Intimate and in-depth, Hot Docs’ Big Ideas Series delivers enriched thinking about people trying to change the world for the better

Intimate and in-depth, Hot Docs’ Big Ideas Series delivers enriched thinking about people trying to change the world for the better

At the 25th anniversary of Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival (April 26–May 6), Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management engages with the issues, ideas and personalities that really matter in modern life. The five Big Ideas documentaries, chosen from the 246 titles screening at this year’s festival in Toronto, tackle the best and the worst of what humans can be, featuring a provocative musician, a children’s TV legend, workers tasked with policing what we see in our social media feeds, women trying to make the Internet a less toxic place and a courageous leader whose South Pacific nation is on the front lines of the battle against climate change.

“At Scotia Wealth Management, we are passionate about the arts because we believe they expose us to new ideas and allow us to see the world through a different lens, which can provide us with the inspiration to pursue our own passions. Through Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management and as Presenting Platinum Partner of the Hot Docs International Documentary Festival, we are proud to celebrate the artists who every year share diverse stories through their innovative documentaries. We congratulate the Festival on celebrating its silver anniversary,” says Laura Curtis Ferrera, Senior Vice President, Global Wealth Management Marketing, Scotiabank.

With extended Q&As and compelling panels composed of film directors, subjects and experts, Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management enriches audiences to new ways of thinking, allowing them to see the world through a different lens.

More than 215,000 people are expected to attend this year’s Hot Docs festival, which, for the first time in its history, has reached gender parity: 50 per cent of the work has been produced by female filmmakers.

 Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Fred Rogers, whose career as a children’s TV show host spanned an incredible five decades, was so exceptional in his soft-spoken gentleness that rumours bubbled up that he must be hiding something under his zippered cardigans. How can someone who had lived through such tumultuous times really be that kind and optimistic? A Christian minister and a Republican who advocated for peace and love, especially toward those different from ourselves, the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood held an unique position in American life. With abundant archival footage (including clips from Rogers’ short-lived show for adults) and insightful interviews, director Morgan Neville has produced an entertaining and loving ode to a man who dedicated his life to making children feel loved just as they are. Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening on Saturday, April 28, at 6:30pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema features director Morgan Neville and Dr. Junlei Li, co-director of the Fred Rogers Center, as guests.

Netizens

“What did I do to deserve this?” asks one of the victims of harassment in Cynthia Lowen’s sobering examination of the dark side of online life. While some argue that the freedom of speech guarantees an Internet where anybody should be able to say anything, the effects of online stalking, bullying, non-consensual pornography, identity theft and doxing (the malicious publishing of private or identifying information) have consequences even more grievous than humiliation or a ruined reputation. It can lead to real-life violence. Lowen (whose previous documentary Bully was nominated for two Emmys) follows three women who, after being themselves targeted by online attacks, are working to develop responses to the growing problem. In this #MeToo era, their battle to end online abuse and the forces trying to silence women’s voices are truly inspirational. Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening on Sunday, April 29, at 6:30pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema features director Cynthia Lowen, founder of Feminist Frequency Anita Sarkeesian and victims’ rights attorney Carrie Goldberg as guests.

The Cleaners

A content moderator on one of social media’s “trust and safety teams” might review 25,000 images a day in the efforts to prevent child pornography, terrorist acts, bullying and other upsetting content from showing up in users’ feeds. In each case, the content moderator has just a few seconds to make the decision: Delete or Ignore? In The Cleaners, we not only meet some of the otherwise-invisible content moderators who work for low pay at subcontractors based in the Philippines, but also some of the artists and activists who say they’ve been unfairly censored by them, and the politicians who say that their scrubbing of platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter hasn’t been thorough enough. How is it even possible to get through the day when your job is looking at the worst things humans can do? Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening on Monday, April 30, at 6:30pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema features directors Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck, and Assistant Professor of Information Studies at UCLA, Sarah T Roberts, as guests.

 Anote’s Ark

Kiribati, a republic of 33 coral atolls and islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is a tropical paradise and photographer’s dream. But it’s disappearing. Rising water levels and increasingly severe weather conditions, both caused by climate change, might soon make it uninhabitable. Director Matthieu Rytz’s cameras follow the country’s president, the charming and charismatic Anote Tong, as he journeys from Kiribati to the North Pole, Paris, New York and beyond, trying to convince world leaders like Pope Francis and former US president Barack Obama that climate change isn’t something that will unfold in the distant future—it’s something affecting people’s lives today. We also spend time with Kiribati residents, their homes flooded and their spirits battered, who are forced to consider leaving their beloved islands. Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening on Tuesday, May 1, at 6:30pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema features director Matthieu Rytz and former president of Kiribati, Anote Tong, as guests.

MATANGI/MAYA/M.I.A.

With a father who was a rebel leader during the Sri Lanka’s bloody 26-year civil war, Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., was never going to be a conventional celebrity. At age 10, as a refugee, she moved to London with her mother and siblings and, realizing she had a knack for making art, eventually signed to the influential XL Recordings label. M.I.A. became an international sensation with songs that were catchy, rebellious and political, while her provocative interviews (and her decision to give the world the finger during a Super Bowl performance with Madonna) earned her unwanted notoriety. Filmmaker Steve Loveridge, a friend and former classmate, has impressive access to film and video from all chapters of M.I.A.’s life—including backstage and back in Sri Lanka—allowing him to paint an engrossing portrait of a “problematic pop star.” Big Ideas presented by Scotia Wealth Management screening on Wednesday, May 2pm, at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, features M.I.A. herself as a special guest.

This is sponsored content. For more information on the Scotiabank Big Ideas series at Hot Docs, please visit www.scotiabank.com/arts