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The Hot Docs Canadian Documentary Festival on Tuesday unveiled its 2020 lineup, selected before the COVID-19 crisis forced organizers to postpone the Toronto live event, initially set for April 30 to May 10.
“The festival was locked and loaded. We were keeping the ball rolling, until we knew we couldn’t,” Shane Smith, director of programming for Hot Docs, tells The Hollywood Reporter. While delaying live event film screenings for the 2020 edition, Hot Docs plans virtual online platforms for industry events like pitch presentations and one-on-one meetings.
Fest organizers expect filmmakers and their sales agents to better secure sales and marketing via Hot Docs’ virtual sales market once they have been announced as part of the 2020 film selections. This year’s slate — 226 films from 63 countries — includes a world premiere for Power Trip, about Property Brothers‘ Jonathan Scott, also the film’s co-director, campaigning for solar energy sources, and an international premiere for director Yoruba Richen’s The Sit In — Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show, about the activist performer taking Johnny Carson’s seat.
Also headed to Hot Docs is Nadia Szold’s Larry Flynt for President, a look at the Hustler mogul’s run for the White House; The Dissident, about the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul; the Sundance Grand Jury prize winner Boys State; and The Forum, about the World Economic Forum in Davos.
There are also world bows for Zhou Bing’s Hong Kong Moments, about pro-democracy activists battling police in Hong Kong; Kings of the Hill, by Israeli director Mor Loushy; Liz Marshall’s Meat the Future, about the Berkeley start-up Memphis Meats; Sharon Liese’s Transhood, a look at four American kids redefining “coming of age”; and Rebecca Richman Cohen’s Weed & Wine, which spotlights two farming families in France and California reinventing how they work the land.
Hot Docs will open with Kenyan director Sam Soko’s Softie, which follows political activist Boniface “Softie” Mwangi and was picked up by PBS’ documentary arm POV after it bowed at Sundance.
Hot Docs’ Smith tells THR the delayed documentary festival aims to hold in-person cinema screenings in Toronto this summer or in early fall, but a return date has yet to be set. “That was our goal, it’s still our goal. But what shape and form that will take is very much to be determined. We’re looking at online ways to connect films and audiences for now,” he says.
North America’s largest documentary festival and Canada’s CBC network earlier announced they will join forces to stream select world premieres that lost in-person cinema play on the pubcaster’s CBC Gem streaming service from April 16 to May 28, as part of a virtual theater multiplatform offering.
Smith adds that the lack of clarity around the COVID-19 crisis, including how long it will run before health restrictions on large gatherings in Toronto are lifted, has greatly complicated organizational planning for the 2020 edition.
“We’re setting the table, we’re not sure when the meal will be served, but even if it comes out tapas-style, there will be something coming your way,” Smith says.
A complete list of documentary titles for the 2020 edition of Hot Docs is available at hotdocs.ca.
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