Delayed Hot Docs Partners With CBC on Virtual Fest

American Factory - Publicity Still - H 2020
Courtesy of Netflix

The Canadian broadcaster will stream select documentaries orphaned when the COVID-19 crisis postponed an in-person festival.

The Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on Monday became the latest major film gathering to see the light of day as a virtual event amid the coronavirus pandemic.

North America's largest documentary festival and Canada's CBC network will join forces to stream select world premieres that lost in-person cinema play due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 crisis. After Hot Docs finally unveils its film lineup on April 14, CBC and its CBC Gem service will screen festival premieres from April 16 to May 28 as part of a virtual theater multi-platform offering.

The documentary festival was originally set to run on the ground in Toronto from April 30 to May 10. "Postponing this year’s festival was heartbreaking, but Hot Docs will continue its mission of supporting documentary filmmakers and bringing their work to audiences through these uncertain times," Brett Hendrie, executive director of Hot Docs, said Monday in a statement about his event's Hot Docs at Home on CBC collection headed online.

Hot Docs organizers added they have no current plans to partner with a U.S. cable or streaming platform to offer stateside exposure for the festival's 2020 lineup. Elsewhere, Amazon Prime Video is teaming with SXSW 2020 to launch a film festival collection for that event. 

And the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, set to run Sept. 10-20 in Toronto, is weighing its own options to go online and remain, where possible, with a physical event amid planning concerns surrounding the new coronavirus outbreak.

Hot Docs in 2019 screened the Oscar-winner American Factory, by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert, and One Child Nation, a Sundance grand jury prize winner directed by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang.

2020 festival titles to stream via the CBC include Elizabeth St. Philip's Kids, about the famous whisper in his ear when President George W. Bush learned of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks while sitting in front of schoolchildren; Jean-Simon Chartier's They Call Me Dr. Miami, about a celebrity plastic surgeon who live-streams butt lifts and breast surgeries; and Barry Avrich's Made You Look, about an infamous art fraud in New York City.

The postponed Hot Docs festival also plans a virtual industry conference and market. The online play for fest titles aims in part to allow filmmakers and their sales agents to better secure sales and marketing via Hot Docs' virtual sales market.