot Docs 2014 will feature Aaron Swartz, Big Bird and George Takei

Hot Docs 2014 will feature Aaron Swartz, Big Bird and George Takei

Hot Docs announced its full 2014 festival lineup this morning, and the news is good—at least, for people who love giant muppets and tragic internet figures.

The opening-night premiere of this year’s edition of the annual documentary-film festival will deal with the latter. The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is about the 26-year-old computer programmer and online activist, who became well known after his suicide in early 2013. Swartz’s supporters have made the case that he was literally hounded to death by federal prosecutors intent on convicting him of illegally mass-downloading academic journal articles. Viewers can expect the documentary to engage with that theory sympathetically.

Another headliner at this year’s festival will be I am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, a documentary about the life of a man who has spent most of his career giving life to two characters most of us have known since infancy: Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. The film was not made by the same director responsible for 2011’s Being Elmo. (And with any luck, its release won’t presage a sudden, career-ending sex scandal for its subject.) Spinney is scheduled to participate in a discussion following at least one screening of the film.

Also playing as part of this year’s Special Presentations program is Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger, a documentary about the infamous Boston crime boss. Anyone who isn’t sold on the idea should watch the trailer above.

The festival’s Canadian Spectrum program will feature a number of films by home-grown filmmakers, including David & Me, about a documentarian’s effort to prove a convicted man innocent, and The Secret Trial 5, about the Canadian government’s use of “security certificates” to jail immigrants without charging them with crimes.

Community fans might appreciate a free outdoor screening of Harmontown, about the show’s creator, Dan Harmon. Also kind of exciting: former Star Trek actor and current human Facebook-meme factory (or at least, Facebook-meme factory overseer) George Takei is scheduled to participate in a discussion about To Be Takei, a documentary about him. Oh my. Even Alice Cooper is coming to town, to promote his own documentary.

Hot Docs 2014 runs from April 24 to May 4. The rest of this year’s lineup is available on the festival’s website.